The conversation took place out of earshot from reporters, but it was clear from the pair’s body language that the tone was serious. Presumably, Miles was offering some terse instructions to his oft-troubled quarterback, who he’d purposefully shielded from media for most of the season but, at this event, did not have that option.
That Perrilloux was the only one of the 100-plus LSU players on hand the day that Miles felt the need to brief personally was hardly surprising. After all, Perrilloux is the only one of those 100-plus players who’s managed to retain his spot on the roster despite a litany of disciplinary problems.
Miles announced this week that, less than two weeks before the start of spring practice, the anticipated starting quarterback for the defending national champions has been suspended indefinitely “due to his failure to follow team rules.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Perrilloux’s recent transgressions include missing classes, workouts and at least one team meeting.
Amazingly, this marks the rising junior’s third suspension in the past eight months, starting with his arrest in May 2007 for attempting to enter a casino with another person’s I.D. (he was underage at the time). He was also left home from the Tigers’ Nov. 3 game at Alabama following his involvement in a fight at a nightclub. Earlier in his career, Perrilloux was sought for questioning by federal and local officials investigating an alleged counterfeiting ring. (He was not charged.)
Taken together, one can’t help but wonder at this point: How on earth is Perrilloux still on the team?
The most obvious theory, of course, is because Perrilloux is the star quarterback rather than, say, a backup linebacker. When it comes to disciplinary matters, coaches across the country routinely exercise double standards depending on the importance of the player involved.
One need look no further than Miles’ SEC counterpart, Tennessee, where on Feb. 13, Vols coach Phillip Fulmer booted sophomore reserves Dorian Davis and Antonio Wardlow for undisclosed violations of team rules. Both had previous misdemeanor arrests on their records.
Four days later, however, All-SEC punter Britton Colquitt was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident (he ran into a parked car). Though it marked the fifth alcohol-related arrest of Colquitt’s career, he remains a Vol, albeit with a five-game suspension and the loss of his scholarship.
These things happen all the time. The same coaches who publicly stress the importance of accountability and setting the right example proceed to selectively enforce said morals depending on whether the player in question can help the coach win ballgames.
Miles’ ongoing handling of Perrilloux has become the most high-profile double standard in all of college football, one made all the more glaring by the spotlight that comes with winning a national championship and the fact that Perrilloux, last December’s SEC title game MVP, is no longer a backup. If anything, he’s arguably the Tigers’ most indispensable player heading into next season, seeing as their only other quarterback options are a freshman who redshirted last season (Jarrett Lee), an incoming freshman (Jordan Jefferson) or a walk-on transfer from Harvard (Andrew Hatch).
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with giving a guy a second chance, clearly Perrilloux is far beyond that point. LSU fans have become fed up enough to call for the quarterback’s head on Tigers fan sites like DandyDon.com, where the site’s namesake wrote Wednesday that “a good 90 percent of [his] e-mails are in favor of Les Miles dismissing Perrilloux from the team.”
How many of those 90 percent, however, will be quite as understanding come December if Perrilloux’s absence causes their favorite juggernaut to slip to, say, 8-5? Though Miles would certainly garner praise from the masses if he were to “do the right thing,” it pales in comparison to the criticism he’ll endure the first time LSU doesn’t measure up to its now lofty annual expectations.
One of Miles’ first accomplishments upon arriving at LSU in January 2005 was wooing Perrilloux, the reigning USA Today Offensive Player of the Year at East St. John (La.) High, to sign with the Tigers following a longstanding commitment to Texas. The cocky quarterback began causing headaches almost immediately, starting with his infamous Signing Day proclamation that he would play as a freshman because “JaMarcus Russell struggled last year, and Matt Flynn is definitely not a better quarterback than me.”
Perrilloux was humbled soon enough, spending his first three years in Baton Rouge as a backup to both Russell, who went on to become a No. 1 draft pick, and Flynn, the MVP of last month’s national championship game. One would hope he also gained some maturity along the way, but his actions over the past year seem to indicate otherwise.
Miles lifted the May 2007 suspension in time for the start of practice last fall, but according to the Times-Picayune, LSU’s coaching staff laid out strict guidelines following the Alabama suspension that Perrilloux “had to abide or face possible dismissal.” It was these stipulations that he apparently violated most recently.
In fairness, we don’t know what personal circumstances might have led to Perrilloux shirking his responsibilities. For one, his biological father recently passed away, though the Times-Picayune reported that the two were not close and that Perrilloux had begun to run astray before that.
Whatever the case, it’s unlikely Perrilloux is the only guy on a 100-plus player roster dealing with personal issues. What will it say to all the others who are making the effort to show up for meetings and workouts if Perrilloux is back out there under center for the Tigers’ Aug. 30 opener against Appalachian State?
At the aforementioned BCS Media Day, Perrilloux spoke candidly with reporters about his past indiscretions and expressed gratitude toward Miles for sticking by him.
“I think all the time, how maybe I wouldn’t have been part of this year,” Perrilloux said a few days before the Ohio State game. “Coach Miles took me back on the team because he knows I’m a good person. I wasn’t trying to do things to hurt the team.”
Whether or not he’s trying, the fact is, he’s still doing it.
During the Tigers’ championship run last season, Miles became synonymous with his unusually bold calls. It’s time for him to make what would be his boldest call yet: To send his star quarterback packing.