Friday, December 23, 2011

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Questions lie amid the fragments of this Journell mess

So, let's see if we have this straight:

They arrested the Virginia Tech kicker.

From Giles County.

And charged him with a felony.

Involving alleged breaking and entering.

At a house where a star basketball player lives.

Sorry for all the sentence fragments, but many times, that's how news reaches us these days. In pieces. And even when you put them all together, this story still seems †broken.

Seriously, this is the Sugar Bowl jurisprudence story? Already? Virginia Tech hasn't even touched down in New Orleans yet!

You set 100 youngsters loose on Bourbon Street, you might expect to have a few brushes with trouble. But the incident that's knocked the Hokies on their heels, authorities say, occurred right here in the Hokies' backyard on Wednesday night, in Blacksburg.

That's where police arrested three men, including Tech kicker Cody Journell, following a physical altercation.

Earlier in the evening, police say, at a house where Tech hoops standout Dorenzo Hudson and his roommate live, those three men showed up with a weapon and the intent of committing larceny, assault and battery, or another felony.

Police say it was drug-related. And, in the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up -department, there was a pizza box involved - a ruse that the suspects allegedly used to get Hudson to open the door.

Judging by the mug shots released by the police - where one of the three suspects has a bandage on his head and another appears to have facial bruises - things didn't go according to plan.

Journell seems to have avoided physical harm, but plenty of damage has been done. Tech suspended him from the football team immediately, per university policy, and he'll stay suspended unless the charges are dropped or he's cleared in court.

Good. If people want to blame Tech for this, they've got no case. Tech officials acted swiftly, as they should have. You can't control the actions of everybody in your athletic program, but you can control the response.

In the meantime, Journell was denied bond Thursday and was being held at the Montgomery County Jail. What happens next is for the courts to decide. We simply don't know yet.

But here are two things I do know:

1. I've interviewed Cody Journell several times over the past three years. Typically, the topic I've wanted to discuss has not been the most pleasant. Why hadn't he, as a rare scholarship kicker, earned the starting job yet? Why did he miss that kick? Every time, he's been polite, patient, thoughtful, articulate. This means very little, I know; just thought I'd throw that out there.

2. If you told me some figure in local sports had been arrested and charged with breaking and entering, it would take me three weeks before I got to Cody Journell.

But it's happened, and it's real, and it's a mess.

So now come the questions Tech didn't want to have to answer. How will the Hokies handle this distraction? Who will be called upon to kick in a big spot against Michigan if Journell's not available? Did they ever sense Journell could be involved in something like this?

If they're not sure how to answer that last one, well, I understand.

I couldn't either.

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