It may look like Bob Stoops has a tough call to make. But he doesn’t.
It could hurt the team in the short-term, but it’s a call Stoops must make for the overall good of the University of Oklahoma football.
Cornerback Jordan Thomas needs to be suspended for the season opener against Houston.
Thomas was arrested again on Thursday morning after a disturbance on Campus Corner.
Witnesses at Logie’s On the Corner told police Thomas was involved in a fight. When police arrived at around 1:45 a.m., Thomas had fled on foot. A brief chase ensued, and Thomas was apprehended and arrested for public intoxication, interference with official process and one count of a citizen’s signed complaint for assault and battery.
He was booked into Cleveland County jail at 2:45 a.m. and was released on bond around 11:15 a.m.
According to the police report, Thomas eluded police for about five minutes, was found hanging from a fence in a residential backyard and told police he fled because last time he was involved with authorities, he was arrested for traffic warrants.
Police said Thomas spoke with thick, slurred speech and had an odor of alcohol on his breath. He told police he had about six shots.
The only reaction now for Stoops and the OU football program is another suspension for Thomas.
Thomas is a junior mechanical engineering major with a recent history of legal troubles and suspensions at OU.
Last year, he was suspended for the first quarter of the season-opener against Akron because of an undisclosed offseason issue. Two games later, on Sept. 19, Thomas drew the ire of his coaching staff when he was suspended for the entire game against Tulsa, again for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
The Golden Hurricane gained more than 600 yards total offense and TU receiver Keyarris Garrett caught 14 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown, mostly against Thomas replacement P.J. Mbanasor.
“He let the team down,” OU coach Bob Stoops said in his postgame press conference. “I’m not going to go into it, but that hurt us. That hurt us. When you’re the first (string) guy and you get 70 percent of the reps through the week and you’re ready to play and then Friday you’re not doing what you need to; you have a young guy in there that’s only had 35 or 30 percent of the reps, and it’s unfair to him and unfair to the team. It’s unfair to everybody. He let us down.”
“Really unfortunate for P.J. that he was thrown in that position,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said that day. “It is what it is. That’s what I’m disappointed in, that we’re even in this situation.”
Thomas found himself in trouble again in December when he was jailed in Grady County for failure to appear at a court date following a traffic citation.
Thomas is a talented football player. He might have been the Sooners’ best cover corner last year, and that includes three-year starter and interception machine Zack Sanchez.
And no doubt Thomas’ skills will be in high demand when the Sooners open 2017 against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Houston quarterback Greg Ward accounted for 38 touchdowns last season (12th in the nation) and 3,936 yards total offense. Under first-year coach Tom Herman, the Cougars ranked 20th nationally in total offense at 484 yards per game.
But Stoops’ pattern with such matters has been clearly established over time: players who have offseason legal transgressions find themselves suspended for at least that year’s season opener.
OU needs Thomas on the field against Houston, yes. But not as much as the OU program needs Stoops’ strong stance against bad offseason behavior to be consistently applied once again.
Jordan Thomas should not play in the Houston game, and perhaps more.
With his past troubles, Thomas may be facing punishment well beyond a one-game suspension.