Thursday, July 03, 2008

Crimes and school policy

It's interesting to see other stories of players charged with crimes and how their head coaches handle the situation. Tommy Bowden at Clemson is dealing with a sophomore safety, DeAndre McDaniel, who was arrested June 21 on charges of assault-and-battery "of a high and aggravated nature" against his girlfriend.

While the case has gotten a little flaky, McDaniel has not been suspended "pending the legal outcome" of the case, like Jerrard Tarrant at Georgia Tech. He has not been kicked out of school either, leaving the door open for him to play pending the legal outcome. The article says that Bowden is expected to address the situation Monday, and that he has been "gathering information about the case".

In another case at UGAg (the 7th player to be charged with a crime this off-season), Michael Lemon has had an arrest warrant issued against him by Athens police, for causing a "blowout fracture of the left eye-socket" of a guy he allegedly punched a handful of times in the kisser. This one just came across the wire, so at press time, I guess he had not been arrested.

The article states - "Because it is a felony charge, Lemon is expected to be suspended indefinitely from the football team until his case is resolved."

So, in Paul Johnson's case, the player is suspended from the team until his legal case is resolved. It appears that is also the policy for Mark Richt, particularly for felony offenses. Meanwhile, Tommy Bowden appears to be doing his own Private Eye routine before making a judgement. In effect, Bowden is making a decision based on the known facts in the case, not based on the fact that there was enough evidence to arrest his player. He's got a "fluid" policy.

I'm not saying one way is right and one is wrong. If we live in a country where you are presumed innocent until guilty, then why wouldn't you be allowed to play if you haven't been convicted of anything (if you are pleading innocent of the charges of course)? Well, one reason is the court of public opinion. If you setup a policy that allows players to play until they are convicted of a crime, AND you have a track record of guys getting arrested, then you'll be crucified on blogs and in the media - you know, the "Thug U" tag.

Now, there are laws and there are rules. When people break laws, the legal system handles it. When people break rules, the institutions, companies, etc, handle it. There are still consequences, but what should institutions do when their students / employees are accused? Should they suspend them automatically? Should they make their own judgement based on the facts of the case? Should they only focus on the question of whether team rules were broken? Maybe Bowden got the player's version of the events and decided that if true, then he never broke the law NOR violated any team policies. As such, he shouldn't be punished until the law convicts him. If Paul Johnson had that same perspective, then maybe he would decide that Tarrant's version of the events did not constitute any team rules violations and as such, he should continue to play until the legal system deems him guilty.

The other aspect of this is sending a message to kids in the first place - get into trouble and you're dead. Even if you're innocent, if you put yourself into situations that get you into hot water with the law, then you're going to pay a price even if you didn't do it.

How would handle these situations if you were the head coach? If a kid was accussed of a crime and arrested, and he says he's innocent, what would you do? Presumably there's enough evidence out there to justify an arrest, but many times it's a "he said, she said" situation - a la Jerrard Tarrant. What would you do? Reuben Houston was allowed to stay in school and actually made his way back to the field towards the end of the season after his situation played out. However, he did miss most of the season.

What would you do if you were Paul Johnson? Mark Richt? Tommy Bowden?