Saturday, January 14, 2006

Garrison suspended for Wake game

It was reported that Travis Garrison will be suspended for the Wake Forest game tomorrow. Head coach Gary Williams said that the suspension was for breaking team rules by being in a bar during the season. No word on why Chris McCray wasn't also suspended since he is listed as a witness in the court documents and was also presumably at the bar. It seems that Williams and the University are content to let this situation play out in the court system and implied that Garrison's suspension will only last one game. I'm troubled by this decision for a number of reasons.

Williams' stated that "You're innocent until proven guilty in this country..." as a partial justification for the single game suspension. That is true, but Garrison's status on the basketball team has nothing whatsoever to do with Constitutional due process of a criminal defendant. We're not talking about Garrison's freedom, we're talking about the privilege of putting on a jersey and representing the University of Maryland. Fairness does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt to suspend Garrison from the team. I may not agree with only suspending Garrison for one game but I could see the point of view that you should let the legal process play out. I don't want to hear anything about "innocent until proven guilty" since that has no relevance to the discussion.

The one game suspension is problematic because it puts the University in a difficult position. The pretext that Garrison was suspended because he was out at a bar is ridiculous and everyone knows it. McCray was there too and he's not suspended. Suppose you reinstate Garrison and he pleads guilty or his case goes to trial and he is found guilty after the season is over. Then you've played a kid who was guilty of these charges all season, while it appears you should have had reason to suspect he was guilty, and played him anyway. That looks bad any way you slice it, friends. If you are going with the wishy washy stance that the courts should decide it and in the mean time Garrison should play then why was he suspended at all? It looks like you're trying to play both ends against the middle in some public relations slight of hand. From an outside perspective this refelcts badly on the program and the University.

I can't help but notice that this is the third senior in the 2002 recruiting class that has been arrested for his actions at or outside a bar. Caner-Medley, McCray and now Garrison have all been in the news for pulling the bonehead move of getting arrested for their partying ways. I can't help but remember that Juan Dixon's girlfriend said that their dates often consisted of late nights at Cole Field House with Dixon shooting hundreds of jump shots. I don't expect these kids to be monks but if you're out at the bars every week bad things are going to happen. One kid getting into minor trouble isn't much to get worried about but three is very concerning. You have to wonder if Gary Williams is beginning to lose control of the program. His actions in this matter will be telling. I pray that Gary doesn't go down the road of Lefty Driesell's final years at Maryland

Let's not make the common mistake of assuming that since these kids put the Maryland jersey on that they are all nice guys. Some are and some are not. We don't know what they are really like. Would you grab an undergrad walking around campus and start talking about what a nice guy he was just because he went to Maryland? No, and people would think you were a bit nutty if you did. We see them on tv, hear them interviewed, think they look like nice kids and assign all kinds of good qualities to them. It just isn't reality, as much as we wish it were. The fact that a player is pleasant to your kids when they ask for an autograph tells you far less about their character than we would like to believe it does. This is just as true for college athletes as it is for professional ones.

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