Wednesday evening, the story of Florida's Jalen Tabor and Treon Harris being suspended for the Gators' game against Tennessee took some turns — and did so on Twitter, where all great twists of the modern era happen.
First, ESPN's Brett McMurphy reported the "real" reasons for the players' suspensions: Violations of Florida's drug testing policy.
UF suspensions: QB Treon Harris (failed drug test) & CB Jalen Tabor (refusal to take drug test, automatic suspension) source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) September 23, 2015
Because Florida coach Jim McElwain told reporters that both players face just one-week suspensions, it is likely these are punishments from the Phase II guidelines of University Athletic Association policy, which call for a suspension covering 10 percent of a season of competition — or one game of a football season — to be served immediately.
For Harris, that would mean he failed a second drug test for marijuana — a first failure gets Florida players sent to counseling — and for Tabor, a refusal (or failure) to take a test is treated as a failed test, so he's likely already failed one.
From the UAA's 2014-15 Student-Athlete Handbook:
Failure to show up, being late, or not giving a sufficient (concentration or volume) sample, will be treated as a positive test result, and the individual may receive sanctions and penalties at the discretion of the (Substance Abuse) Committee.
If you were not already aware that some college students smoke marijuana, or that some college students sometimes do dumb things, I suppose you could have been surprised by this. (Maybe?) But McMurphy reporting this is just pulling back the curtain on what "violation of team policy" typically means, not disclosing something that violates privacy, in my opinion.
That would have probably been the end of this story — especially because Florida's frequent use of "violation of team policy" has often translated to "failed drug test" in recent years, and would have been assumed to mean as such even without McMurphy's clarification — if not for a Twitter account purportedly belonging to Tabor popping off on Wednesday night.
First, the account — @_31Flavorz, a name that it shares with an Instagram account with over 15,000 followers that is known to be Tabor's and that posted a picture of his bloody hand after a scooter accident this spring — proclaimed "All Media is Good Media," just before blasting the UAA.
Then, it proceeded to retweet a mention from a fan suggesting Tabor, a resident of Maryland and product of Washington D.C.'s Friendship Academy, should have gone to Maryland. And, after deleting the initial tweets about the UAA, it kept up a "But I'll be back next week" tweet hashtagged #gogators.
This, obviously, created a stir in the Florida segment of Twitter. But that account — which began the evening with fewer than 1,000 followers — had laid mostly dormant prior to Wednesday, and an account purporting to be Tabor's had previously been revealed as a fake, so I openly wondered why everyone seemed sure it was real, and went to a source I thought would be pretty good for confirmation or denial of its veracity: The @teezmama1 account belonging to Merri Tabor, Jalen's mother, which previously weighed in on Tabor's 2014 citation for marijuana possession.
She told me that the @_31Flavorz account was not Jalen's, which matches what she told The Gainesville Sun's Zach Abolverdi:
FWIW, Tabor's mom told me @_31Flavorz isn't his account. But she & UF players have @ it before. Anyways, tonight's tweets have been deleted.— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) September 24, 2015
And yet: Another source told me that multiple players suggested the account was, in fact, Tabor's — and thus that it was Tabor airing his feelings on Wednesday night.
And while his mother said one thing to multiple reporters, it's possible she did so purely to perform damage control, of course — and that seems more likely now, after the account sent three more tweets about the brouhaha early Thursday morning.
Great morning to everyone I just want to say I'm sorry for my actions . I kno I said some things that shouldn't have been said .— Jalen Tabor (@_31Flavorz) September 24, 2015
Just got a little frustrated , learned my lesson and it won't happen again.— Jalen Tabor (@_31Flavorz) September 24, 2015
Moving forward and learning from my mistakes— Jalen Tabor (@_31Flavorz) September 24, 2015
If that's really Tabor — and I believe it is, at least at this point — then we finally have the best things to come from the entire saga: Seemingly sincere contrition for mistakes, and a public vow to learn from them.
Whether Florida fans will move forward with Tabor and accept his apology remains to be seen. But it's unlikely that anything more will come of this story other than redemption arcs.