Stronger action needed at NDSU“Coach, what’s the difference between the discipline that you have for these players and the discipline that was instigated against Brandon Jemison?” “That’s a great question,” began Craig Bohl, head football coach at North Dakota State University.
By: Grand Forks Herald , The Jamestown Sun
“Coach, what’s the difference between the discipline that you have for these players and the discipline that was instigated against Brandon Jemison?”
“That’s a great question,” began Craig Bohl, head football coach at North Dakota State University.
Yes, it is. Especially because while the crime Jemison is accused of — indecent exposure — might be disgusting, the voter fraud that other NDSU football players now are being charged with subverted North Dakota’s democratic process.
And NDSU officials, up to and including President Dean Bresciani, need to better explain why they’re downplaying this alleged subversion, because the reasons Bohl went on to offer don’t cut it.
Eight current players and one former player are among those facing the election-related charges, North Dakotans learned recently.
The suspects allegedly turned in petitions that were rife with thousands of forged or otherwise invalid names. Some of the names were taken from phone books, some were from cellphone lists and some were flat-out made up, investigators believe.
But despite the charges, the players remain on the team and will take the field.
At a recent press conference, here’s how Bohl went on to justify that decision:
“Every situation certainly is different,” he said.
“Gene (Taylor, NDSU athletic director) and I had lengthy discussions concerning this.
“What we did is we looked at the nature of the charge. There was not one of violence or one of drugs or that nature; so, we felt like it was appropriate to allow these student athletes to go through the legal process and have their day in court.”
Taylor himself later echoed those thoughts. “In terms of other issues across the country that student-athletes get in trouble for, this doesn’t rank to the level where I think they need to be suspended for a certain amount of time,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
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. In 2010, 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).
The seriousness of the allegations argues for the same thing. As mentioned, if the charges are correct, the players subverted the democratic process — and that’s one of the crimes that cost Richard Nixon the presidency of the United States.
The actions may also have changed state history. One of the measures that was being petitioned would have diverted oil money to conservation projects. The effort could have poured $50 million a year into preserving the Badlands and other natural areas.
Now, North Dakotans won’t get that choice in November because the petition was thrown out. Couple this with the fact that supporters of the measures spent tens of thousands of dollars on the petition drives, and you’ve got allegations with much broader impact than indecent exposure.
After all, there’s a reason why North Dakota’s attorney general and secretary of state are involved with this case. The reason is that elections affect not just a few people or a few hundred, but hundreds of thousands. That’s what’s at stake; that’s why the integrity of the process is so dear.
And that’s why Bresciani ought to either more persuasively affirm Bohl and Taylor’s position — or insist that for the sake of the university, the team and even the players themselves, the players must be suspended while the case unfolds.