The Fargo Forum has video up of NDSU Bison football coach Craig Bohl discussing the fraudulent petition scandal that broke yesterday with reporters.
It’s a revealing six minutes of video. Click here to watch it.
Bohl repeats over and over again (on purpose, no doubt) the mantra that has already been picked up by NDSU apologists. The football players “deserve their day in court.” But listen closely to the questioning. You’ll hear talk radio host Tom Becka as Bohl about the double standard between the way these players are being treated and the way linebacker Brandon Jemison, who was dismissed by the team last month for a much less serious incident, was treated.
Bohl’s defense is that the 8 Bison players (four of whom are starters) weren’t involved in any “violence” or “drugs” (he repeats that at two different points) so the situation is different than Jemison’s. But Jemison wasn’t involved in violence or drugs either but was dismissed from the team before he got his day in court. Two players dismissed in 2010 after being accused of theft didn’t meet Bohl’s standard either, but NDSU dismissed them from the team as well.
The point is, Bohl’s standards for these matters as he himself has described them don’t make sense. He wants us to believe that the difference between Jemison’s incident and the petition fraud incident is a matter of seriousness. But that’s ridiculous because Jemison’s incident was less serious.
Which leads us to what has to be the real motivation, which is that these players are much more important to the team. Jemison, though a starter in the past, was pretty much useless to the team because of injury. Holding him to a tough standard was easy. NDSU saying goodbye to eight players, including four starters, is much harder so suddenly NDSU adopts a different standard.
Which doesn’t speak very highly for the integrity of Coach Bohl or NDSU as an institution.
But remember that the first rule in North Dakota journalism is that the institutions of higher education – cash cows that they are for advertising dollars, sports coverage and crony capitalism – are untouchable in all but the most sensational of circumstances.
Update: The Grand Forks Herald isn’t satisfied with NDSU’s handling of this ugly affair either:
Most Americans will sympathize with the argument that the players deserve their day in court. And if NDSU consistently gave athletes the benefit of that doubt, Bohl’s reasoning would carry weight.
But to the best of our knowledge, when charges against athletes have been filed in the past, NDSU has not offered the benefit of the doubt. In August, NDSU dropped Jemison from the football roster in advance of his being charged with — not convicted of — indecent exposure. Last year, two players were kicked off the team after being charged with — not convicted of — stealing merchandise from Best Buy.
UND generally reacts in the same straightforward way. So do the police: When officers are suspected of a crime, they’re suspended while the investigation is ongoing. School districts hold teachers to that standard as well.
Fairness, consistency and example argue for NDSU to act now, not to wait until a jury reaches a verdict (which may not happen until football season is over in any case).