Stony Brook football is poised to take a step toward national prominence with the official announcement coming Wednesday that former Iowa running back Marcus Coker has enrolled as a transfer student.
SBU coach Chuck Priore confirmed Monday that Coker is joining the team....
Coker will not be available for comment until spring practice in March. But the 6-foot, 230-pound running back from Beltsville, Md., said in a statement: "I'm very grateful to coach Priore and Stony Brook University for this opportunity. I've become aware of Stony Brook's growing football program and outstanding academics. I'm excited for spring practice and the chance to help my teammates win a fourth straight Big South championship."
That part isn't particularly interesting; in fact, it's the sort of boilerplate we're used to hearing from transferring halfbacks. No, it's the last section of the Newsday article that makes some news we were afraid we already knew:
"I did due diligence with the resources I had to really look at his character and his family background," Priore said. "After the research I did into the allegations, I was comfortable he would be somebody that would be a positive role model moving forward at Stony Brook University. He's a very good student in the classroom, a very reserved, quiet kid.
"When I met with him, most of the conversation for three hours was about, what do we offer academically? 'How many credits will transfer, and can I graduate on time?' He's exactly on schedule to graduate in eight semesters."
Coker was pursuing a double major in physics and astronomy at Iowa and is expected to follow a similar academic track at Stony Brook. He could leave early for the NFL draft, but Priore said Coker plans to stay two years to complete his degree.
So much for the speculation that Coker's suspension and eventual transfer were related to anything other than the alleged sexual assault cited by the Press-Citizen after the transfer was announced. That's the same alleged assault that produced no criminal charge against Coker, no public report, no legal repercussions whatsoever, the same alleged assault the University of Iowa has never formally acknowledged as the reason for Coker's suspension in part because it's so idiotic.
For a decade, we've been told how Big Ten football in general, and Iowa football in particular, are about the student athlete, that this is a noble endeavor that allows kids to get their degrees and contribute to the world at large. We get television shows about changing the world on Big Ten Network and the haughty absurdity of "Legends and Leaders" and the monumental mountain of Big Ten academic and moral superiority slowly chiseled, piece by piece, and fed to us with a special guest appearance by Dennis Haysbert. We were then given a truly intelligent kid, a true student-athlete who was not only pursuing a degree in a borderline impossible field, but chose his school carefully and specifically for its contributions to that field. He spent a year and a half in that field of study, and apparently was in good standing. He's gone now, through no fault of his own beyond being the subject of an investigation that didn't even result in an allegation of wrongdoing, and his departure is solely on the hands of an administration that has repeatedly reinstated players that have admitted or been found guilty of doing things that actually hurt innocent people, and ten times that number guilty of crimes that could have potentially hurt innocent people. They forced him out without enough evidence to even bring him to a court of law. They may preach the virtues of leadership, they may taut the titans of the past, but when push comes to shove, this administration -- Iowa and Big Ten -- shows no qualities of leadership, no values of legends. This is cowardice advanced to the nth degree, and it is shameful.
As for Coker, he's going to a school that has won three consecutive conference championships, in a system that relies heavily on the running game, and he will have every chance to prove himself worthy of the next level should that be what he wants to do. He also enters a top-notch physics program, adjacent to a lab that receives millions of dollars of money every year for its research, the kind of place he believed he had found in Iowa City before this unfortunate episode. I, for one, hope his football career ends in a couple of years at Stony Brook, not because he doesn't deserve the riches of the NFL, but because the values he has exhibited -- dedication to his education, dedication to his team, intelligence, intellectual curiosity -- should not be wasted on the concussion factory of professional football. I wish for Coker to go to school and study the physics and astronomy he clearly loves and emerge to contribute something to the world beyond 900 yards a season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because it's the best possible outcome of this unfortunate situation. Be the leader Iowa was too leaderless to let you be, sir. Good luck and best wishes.