Jaz Reynolds, master of the one-handed circus catch and getting suspended from the Sooner football team, is back on the OU roster, courtesy of a governor's reprieve from Bob Stoops.
But before you label Stoops a win-at-all-cost coach, remember that fellow receiver Trey Franks, master of touching the ball a ton and doing very little with it, is back in the fold, too.
The truth is, most coaches fall somewhere between Dave Bliss and Father Flanagan. They want to win, but they also truly want to help guide wayward lives.
“We all deal with young people that are still growing, maturing, learning,” Stoops said Saturday during OU's 2012 Media Day. “Learning responsibility in all kinds of ways. We do try to be positive influences, guide ‘em, teach ‘em, direct ‘em.”
Of course, some athletes are influenced easier than others. Reynolds is at least a four-time violator of team or university rules. Four times Reynolds has been suspended in less than 36 months, and yet, like Old Mr. Johnson's cat on the porch, Reynolds keeps coming back.
Sometimes, a player can even exasperate the patience of a fan base. I've had little correspondence from OU fans delighted that Reynolds is again a Sooner.
I don't know exactly what Reynolds, Franks or defensive back Quentin Hayes (who also was reinstated) did to get suspended this latest time. But the penalty was administered at the athletic department level, which means it could be anything from a failed drug test to academic misconduct. It wasn't a missed curfew.
Stoops, to his credit, admitted that part of his disciplinary decisions concerns how it affects the team. That doesn't automatically mean the won-loss ledger. Sometimes that means team morale or setting standards.
Which reminds me of Earl Weaver's old theory while managing the Baltimore Orioles. Don't make a rule you wouldn't enforce if Frank Robinson broke it.
These Sooners have a Frank Robinson or two, but they're not Jaz Reynolds or Trey Franks. So I think there's something to Stoops trying to turn these guys into solid citizens.
“We do believe in developing our players,” Stoops said. “We've had a lot of great stories, success stories … people all the time want to get rid of kids. They're still kids. And you want to help them. There's a balance. There's not a better kid in the world than Ryan Broyles. And he didn't start off just lighting it up.”
In Stillwater, OSU coach Mike Gundy said Saturday he hasn't used suspensions much, though as recently as the Fiesta Bowl in January, defensive tackle Christian Littlehead was suspended after being cited for drug paraphernalia.
“I'm not really comfortable with that, to a certain extent,” Gundy said. “We've had guys over the years who may have missed a curfew on a Thursday night and we didn't play them in the next game. I don't know if we've ever suspended a guy for games. In our opinion, you're either all in and playing or you're not.”
I don't claim to know which method is more effective. I do know that a bunch of Sooners seem to have found Stoops' disciplinary doghouse the last couple of years. He might should consider different forms of punishment.
“Kids make mistakes,” said Mike Stoops, who has returned to OU as defensive coordinator after eight years as Arizona's head coach. “The culture of kids is different, their upbringings. You try to educate them, teach them the right way to do things.
“No one wants to dismiss a player. Players think that sometimes. It's crazy. They get rid of themselves.”
Bob Stoops still has not cleared the reinstated players to play in games and says he won't anytime soon. Says they will sit out at least “multiple games.”
Still, Stoops has displayed uncommon patience with Reynolds and Franks (who at least twice has been suspended). But he's also had an apparent quick trigger. Rhett Bomar was booted from the team in the twinkling of an eye, after NCAA violations came to light. And Bomar meant a whole lot more to the 2006 Sooners than these guys do to the 2012 version.
“You have patience when you can,” Stoops said. “Certain degrees, the patience is over, you've done all you can and they're not willing to do things that you feel need to be done to improve.”
But he thinks back to success stories, some we know, like Broyles and Dusty Dvoracek, and some we don't, “that are pretty special. They finally figure it out and they're better for it.”
And Father Flanagan walks a little taller. If he wins a few more ballgames, all the better.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.