According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utes returning starter at quarterback, Travis Wilson, was cited Friday night for underage drinking at a Tim McGraw concert at USANA Amphiteatre. Now, before I get a bunch of eye rolls, it would be against the law for Wilson, who is several months shy of his 21st birthday (Dec. 14), to consume alcohol in Utah, or even his home state of California, for that matter. But the larger question is, does this concern you as a Utah fan?
No, a little libation with friends at a concert doesn't amount to taking improper benefits or partying with Drake. But what we're seeing these days, and, yes, Johnny Manziel is the poster child, is kids thrust into the big business that is college sports without understanding that they need to lead on and off the field. Quarterbacks are under an even more intense scrutiny by the simple nature of the position. The spotlight is both hero building and hero destroying.
Right or wrong, we live in the age of instant media. Everyone has a cell phone with a camera that can take both stills and video. This is the TMZ generation. LaVell Edwards wouldn't have recruited a rebellious (to say the least) Catholic quarterback from Roy High School in this day and age, because he wouldn't have been able to keep his antics quiet, even in Provo, Utah.
So it's out. The incident happened Friday night, and we all know about it the next morning. But the question is why Wilson allowed it to happen in the first place. This is a young man who threw 16 interceptions last season (and went to a Tim McGraw concert). His decision making was already in question. This is a young man who, while Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said at Pac-12 media days would be the starting quarterback if the season started today, now must find a way to convince his coach he's still the guy for the job. Whittingham is not likely to appreciate negative attention directed at the program even before a season that could be pivotal to his continued employment. This is a young man who is trying to wrest the starting job from a hungry redshirt freshman (Connor Manning), a talented true freshman (Donovan Isom), and a transfer from storied Oklahoma (Kendal Thompson), a team that just rocked vaunted Alabama. As they noted in Top Gun, you'd think Wilson would "need to do it better and cleaner than the next guy." I would think a young man who just got medically cleared to play football again would better appreciate the gift he'd been given and take better care of his body, abs not withstanding.
I get that he's a 20-year-old kid. I get that he was just having fun with his friends. I get that drinking a beer at a country concert is like having ice cream in Utah County; it's just what people do. But, to me, it shows a tremendous lack of situational awareness. Wilson is 6-foot-7 with a baby face. He's the returning starter for the lone Power 5 conference team in the state. Chances are people are going to be able to pick him out of a crowd, recognize him, and, likely, know his age.
Additionally, Wilson fails to recognize the situation his team is in. This is a team that can't afford stupid social mistakes coming off back-to-back losing seasons. (All Coach Whitt really needs is a bar fight, or a major recruiting violation, or an academic fraud scandal to really rock the house.) This is a team that faces the toughest schedule in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, not to mention is having problems with depth and overall talent, and so can't afford personnel problems with starters, especially of their own making. This is a team that needs a leader the likes of the determined Alex Smith, or the cerebral Brian Johnson, not the hell-raising Johnny Manziel.
To borrow another phrase with great power comes great responsibility. The starting quarterback for a Pac-12 school needs to have better awareness both on and off the field. The starting quarterback for a Pac-12 school needs to consider how his actions affect his school and his team. And the starting quarterback for a Pac-12 school needs to understand that the spotlight isn't on him only when he wants it.
Coach Whittingham has said that discipline may be forthcoming, and the Utes coach has usually been both swift and fair. Clearly, this isn't the distraction the Utes need even before fall camp starts, but, if you're Kendal Thompson, you have to be licking your chops.
What do you think, Manziel or misdemeanor?