Earlier this year, just as their football season began, news broke that about a dozen current NDSU football players (including several starters from last year’s championship team) were involved in massive signature fraud for two petitions to put a conservation measure and medicinal marijuana measure on the statewide ballot. Initially university officials claimed that they wouldn’t be punishing the football players at all, but after all the players plead guilty (and after even some of the staunchest of the university’s apologists got a little nervous) the university backtracked and said they were hasty in making that pronouncement.
Though, to date, the university is refusing to make public what punishment the student athletes received (I have an open records complaint pending with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office on that question).
My guess, since the university refuses to be transparent in the matter, is that the players didn’t get punished at all. A university system willing to create a separate, lower academic standard for football players isn’t about to risk a championship run by suspending them from a few games.
But what’s interesting is that, even as NDSU’s group of criminal football players charge toward another national championship, news has broken of a group of female students from NDSU’s softball program have been suspended for incidents stemming from a team party.
According to this report, the situation is serious enough to have been handed over to local prosecutors, note that suspensions and sanctions have already been handed down by the university before the students get their day in court.
When we were talking about students from the university’s all-important football program, officials claimed they couldn’t hand down punishment until the players got their day in court. Apparently that standard doesn’t apply to student athletes involved in a less important athletics program.
And note that NDSU has actually punished the softball players, and made news of the punishments public, unlike the football players when the university claimed that privacy policies prevented them from making news of the punishments public.
It’s good that NDSU is holding these softball players accountable for their actions, but it’s a blow to the integrity of the university’s leadership that they can’t apply that same standard to players in their premier sports program.