As if signing day wasn’t annoying enough for the Trojans.
The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that redshirt freshman tight end Junior Pomee was recently arrested and now faces felony charges of burglary, possession of stolen goods and grand theft. He was found passed out at The Row with a plethora of electronics on him.
Pomee “was charged with five felony counts, including burglary, grand theft and three counts of receiving stolen goods including an iPad, an iPad Mini and an iPhone 5,” according to the article.
I read a comment in the story about Pomee that said something to the effect of, “Wow, a USC player gets arrested? That’s surprising.” And that got me thinking.
Last year, fellow columnist Joey Kaufman wrote about the arrest of basketball player Ari Stewart when he was busted with marijuana. He talked about then-USC head coach Kevin O’Neill and how one of the main reasons he was kept around despite a poor season was because of his ability to keep players clean. I agreed. I really liked O’Neill. He’s a good guy and a pretty good coach, honestly. And minus the Stewart issue, he kept the program out of trouble.
So where does this leave Lane Kiffin, then?
Now, I’ve been hard on Lane. I’ll be the first to admit it that I haven’t always liked the job he’s done. On the whole, however, his program has stayed out of trouble. There haven’t been major scandals dealing with players. The deflated ball scandal is another story, as was the Cody Kessler jersey scandal. But when it comes down to it, Lane has done a pretty decent job keeping his players in check.
Now, Kiffin is facing a crossroads of sorts: A lot of people want his head after USC’s 7-6 record in 2012. Recruiting didn’t go too well on Wednesday, despite the high-caliber recruits, because they lost some key athletes to UCLA and Notre Dame. Pomee’s situation does not make Lane look any better.
But at the end of the day, I really can’t fault Kiffin here. He didn’t steal the iPads. He didn’t get charged with grand theft. A coach can preach all he wants about the need to stay clean. Kiffin has probably told his players to stay out of trouble. But he can only do so much. He can’t be everywhere at once. Dealing with 75 high-quality Division I athletes from varied backgrounds is difficult. All the players aren’t going to be in the same place at the same time every weekend. Kiffin can’t keep tabs on them 24/7. And we really shouldn’t expect him to.
Kiffin has coached players who have done great things in the community that should be praised. Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald and Robert Woods all went on a well-documented trip to Haiti to help the less fortunate last year. For all the negativity surrounding Kiffin, he has as many, if not more, players who have their heads on straight. For every Pomee incident, there have been three players doing community service and making positive impacts. Kiffin might not be the world’s best coach, but, for the most part, his players don’t make off-the-field mistakes.
Pomee’s problems off the field do not fall solely on Kiffin. Despite what you might think of him as a coach, this was Pomee’s issue and Pomee’s only. If Kiffin had stolen an iPhone 5, then that would be his fault. But he didn’t. His job is to coach a winning team and to lead young men. He is supposed to keep these guys in line. And except for this slip-up, he’s done a fabulous job. There comes a point when Pomee has to be held responsible for his actions and his crimes. Kiffin can only do so much.
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