When A Player Violates Team Rules, The Public Is Owed ...
This article is 100 percent not an indictment of Zavier Simpson. I have no idea what he did that constituted a violation of team rules, leading to a suspension Tuesday night at Nebraska, or what could lead to a lengthier absence as Juwan Howard told the press Monday afternoon.
From all indications, Simpson has always been a class act, and I refuse to speculate on what he could have done to draw condemnation and suspension from his coach. This article is more about a university and what it owes the public in instances like this.
Quite often, a coach/program will tell the media that they will keep the incident in question "in house" and deal with it, but the horrific cases of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, Art Briles covering up rape at Baylor, Larry Nasser at Michigan State and countless others have created a world in which we simply cannot give universities, coaches and franchises the benefit of the doubt. Transparency is a must.
If the violation of team rules was any of the following, Howard should, in theory, be able to keep it behind closed doors, as any person has certain rights to privacy:
• Missing class(es) at Michigan.
• Failing a class at Michigan.
• Missing or running late for meetings or practices.
• Failing a drug test.
• Misappropriate language either directed at coaches, teammates, fans or others.
In each instance, the violation holds no threat to the general public. However, if a violation is a criminal offense, a coach simply cannot ask for the public to trust him/her as he decides the future of a student-athlete/athlete:
• If a potential assault, sexual or just a physical altercation, took place.
• If a robbery or theft took place.
• If a DUI took place.
• If anything more grievous than this took place.
In those instances, where the public at large or another student (or just a normal citizen) has been or could be put in harm's way, it is the responsibility and the obligation of a university and a coach to be forthcoming in what occurred so that a public can protect itself or be aware of possible future incidents.
You may think this extreme, but it's really not. Tragedies like Sandusky and Nassar occurred because very powerful coaches and administrators at the top of a program/university felt they could keep a transgression in-house and deal with it without informing the public. There was no watch dog, no institution guarding against an abuse of freedom.
Hopefully, in the case of Simpson, it was a bad judgment decision that put no one at risk but himself. But we simply cannot trust the system anymore. And while I'd like to say that Michigan owes us nothing further, that's reckless and dangerous. The mere fact is no coach, no matter the school he/she represents, should have the autonomy to say it will be handled internally.
Howard seems like an upstanding guy, as does football coach Jim Harbaugh. They appear to be men of integrity and honesty, but universities and coaches too often seem intent on protecting their programs and not the general public, and while some may argue it is unfair to men like Howard and Harbaugh to be guilty by association, it doesn't matter. The public must know so it can protect itself.