Crime, punishment and college football   

Updated: November 20, 2007, 2:39 PM ET

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It was quite a "Junction Boys" weekend for discipline in Southern college football. You could almost feel the cold stare of Bear Bryant beaming down on miscreants from Ole Miss and Bear's own Alabama. If these guys thought they were going to get away with something, they sure learned the hard way.

Nick Saban brought the hammer down in Alabama on Saturday. He suspended star receiver DJ Hall for the game against Louisiana-Monroe, but when Louisiana-Monroe proved to be a little bit tougher than the Tide might have expected, Saban suspended the suspension just in time for Hall to play in the second half.

Louisiana-Monroe won, incidentally, giving the lowest-paid Div. I coach (Charlie Weatherbie: $130,000) a win over the highest-paid (Saban: $4 million).

In Mississippi, the long arm of coach Ed Orgeron came down like a cleaver. Twenty players were discovered to have stolen items -- mainly clock radios and pillows -- from team hotels, and Orgeron immediately placed the offenders on probation.

Nobody is taking this punishment lightly, that's for sure. They had to pay back the money for the items, which makes you think they got to keep them, anyway. The players in question will be allowed to play Friday against Mississippi State, but keeping athletes from playing games has never been the kind of punishment that teaches a lasting lesson.

Instead, Orgeron went draconian on 'em, saying it better not happen again. He might have even raised his voice, but we don't know that because he issued a statement through a school spokesman.

The statement could have come from the mouth of Genghis Khan had Khan needed to issue statements instead of just talking to people. Orgeron said, "Any actions similar to this will result in more severe penalties which may include dismissal from the team."

Damn, more severe penalties? You mean, more serious than no penalty at all? Man, Ed, you might want to check with the Geneva Conventions before you go all crazy on us.

And maybe I'm just inclined to overestimate the intelligence of America's college students, but isn't it difficult to imagine 20 college-age young men deciding either collectively or individually to steal clock radios and pillows from the team hotel?

Who was the first to say, "Come on, guys, they'll never know it was us"?

These scholar-athletes have stayed in a hotel at least one night a week since the football season started, so they should probably get the concept of assigned rooms. You know, if Jones and Smith are in Room 712 on Friday night, and Saturday morning the housekeeper notices the pillows and the radio are gone -- well, the last people they're going to suspect are Jones and Smith.

It's shocking they got caught. It really sounds like the perfect crime.

They did it twice, once before a home game and again before the Auburn game on the road. The school unearthed the foolproof caper when it realized it was being charged for all these "incidentals" by the hotels.

Wouldn't you love to see the course load and GPA for these guys?

Since the team is 10-24 under Orgeron, it's good to see the school can at least be proud of its performance on the field.

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Is this in case someone comes into the locker room and says, "Hey, wait -- that Patriots sweatshirt with the arms cut off is mine"?: Bill Belichick's sweatshirts are now adorned with a "BB" below the Pats' logo.

The strangest sports/nonsports pairing since Barry Bonds had Michael Bolton present him with one of his MVP trophies: A-Rod and Warren Buffett.

I'm sure you have to be of a certain age to get this, and I'm sure being a devotee of sophomoric humor doesn't hurt either: Seeing a headline with "Melvin" and "Wedge" together just seemed funny to me.

Not to be Captain Buzzkill or anything, but sometimes a few grains of perspective can help: I know everybody has adopted Kansas football as the heartwarming and plucky upstart, a sign of everything that is good about college football, but you don't have to go too far back to find some unsavory rule violations involving academic fraud in the program.

The defenders of Barry Bonds, those who say he is being treated unfairly because of race or personality or just because everybody else was doing it, are sidestepping one prominent fact: Bonds was given immunity for his grand jury testimony, with the understanding that he could be prosecuted for just one thing: lying.

And finally, no offense to Vinny, but this is kind of like "Speeding Vehicle Outduels Confused Pedestrian": The way things are going this season, the headline "Favre Outduels Testaverde" seems slightly less than surprising, wouldn't you say?

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.


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