- Associated Press - Saturday, August 11, 2012

BATON ROUGE, LA. (AP) - LSU began taking steps this summer to dim the national spotlight on its most captivating star, Tyrann Mathieu, and downplayed “The Honey Badger” phenomenon that it so willingly promoted a season ago.

Mathieu, a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, was excluded from the LSU delegation at the Southeastern Conference’s annual football media days in July.

Then, during the first nine days after the Tigers reported for August camp, coach Les Miles made Mathieu available only once, on LSU’s media day last Tuesday, when every player is permitted to speak to reporters.

That turned out to be Mathieu’s last chance to address the media in his white, purple and gold No. 7 LSU jersey.

On Friday, Mathieu was dismissed from LSU’s football team for breaking an athletic department rule, a blow to the Tigers’ national championship hopes three weeks before their season opener.

Miles knew from experience that Mathieu, despite his passion for football that energized teammates and coaches alike, was nonetheless prone to lapses in judgment.

Mathieu had been suspended for a game last season after testing positive for synthetic marijuana, and under LSU’s drug policies, suspensions don’t necessarily kick in until the second offense.

The coach hoped that by shielding the 20-year-old Mathieu from the pitfalls of fame and emphasizing the importance of team concepts, he might lessen the chances of Mathieu running afoul of personal conduct policies enforced by the university. But by the 10th day of camp, Miles was left with no choice but to cut Mathieu loose.

“We have a simple policy here of behavior and consequences are pretty spelled out and defined,” Miles said when announcing Mathieu’s dismissal Friday. “We did what we could do.”

The coach and Athletic Director Joe Alleva declined to specify the policy Mathieu violated.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, citing an unidentified person close to the player, reported that Mathieu failed another drug test. Several high-ranking LSU administrators said they either did not know which rule Mathieu had violated or refused to discuss the matter. School policy allows for a player to lose his scholarship even without another positive test if he does not fulfill all the terms of university probation.

“Being an athlete is a privilege,” Alleva said. “It’s a privilege and you have to follow the rules to take advantage of that privilege. And unfortunately, he doesn’t have that privilege here anymore.

“He really is a good kid. It’s a shame,” Alleva continued. “But I told him this morning that he has the rest of his life and his life is still ahead of him. He still has a tremendous opportunity to do good things.”

Alleva said the violation did not involve law enforcement and that the university had been trying to help Mathieu work through some unspecified issues.

“We’ve been trying to help him all along in everything,” Alleva said. “We do everything we can to help these kids.”

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