It was announced late Sunday night that linebacker Chris McCain has been dismissed from the Cal football team. I honestly didn’t want to write anything because I thought it was a joke. But, as we head to mid-week, it is apparent that not only was it not a joke, but this is something that had been a long time coming.
We all know the Chris McCain story. A five-star linebacker from Greensboro, North Carolina, who had some academic issues and resolved them before the season to get back into the starting lineup. He had shown that he was on his way to becoming the terrorizing pass rush he was supposed to be for Cal, and then this weekend happened.
The rumors are that McCain’s constant fake “in-game injuries” that he would often come back from rubbed his teammates the wrong way. But those are just rumors. What is fact is that Sonny Dykes said that this wasn’t based on academics and this was the last straw in a long line of issues surrounding the talented player. We also found out Monday that he is still enrolled at Berkeley, but is not with the team.
What makes this so hard to swallow is that this team is already depleted. This team, coming off a disheartening loss to Oregon, where their starting quarterback was pulled, was thoroughly outclassed for the second consecutive game, lost yet another player to injury and did not need an extra blow to this team (let alone its defense which has moved people out of position and has stooped to playing young players earlier than they should).
Moreover, the defense was already finding it difficult to rush the passer, and losing the team’s best defensive player (after the injured Sebastian Avery) on the roster isn’t going to make things any easier. Now he’s gone and there will need to be a lot of spit, bubble-gum, tape and glue to try and fix the defense.
Obviously, this season isn’t one that was probably going to end with a bowl appearance, much less a bowl win, but that doesn’t mean that Sonny Dykes wants to put out a bad product. Whatever McCain did must have been absolutely horrible to have him kicked off the team. Even the most “student-first” football program is likely to make some concessions to its best players, especially when the team is underperforming. This including a football program like Cal, which is based out of an academically strong, world-renowned university.
I doubt we’ll find out anytime soon what McCain did. And, honestly, I don’t care. If it was as bad as I imagine it was, I commend the move. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt this team going forward. And from a fan standpoint, that sucks. I’m sure we’ll find out who will be starting at that spot going forward. There are plenty of talented linebackers on the team. But, it’s highly unlikely that whoever it is will be able to produce at the high-level clip that McCain had shown the ability to. This is probably going to suck a lot before it gets better.