CLEMSON – Late June is typically the best time of year for football coaches.
Camps are over, recruiting takes a rare trip to the back burner, and the reward for a lot of long nights comes in the form of vacation.
However, the rest and relaxation for Clemson's staff was abruptly interrupted on June 21, when sophomore safety DeAndre McDaniel was arrested for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature after an argument with his girlfriend.
In the days that followed McDaniel's arrest, all was quiet in the coaches' offices. All but a few of the rooms sat empty, with most of the assistants out of town on vacation. But there was no doubt plenty of concern about McDaniel's future and the possibility of a future without him on the football team.
The allegations against McDaniel were serious. According to a police report, McDaniel and his girlfriend became embroiled in an argument at his off-campus apartment after having gone to a club the night before.
McDaniel's girlfriend accused him of asking another woman for her phone number, according to the report. McDaniel called her a derogatory name, and she responded by "pushing his head," the report said.
McDaniel reacted by choking her with a comforter, according to the report. She also said he shoved her down the stairs and punched her in the chest as she tried to go to her car.
She was treated at a nearby hospital for injuries, including a neck sprain and bruises to the face and chest.
When reading the alleged details of the incident, it was easy to come to the conclusion that McDaniel was done. No one has much tolerance for roughing up women, and head coach Tommy Bowden is no exception.
After news of the arrest broke, athletic department spokesman Tim Bourret released a statement that said Bowden was gathering facts about the case.
If convicted, McDaniel would face up to 10 years in prison. A preliminary hearing likely will occur in the next couple of months.
The arrest was big news on multiple counts. McDaniel is a gifted athlete who made an immediate impact last season as a freshman. He played in all 13 of the Tigers' games, totaling 33 tackles and two interceptions.
Also, McDaniel's physical, athletic presence was going to be vital in 2008. Beyond starters Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons, the Tigers have precious little experience at safety. Plus, McDaniel saw time at linebacker during the spring, as the staff tried to fill some huge holes.
Cortney Vincent, who was preparing for his senior season, was kicked off the team after a series of transgressions, and Antonio Clay, who has a year of eligibility remaining, isn't expected to be available in 2008.
The Tigers' most experienced returning linebackers are junior Kavell Conner and sophomore Scotty Cooper, who have combined for a grand total of four career starts. That's the main reason McDaniel practiced at strong-side linebacker during the spring with Cooper.
If Bowden decides to kick McDaniel off the team, it would be a huge loss. But Bowden taking that step might not be the certainty that some believed immediately after the arrest became public.
The arrest report was only one side of the story, and insiders were confident that McDaniel's side would go a long way toward discrediting his girlfriend's allegations.
McDaniel's lawyer told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier that three witnesses had offered statements that refuted the girl's account.
"(DeAndre) claims he's innocent," attorney Chris Olson told the newspaper. "I'm confident the facts will show he's not guilty of what he's charged with."
No one knows what's going to happen at this point, and that uncertainty probably led to some anxious moments as the coaches tried to enjoy their hard-earned vacations.
MCELRATHBEY SAGA ENDS
Ray Ray McElrathbey, perhaps the most famous college football player ever who has done almost nothing on the field, announced he's transferring to Howard in hopes of accomplishing something as a tailback for the Bison.
Until McElrathbey made his decision, there was still a chance – albeit a very small one – that he would remain at Clemson and pursue a graduate degree while serving as a graduate assistant in the athletic department.
Athletic director Terry Don Phillips gave McElrathbey that opportunity, but he wasn't about to take it. Not after Bowden basically kicked him off the team in March for offenses Bowden hasn't made public.
According to sources, Bowden and his assistant coaches were tired of McElrathbey not showing up to team functions, of his missing rehab sessions to repair the knee he blew out in August 2007, and of his sporadic attendance at the academic center for athletes.
Bowden caught an enormous amount of heat over letting McElrathbey go, largely because he refused to give his side of the story. The national perception was that he heartlessly cut a player who wasn't cutting it on the football field, and that wasn't even close to the whole truth. It didn't help, though, that Bowden and Clemson botched the handling of the announcement that McElrathbey was no longer on the team.
Regardless of the details, it's unfortunate that such an inspiring story had to end this way. McElrathbey became famous in the fall of 2006 after deciding to take custody of his brother Fahmarr, then 11. Their mother was battling a wicked crack addiction, and their father wasn't a presence in their lives.
The brothers were showered with attention and accolades. The NCAA broke from its standard rigidity and showed it has a heart, allowing Clemson to set up a trust fund for Fahmarr while enabling Ray Ray to receive help in the form of rides to and from school for Fahmarr, among other things.
But after the initial fanfare died down, McElrathbey began to wear out his welcome with the coaching staff. There are undoubtedly some hard feelings that endure, and it's a shame this didn't have a happier ending.