Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez did the right thing by suspending All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey for the season-opener.
He didn’t have to. Rodriguez let the justice system play out, and charges against Carey — misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges from last December — were dropped this summer.
But that doesn’t mean Carey wasn’t guilty of at least using very poor judgment and for being a knucklehead — for that incident and for getting kicked out of an Arizona basketball game in January — at a time when the spotlight was shining on him the brightest.
“We have team policy rules, and that stays in house, but one of the ways to make it most effective is to have playing time taken away,” Rodriguez said after UA’s 35-0 victory over NAU on Friday night.
“And I’m sure Ka’Deem is hurting because he’s a great competitor. He should be playing in the next game.”
Rodriguez repeatedly has said Carey is a “good kid” who made a couple of mistakes.
“I’ll make it clearer,” Rodriguez said.
“Since spring, since the semester has been over, he’s done everything we have asked. Everything. … But once you make a mistake, you’re held to a higher standard and that’s where we are now.”
Carey has no reason to not have learned his lesson.
The legal charges stemmed from an incident with his pregnant then-ex girlfriend. They are now back together, with a son, Kaison, who was born in July. He has a family to be responsible for, a potential pro career to nurture and a college legacy that could grow into one of the best-ever at Arizona.
No time to be a knucklehead.
“I’m loving it,” Carey told TucsonCitizen.com a couple of weeks ago of being a young dad.
“Waking up each night and just changing his diaper, it’s wonderful but tiring. I know as a young dad, I have a lot to prove. I have to help him and I have to help this team out. I have a lot on my back. But I’m looking forward to using it as motivation.”
Carey, a 20-year-old junior, has been made available for interviews just once since the New Mexico Bowl, that coming at Arizona’s Media Day. Now that the suspension is behind him, Carey figures to return to being in the spotlight on and off the field (in good ways, not bad).
The one-game suspension doesn’t figure to impact his ability to repeat as college football’s leading rusher. The NCAA bases its rushing champ on yards per game, so the one-game suspension won’t factor into that as long as he qualifies by playing in 75 percent of Arizona’s games.
Carey did lead the nation both ways in 2012 — in total rushing yards (1,929) and yards per game (148.38).
He watched from the sidelines Friday night as second-stringer Daniel Jenkins ran 12 times for 139 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown.
Rodriguez sent the message. He didn’t suspend Carey for a series or for a half (ahem, Johnny Manziel). Now, see Ka’Deem run.
“I think the whole team is going to be happy to have him back,” Jenkins said of Carey for next Saturday’s game at UNLV. “I think we’ll both do a great job helping the team.”