There are no winners today.
A bright young football star is without a team. A promising team is without its most talented player. And a university that talks constantly of character and integrity is answering questions about kicking out two athletes following allegedly violent incidents and what more it might have done as an institution in a tragic situation that ended with
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No, there are no winners today, just
a string of bad decisions
and unfulfilled potential and lots of police reports taking away from the pride and excitement so many of us get from college sports.
But as Missouri athletic director Mike Alden, football coach Gary Pinkel and basketball coach Frank Haith — and everyone around them — try to move on, they can be strengthened in the knowledge that they walked their talk this week.
On Thursday, they kicked basketball player Zach Price off the team after alleged incidents involving former teammate Earnest Ross and a woman. On Friday, they pledged changes in school policy following the release of an independent report criticizing their handling of the alleged rape of MU swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide.
Later Friday, they dismissed the biggest star on campus, sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, from the football team.
“We have a high standard of conduct for our student-athletes,” Alden said in a statement. “Though we provide the resources and mentoring to all of our student-athletes, we are also responsible to the community at large and to the ideals and values of the University of Missouri.”
Coaches like to say that adversity is opportunity, and going forward that could be said of the entire MU athletic department. Eight arrests of seven athletes, plus the Green-Beckham and Menu Courey situations — this is exactly the opposite of what Alden and MU’s other leaders profess to be about.
This is not walking the talk.
MU’s boldest move toward accountability came Friday afternoon when Pinkel announced Green-Beckham’s ouster on the heels of an investigation that included a Columbia police report alleging the player broke into an apartment last weekend and pushed a woman down at least four stairs.
Included in the police report are text messages from another woman, the receiver’s girlfriend, claiming that Green-Beckham dragged her by her neck. Two women declined to press charges, according to the report, in deference to Green-Beckham’s stardom and future in football.
Both player and football team are diminished by the breakup. Green-Beckham will either transfer to a smaller college, where he would be able to play this fall, or sit idle until 2015, when he’ll be eligible to enter the NFL Draft. Either way, he is damaged goods, and Missouri will follow its SEC divisional championship season without its top playmaker.
Many will look at Friday’s events and connect the dots between an embarrassing run of legal problems for MU athletes, the handling of Menu Courey’s sexual assault allegations and suicide, and Green-Beckham’s dismissal. It will be easy for some to think of Green-Beckham as the sacrifice, the one paying for the sins of others. But that’s not fair.
Green-Beckham was arrested twice before, and if Price was kicked off the basketball team for his alleged transgressions, Missouri had set the standard already. Alden couldn’t let the punishment for a relatively low-profile basketball player be greater than the punishment for the football team’s biggest star.
What Green-Beckham is alleged to have done — and MU coaches and administrators have a lot more information about this than the public does — is every bit as troubling as what Price allegedly did.
This is an athletic department that prides itself on character and integrity. Alden has repeated that over and over. He referenced it in suspending Pinkel after a drunk-driving arrest two years ago, in defending the controversial hire of basketball coach Frank Haith and in explaining the decision to kick a rowdy student group out of two basketball games last season.
In response to the university’s more recent problems, Alden spoke with every Mizzou athlete this week. He sought to reinforce the ideals that he wants them to represent.
“The logo never comes off,” he told them.
In dealing with incidents as serious as a football star allegedly hurting women, those words have to be more than a catchy slogan.
Administrators and coaches cannot be expected to baby-sit every athlete or monitor every move. Trouble happens. This is inevitable. The important part is minimizing it and keeping the image of the athletic department relatively clean.
Until this week, MU had failed in that task.
On Friday, strong threats drew strong responses from Alden and the athletic department. That’s a good start.