BATON ROUGE, La. — Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu was kicked off LSU's football team Friday for breaking an athletic department rule, a blow to the Tigers' national championship hopes three weeks before their season opener.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune and ESPN.com reported that Mathieu failed a drug test. Several high-ranking LSU administrators said they either did not know which rule Mathieu had violated or refused to discuss it.
The junior defensive back and electric returner — nicknamed Honey Badger for his tenacity, small stature (5 feet 9, 175 pounds) and blonde streak of hair — rose from obscurity to become one of college football's biggest stars in 2011.
He was a sleeper Heisman candidate as the Tigers won the SEC and reached the BCS title game. But almost as quickly as Mathieu rose to fame and became the face of LSU football, the Honey Badger phenomenon ended in Death Valley.
"We'll miss the guy," coach Les Miles said at a news conference. "The football team's got to go on. We'll have to fill the void."
Mathieu was suspended for a game in 2011, reportedly after failing a drug test.
Miles declined to specify which rule Mathieu broke. At one point, he exhaled, then said: "We extended ourselves to the full length of the policy."
Athletic Director Joe Alleva said the violation did not involve law enforcement and that the school had tried to help Mathieu work through some unspecified issues.
There were multiple reports that Mathieu will transfer to Division I-AA McNeese State in Louisiana. McNeese did not confirm the reports.
The Tigers are No. 1 in the coaches' preseason poll. The Associated Press poll will be released Aug. 18.
Mathieu, 20, won the Bednarik Award as national defensive player of the year after scoring four touchdowns — two on punt returns and two on fumble returns — intercepting two passes and causing six fumbles.
ALABAMA: Coach Nick Saban said cornerback Travell Dixon is leaving the team for personal reasons.
AUBURN: Freshman running back Jovon Robinson is being held out of practice as the NCAA investigates allegations that his high school transcript was falsified. Memphis City Schools said in a statement that NCAA officials contacted the school district regarding allegations involving a former Wooddale High athlete. The Memphis Commercial Appeal first reported the allegations Friday.
LOUISVILLE: Wide receiver Michaelee Harris will miss the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
OKLAHOMA STATE: Defensive tackle Christian Littlehead has a warrant out for his arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor assault and battery, the Tulsa World reported.
UCLA: Coach Jim Mora named redshirt freshman Brett Hundley the starting quarterback. He was competing with incumbent Kevin Prince, Richard Brehaut and Jerry Neuheisel.