It was just over 2 years ago that the Michigan State football program – and head coach Mark Dantonio – found itself at a crossroads. The Spartans had just completed a successful season and, on November 22, 2009, had celebrated it at an awards banquet. What followed – a brawl across the street at Rather Hall – has been well documented, including my exclusive look at the event from someone with insider information (which can be read here).
Ever since the Rather Hall incident, Mark Dantonio has been the target of constant second guessing and – from Michigan fans, primarily – ridicule and scorn. He has been accused of being “soft” on crime by allowing criminals on the team. But now is as good a time as any to look back and see the facts, not the conjecture. None of the 15 Spartan football players that were involved in the on-campus fight are on campus any longer.
Only 5 of the 15 players finished their careers in Green and White. The other 10 were either dismissed or transferred to another program. Here is a run down of the details:
- 11 of the players were charged with a crime.
- 4 were not.
Of the 11 charged:
- 2 were dismissed immediately from the program
- 5 ended up transferring to other programs
- 4 finished their careers as Spartans
Of the 4 that were not charged with a crime:
- 3 transferred to other programs
- 1 finished his career as a Spartan
To repeat, in total only 5 of the 15 players involved in the Rather Hall incident finished their career as Spartans while 10 players were either dismissed from the team or transferred to other programs.
4 players were present at Rather Hall but were not charged with a crime:
- Nose tackle Ishmyl Johnson (transferred)
- Linebacker/safety Brynden Trawick (transferred)
- Wide receiver Donald Spencer (transferred)
- Wide receiver Chris D. Rucker (finished as a Spartan)
Of the 11 players that were charged with crimes, the 2 most serious – and by all accounts, the 2 main participants in the fight – were:
- Running back Glenn Winston
- Safety Roderick Jenrette
They were dismissed from the team by Dantonio 2 days after the incident.
There were 2 other players involved in the fight that received jail time:
- Nose tackle Oren Wilson was sentenced to 21 days in jail
- Wide receiver Fred Smith served 4 days in jail
Both players eventually transferred to other programs.
There were 7 players who were charged with crimes and were punished with probation and community service but did not receive jail time. 3 of them transferred and 4 of them finished their careers as Spartans.
The 3 that transferred:
- Running back Ashton Leggett
- Defensive end Jamiihr Williams
- Wide receiver Myles White
There were 4 players that were charged with minor crimes, put on probation, did community service but were reinstated to the program:
- Wide receiver B.J. Cunningham
- Wide receiver Mark Dell
- Offensive tackle J’Michael Deane.
- Cornerback Chris L. Rucker
It should seem clear that of the 5 players that ended up finishing their careers as Spartans (Dell, Cunningham, C.D. Rucker, C.L. Rucker, Deane), the only one that didn’t take full advantage of Dantonio’s generous second chance was Chris L. Rucker. He inexplicably got behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and ended up pleading guilty to reckless driving. Since he was on probation from the Rather Hall incident, he spent 8 days in jail and was suspended from the team. You can read my account of that here.
If Chris L. Rucker had called a designated driver that night, it could have honestly been said that Dantonio dealt with the brawl in an almost perfect manner, dismissing the 2 who needed to be dismissed, finding new programs for the 8 that needed new programs, and allowing 5 players to finish their Spartan careers with a second chance. As it stands, the only blemish was Rucker’s behavior.
Coach Mark Dantonio
But what can’t be disagreed with is that Mark Dantonio handled the Rather Hall brawl with the appropriate disciplinary action, doled out as only someone who knew all of the players could do. The program was held together through this trying time in large part by Kirk Cousins, who personally worked with suspended receivers Cunningham and Dell in off-campus locations. Read my report about that here.
Under weaker leadership, this incident could have set the Spartan program way back. Instead, under Dantonio’s steady hand, the Spartans won the Big Ten Championship in 2010 and made it to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in 2011. In addition to the actions of the players off the field, the results on the field prove that, on the whole, Dantonio made the correct decisions with his handling of the players involved in the Rather Hall brawl and that his reputation as “soft” on players who break the law is most definitely inaccurate.
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