Josh Heupel had his first major test as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols this week.
And he passed with flying colors.
On Thursday, Tennessee announced that true freshman quarterback Kaidon Salter had been dismissed from the program.
“Kaidon Salter has been dismissed from our football program,” said the program in a statement. “We wish Kaidon and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”
Salter was cited for marijuana possession this past weekend. The former four-star recruit had just been recently reinstated to the team after sitting out spring practice due to suspension as a result of an incident in March.
Heupel didn’t necessarily have to dismiss Salter from the program. With the second incident happening in June — a time of the year when things can get swept under the rug — it would’ve been easy for Heupel to suspend Salter again, redshirt him in 2021 and enter the 2022 calendar year with a clean slate.
Instead, Heupel took quick, decisive action. He didn’t let uncertainty linger.
And I think he made the right decision.
What kind of message would Heupel be sending to his team if he let Salter stick around after breaking the rules just after being reinstated to the team?
That would’ve been a dangerous precedent to set.
Sure, Salter has the talent to be a great quarterback in the SEC. And that could still end up happening — someone will give Salter a chance down the road.
There’s no single player, however, that is bigger than the team. It doesn’t matter if it’s a four-star recruit or a walk-on — team rules are team rules. And laws are laws (regardless of how you feel about marijuana laws, but that’s a completely different discussion).
Heupel showed everyone on Thursday that he has control of the team. And he’s not going to give potential star players preferential treatment. That’s the right way to build a strong culture. And it will certainly send the message that players should be holding each other accountable.
Perhaps Salter’s dismissal will help prevent other similar incidents from happening.
If nothing else, there’s no doubt now where Heupel stands on players who get into off-the-field trouble. Second chances will be granted, but don’t expect a third chance.
Featured image via Saul Young/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services/Rivals.com