Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Williams Talent Irrelevent in Discussion of Pelini's Discipline

Steve Hanaway of the Big Red Network thinks that Josh Williams talent level matters when discussing the impact of his arrest on assault and theft charges on his future at Nebraska.

I couldn't disagree more. It doesn't make one bit of difference.

Williams, who accepted a Nebraska scholarship offer in February, was arrested after being accused of punching a man, who was sitting in his pickup truck counting his money after cashing his paycheck, and then taking $900 from the man. Serious charges, to be sure, and nothing that can be simply ignored. However, before acting on this case, the facts have to be known first. Williams was arrested, not convicted. I'm not even sure he's actually been charged at this point; the only news media reports I've found only mention an arrest.

Sometimes there is a rush in this country to convict people before the facts are known. In 1995, two Nebraska football players were arrested for domestic assault on one Sunday. Lawrence Phillips was found guilty and was suspended from the football team for half the season, then saw his NFL career end prematurely due to problems with his behavior. And even after his football career ended, trouble continued to follow Phillips. Damon Benning was arrested that same day, but within days, the case was dropped when it became clear that Benning was the victim.

The point is that before rushing to make any judgement about Williams, the facts need to come out first. That doesn't mean that a judgement can't be made until after the trial, but more needs to be known other than he was arrested. Any decisions about Williams need to be based on the facts of the situation. Williams football talent is completely irrelevant in making these decisions.

The student newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Daily Nebraskan, took offense in a staff editorial at Bo Pelini's lack of action in the Williams case. The editorial is guilty of a rush to judgement and presenting only part of the case. They completely ignored players that have been suspended and dismissed from the program, only to focus on a couple of incidents. It was a hatchet job intended to get a rise out of Bo Pelini. And they got one when Pelini called the student editors to criticize the editorial. Pelini snapped, and apparently treated the editors like he treated Bill Snyder after Snyder left his starters in against a bunch of walk-on late in Kansas State's 38-9 victory in 2003. Eventually, Pelini cooled off and lifted a brief ban against the student newspaper.

Pelini was wrong to go off on the Daily Nebraskan, but the student newspaper was more wrong to not investigate the situation more in depth. A simple Google search would have revealed that the Daily Nebraskan's premise was flawed from the start, and expecting Pelini to act in the Williams situation when the facts weren't known and Williams was still 500 miles from Lincoln was grandstanding.

When Bo Pelini was being discussed as a potential head coach at Nebraska, this type of situation was the knock against Pelini. Not the discipline issue, but rather the "rough around the edges" perception. I'm glad to see that Pelini cooled off and changed his mind about allowing the student newspaper to cover practices again. It shows that Pelini is going to learn from this situation, and can grow into the job of being a head coach. It's a shame that the editors at the Daily Nebraskan didn't likewise reconsider their original editorial.

In the meantime, let's wait and see what the facts are with respect to Josh Williams before reacting. There's still plenty of time to revoke his scholarship, if it turns out that the arrest reports were accurate. On the other hand, revoking his scholarship now would only serve to damage both Williams and the University if the arrest reports turn out to be erroneous.


TB said...

Bill Snyder didn't like the media, but I have heard no stories of him calling a student journalist and screaming at them.

Husker Mike said...

I meant that Pelini treated the editors at the DN like Pelini treated Snyder in 2003. I'll clarify the post.

TB said...

Ahh, gotcha.

Anonymous said...

Pelini can take it. He's a man. He's 40.

Husker Mike said...

"That's garbage!" :-)