Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Crime and Punishment

It's official. Jamar Smith will be redshirted and sit out the 2007-08 season as part of his punishment for the DUI and accident convictions from late last season. He will be allowed to rejoin the team if he meets specific obligations, which aren't included in the official release.

More details will likely come, but we have a decision that coincides with the beginning of fall classes, as promised. There is no question that Jamar made an incredibly stupid decision and endangered the life of a teammate and friend. (Unfortunately, I'm sure others have made similar stupid decisions and gotten away with it, but that's not the point.)

Jamar has dealt with the legal consequences of his conviction, and now faces consequences in his athletic career. So is this fair? I think sitting out a year has merit as a punishment. He will have the opportunity to decide for himself if he will change his habits and meet his obligations. He will have time to feel the pain of his decisions, and yet he has an opportunity to earn another chance, if his actions match his words. And yet, being off the team for good would be acceptable, as well. After all, there are a couple talented football receivers that made stupid choices and didn't get another chance at Illinois, and we don't know that they so clearly endangered the lives of others.

This is an interesting topic, as a NFL QB Michael Vick faces punishment for pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges. As this blogger points out, not everyone gets another chance. He will deal with legal and NFL consequences, but he won't be the first or last to be in this type of situation.

What should penalties and punishment look like at the college level? Do the Illini have the right approach -- letting the head coach call the shots with the support of the rest of the department? Should the NCAA be involved? (Please don't say yes to this one -- they are too busy looking for ways to destroy revered university traditions to be interested in policing student-athlete behavior.) Should the legal ruling come first, or should a coach discipline immediately?

Chief, Good Hope Orange, welcome back! I know you've had busy summers, but as we get ready for football, I'd love to hear your opinions on this (depressing) topic. What do you guys think?

P.S. All this talk is enough to make me long for the legendary characaters of the "good ol' days," captured well in this article about Lou Henson. [Sarcasm alert] After all, Lou never had to worry about black marks on his program.

P.P.S. Have I mentioned that I'm excited about Illini football this year? I'm not alone! But I'm not as fickle a fan as Vic Reato may think. Go Illini!

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