The Daily Northwestern

Nadkarni: Answers, accountability lacking in Mark situation

Rohan Nadkarni, Reporter

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On Tuesday, then-Northwestern running back Venric Mark told reporters how excited he was for the upcoming season, and he expected the Wildcats to be 2-0 once he returned from a two-game suspension. By Wednesday night, Mark was a former Northwestern running back, with the school announcing he will transfer due to personal reasons.

(Running back Venric Mark to transfer)

The immediate reaction was, understandably, shock. NU fans, always hanging out near the edge of the cliff just in case, couldn’t jump off fast enough, as Mark’s suspension coupled with a season-ending injury to wide receiver Christian Jones surely spelled another year of doom and gloom for the Cats.

(Wide receiver Christian Jones out for 2014 season with injury)

In the midst of the free-fall, some fans wondered, what exactly is going on here?

Last Friday, Mark was suspended for a violation of team rules. Coach Pat Fitzgerald and Mark both declined to elaborate on the nature of the suspension during post-practice interviews in the following days. Fitzgerald offered fewer answers Thursday about Mark’s transfer, with one reporter describing the head coach as (shockingly) not interested in discussing Mark.

The whole Mark situation is just another example of wannabe-CIA secrecy perpetrated by the increasingly paranoid Fitzgerald. With Fitzgerald choosing not to elaborate on the current situation, he’s breeding speculation as to what really happened.

It’s very possible Mark’s suspension and transfer are unrelated, and perhaps Mark did experience an epiphany that made him want to transfer overnight. And without question, I’m sure Fitzgerald is cognizant of protecting Mark’s future. But the timing and casual dismissal of the events are just causes for suspicion.

Fitzgerald loves to hate the cloud of nonsense around the program that he plays a large role in creating. It’s the same cycle, no matter the news.

First, something seems wrong. Second, Fitzgerald declines to give answers. Then, the media is forced to speculate on the truth. Finally, the truth comes out at the end and Fitzgerald criticizes everyone for speculating.

Take Trevor Siemian’s performance in the middle of last season. Clearly, the quarterback wasn’t playing to his potential. Fitzgerald never truly addressed what caused him to play so poorly. Siemian was never listed on the injury report. After the last game of the season, Fitzgerald revealed Siemian played with a foot injury most of the season, and was upset about the heat Siemian took for his play while injured.

NU loves to bask in this national perception of the small school that does it the right way, which is reaffirmed every time Fitzgerald gets a pat on the back from the buddy-buddy alumni at ESPN. But it’s as if this relationship grants the program a false sense of security.

NU seems to think this occasional praise from the national media protects it from the less sunny reality visible to those who follow the team every day.

When you deal with everything, from the union story to the fourth quarter collapses, the perception of NU is much different. It’s almost like Fitzgerald is playing “whack-a-mole,” and he can barely get his hammer to one problem before the next one pops up.

This all likely goes away once the Cats are finally back on the field, especially if they win. Until then, we’ll keep wondering, what exactly is going on here?

Email: rohannadkarni2015@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @Rohan_NU

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