Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Strong, Swift Action by O'Brien a Must

To his credit, one—and maybe the only—rule Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has for his players is to do nothing that discredits Duke University. As narrow as that decree may seem, it’s very broad in scope, though I do not know the penalty Coach K applies for such transgression or if he has ever had to enforce it.

Food for thought: If, a few years ago, the Duke lacrosse team had been given the same diktat, there may have never been a party with an exotic dancer. Though participants of that party were found not guilty of charges related to that party, the ensuing publicity did as much to damage the reputation of the (Ivy League) Durham school as the recent national basketball title did to boost it.

The late, great NC State basketball coach Jim Valvano used to say he had no rules for his teams because, if he did, surely one of the demands of the way he wanted his players to act would be broken and then there would be circumstances and penalties to face. That’s an extreme way to approach team discipline.

When Wolfpack guard Morris Rivers, in December of 1973, was arrested and charged with stealing a 35-cents tin of aspirin, he was made to sit out one game on the schedule, but it wasn’t for his arrest and the bad publicity that followed. A few days earlier, at the suggestion of the other guard, Monte Towe, on that NCAA National championship team, coach Norman Sloan had installed a curfew rule because Monte though the team needed something to keep the team on edge. Rivers sat out a game because he broke curfew. That’s enforcing the applicable rule.

I have no idea of regulations NC State football coach Tom O’Brien has for his players, but it’s time to use quick and effective enforcement. Yesterday, four Wolfpack football players were charged with misdemeanor violations of either possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana, and/or maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

Each could be found not guilty, but the reputation of NC State has been damaged. Not just locally either. This story is nationwide as is any similar story of this nature coming from any college. Do not blame the news media for this coverage. Blame the students. As football players, or as any college athlete, they live in a glass house with all the world watching. They get extreme amounts of publicity for playing in front of 60,000 people each Saturday. They should expect to see their names splashed in the newspapers when they are also a part of the police blotter.

O’Brien, though a school spokesman, released this statement: “I have been made aware of the situation and appropriate action will be taken.” The players are:

Tight end George Bryan, who as a sophomore last season made first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference based on his 40 pass receptions, 422 yards gained and six touchdowns, was charged with maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

Senior offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio, who the school is pushing as an all-star player for next season, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana and maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance.

And, also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession of marijuana and maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of using a controlled substance were defensive linemen Markus Kuhn and JR Sweezy, both expected to figure prominently into the Wolfpack’s defense this fall. Sweezy is already on the outs with O’Brien after being suspended from the team earlier this spring after being charged with misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor larceny in mid-March.

A legal search with warrant resulted in the seizure of three plastic bags with about six grams of marijuana, two homemade bongs, and other incriminating items including a box of ephedrine sulfate injection capsules. There will be no charges on the capsules but, since ephedrine is a NCAA banned substance, this may open an entirely new can of worms. Sanctions by the NCAA could be worse than results of the misdemeanor charges of yesterday.

If you’ve been around college athletics in general, you’ve seen this situation many times. The charges and the circumstances may be different but the damage to the reputation of the school is the same, no matter the severity of the supposed crime. As a keen follower of NC State athletics, I’ve seen this played out—unfortunately—many times before. And, I’ve seen worse than what happened yesterday without penalty, and I’ve seen lighter misbehavior result in harsher penalty than what I expect this time.

I hope, not based on a guilty or not guilty verdict, “appropriate action” by O'Brien will be swift and send a message to those four and the rest of the team that this behavior will not to be tolerated. Found guilty or not, maybe all four need to be suspended indefinitely from the team. Maybe Sweezy’s suspension needs to be permanent.

And, please don’t say anything about suspending these players or any players, especially those being counted on as team leaders, as penalizing those who stay on the straight and narrow. Those four—part of a team—knew what they were doing, and didn’t have to do it. Maybe it’s common occurrence with teammates but these four got caught. Maybe O’Brien is not tough enough on his players.

Again, I have no idea of rules set forth by O’Brien, but I hope at the very least he has one that’s along the lines of Krzyzewski about not embarrassing or discrediting the University. Perception of wrong-doing usually is worse than the wrong-doing. And, NC State needs nothing to project that perception. Strong swift action, guilty or not, on these four will help to diminish but not completely erase the bad perception.


  1. Jim: I'm surprised you did not reference Dick Sheridan and Naz Worthen. Naz was suspended for a season for "being somewhere he shouldn't have been".

    One of several reasons that Sheridan was this Tar Heel's favorite NCSU coach.


  2. There is one fatal flaw with your argument. Was it the actions of the lacrosse players or the actions of over zealous civil servants that brought shame upon Duke? I think history has shown the boys did nothing wrong besides youthful exuberance. The disbarred Durham DA and the huge civil payouts should have been enough to clue you in on who was wrong.

    Youth is for the young. It is not even football season. Live your own life and stop trying to live through student athletes. Athletes provide entertainment--nothing more. If you want to raise your children to believe entertainers are their role models--that is on you and not these State kids that appear, once again, to be the victims of over zealous civil servants.

  3. So what will be of great interest to me will be to see how TOB will penalize these "high profile" players. Having been a part of the football program in the recent past, he has cast off walk ons and players of lesser talent/value for far less infractions. I am very curious to see how he handles this situation - it will be very telling of his true values and nature.

  4. to the anonymous author above .. you wrote "If you want to raise your children to believe entertainers are their role models--that is on you and not these State kids"
    as a parent, we don't have to raise our kids to think that athletes and musicians and actors and actresses are role models, but they turn into role models when our children become fans. If my 8, 12 or 14 year old becomes a fan of NCSU Football, by default the players and how they act influence my childrens lives. there are children back home who know these boys who likely look up to them for what they have been able to accomplish (going to university, ability to play football at this level) and by defualt thse athletes become the role models. it means they have to watch what they do in every step of their lifes and parent's can't just turn that off. There are many people that my children look up to, some good, some not so good (as far as I'm concerned).. and it's the ones who break the law, that I make sure I tell my children, those are not the ones you follow. That is the only thing I can do.

    and I agree with coach K. If you want to discredit yourself, that's your business, but you bring my University (company, business, whatever) into it..especially when they have given you this wonderful opportunity, and you are done.

  5. maybe we should RE-VISIT this today... given CRYoWHINEa's unfortunate incident being reported today. whatchya say "author"???
    give it a rip.... LOL


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