Marshall case more talk than substance

rseibel@macon.comJuly 17, 2014 

BCS Championship Football

Auburn's Nick Marshall (14) throws during the first half of the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Florida State Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

DAVID J. PHILLIP — AP

Let’s face it. Auburn pulling Nick Marshall from SEC media days wasn’t as much a move to punish him as it was a move to prevent a media feeding frenzy.

Had the quarterback from Wilcox County appeared in Hoover, Alabama, on Monday, he would have been mobbed. Marshall’s citation July 11 for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana changed the conversation, even without Marshall in attendance.

No longer would he have been seen as the quarterback who led an unlikely run to the national championship game. Instead, he would have been drilled over and over regarding a perceived fall from grace after rebuilding himself at Auburn after his dismissal from Georgia.

It was a fall from grace for something that is now legal in a couple of states and decriminalized in a few others.

Marshall didn’t kill, injure or defame anyone. He wasn’t cited for transporting any unregistered weapons. His vehicle wasn’t speeding, weaving or showing signs that it was being driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The reason given for the traffic stop was for window tint that was too dark. That is an infraction, an infraction that’s worth pulling over a vehicle. That type of police work works more effectively than the unannounced checkpoint dragnets run in this state until the Georgia Supreme Court reined those in last fall.

A small amount of marijuana was found during a search during the traffic stop. Marshall was handcuffed, but he didn’t go to jail. He was released with a citation for marijuana possession and illegal window tint.

The bigger concern I have regarding this situation is the possibility of impaired driving. Was the marijuana being smoked in the car? Was there a strong odor? Was Marshall safe to drive?

Driving under the influence of marijuana is every bit as serious as driving under the influence of alcohol and the level of punishment that brings. Had Marshall been found unfit to drive, he would have deserved the wrath of the fans, the media, his teammates and his coaches, and a suspension of at least a couple of games would have been appropriate.

But Marshall wasn’t charged with that. And while mere possession of marijuana is illegal in Georgia, there is a nationwide movement to get rid of such laws, laws that began to take shape during the Prohibition movement a century ago.

I’ve never used tobacco, much less marijuana, and I don’t like being around second-hand smoke. While Marshall broke the law, unless he was using marijuana behind the wheel I don’t see the justification to cast wrath on him for this incident. Write up the ticket and move on.

Yes, Marshall screwed up at Georgia when he was caught up in a dorm room theft, and head coach Mark Richt was right to kick him off the team. At the same time, the work Marshall put in to become starting quarterback at Auburn, as well as what he did to help Auburn win the SEC title last season, is commendable.

Those who say the sky is falling for Marshall following last week’s incident, however, need a bit of a reality check.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn should sit Marshall down -- if he hasn’t done so already-- for a heart-to-heart talk to keep Marshall on the right track. But that’s all this controversy is worth.

Those who have something out for Marshall or Auburn will see it as much more. That’s the nature of rivalries, especially in the SEC. And Marshall surely was reminded of that the past few days.

Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or rseibel@macon.com

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