MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 22: Tevin Washington #13 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is tackled by Ray-Ray Armstrong #26 and Kendal Thompkins #83 of the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
The Ray-Ray Armstrong soap opera has taken its strangest turn. ESPN's Joe Schad reported late Tuesday night that Armstrong and his attorney Matt Morgan plan to file an injunction that would allow Armstrong to practice with Miami until the NCAA decides whether he violated any of its rules.
This is, to say the least, incredibly bizarre. Here is Morgan on why Armstrong and his family are seeking an injunction:
"Miami made a unilateral decision to dismiss Ray-Ray without NCAA process," attorney Matt Morgan of Orlando said. "We believe Miami is using Ray-Ray as a sacrificial lamb to the NCAA."
All of that may be true. But the logic is plainly flawed. Morgan is essentially attempting to argue that a coach may only dismiss one of his players if the player is found to have committed an NCAA violation. He is arguing that a coach does not have the power to decide who gets to be on his team. This is not a civil rights issue. Armstrong is not being discriminated against because of his gender or race or sexual preference. It's hard for me to imagine a judge interpreting the law as something that extends as far as Morgan is trying to argue that it does.
So, what exactly is Ray-Ray's end game here?
Well, that question is a simple one to answer. Here, again, is Morgan:
"Why should Ray-Ray's draft status be affected?" Morgan said. "Why should he have to play at a NAIA or Division II school this year when to my knowledge the NCAA has not concluded he even violated rules?"
This logic is also extremely weak. Morgan is attempting to invalidate the notion of "team rules," which seems rather ridiculous on its face. The argument is that the only "rules" that actually exist are those explicitly set forth by the NCAA. Does the NCAA have a rule stating that players must run wind sprints if ordered by coaches? Does the NCAA have a rule stating that players must show up to film sessions? Does the NCAA have explicit rules regarding curfew? Should Maryland players sue so they can wear their hats backwards in the presence of Randy Edsall? You can see how ridiculous this all is.
Of course, there's another set of questions that must be asked. Let's say, for whatever reason, a judge agrees with Morgan's argument and reinstates Ray-Ray. Who then defines Ray-Ray's role on the team? Per Schad, Armstrong wants to use the injunction to begin practicing again with Miami. Who then defines "practice?" (Yes, we talkin' bout practice.) Do Morgan and Armstrong's family think that Al Golden would just install Ray-Ray back into the two-deep? What if Golden decided that what Ray-Ray should be doing at practice is playing catch with the fourth-string quarterback? Is Morgan going to file an injunction stating that Ray-Ray must practice on the first team defense?
Armstrong cares about his draft stock, and he should. We don't know the exact facts surrounding his dismissal from the team, but it's safe to say that he violated Golden's trust to the point that UM deemed he was no longer worth the trouble. This is going to sound paternal, but it rings true: he should have been thinking about his draft stock when he allegedly lied to his coach. The rules set out by college football teams may be draconian and overly strict, but those are the rules accepted by players who choose to play college football. Thousands of players— hundreds of thousands, if you include all sports in all divisions— all manage to follow "team rules." Ray-Ray wants to have his cake and eat it, too. I don't see the law backing him up.
(All of this, too, is to say nothing of the fact that the NFL has shown a long history of prioritizing talent over "character." The rules broken by Armstrong are incredibly benign in the grand scheme of things. He is not abusing alcohol or drugs or women. If he kept his head down and played well at a FBS school, he would still be drafted. It happened in the 2012 draft with Janoris Jenkins, and will probably happen again in the 2013 draft with FSU's Greg Reid, to name just one potential example.)