During the last several months, I made it a habit to scan through my twitter feed at least once every few hours to check for breaking news, or other interesting information worth passing on. By far the most surprising news I ever found scrolling through those tweets was that ASJ had been involved in a one-car drunk-driving accident. Of course, it didn’t come as a surprise that a player was drunk driving. I would be surprised if a week has gone by in the past year without some Division I football player getting caught behind the wheel while intoxicated. Sure, it had been a bit since it had happened to a Washington athlete, but even if it sounds a bit cynical, it really is always a matter of time.
The general populace is constantly drinking and driving, especially college aged kids. Anyone who has ever been young can attest to this fact. Add in the sense of invincibility and entitlement that often comes with being a top-flight athlete, and the problem gets even worse. But of any player on the team, ASJ? The guy who had famously done so much selfless good in the community, whose pro potential surpasses that of anyone else on the roster? That caught me off guard. That shocked me.
And now we’ve adjusted to the idea. It happened. Everyone has just been waiting to see how the legal process unfolds, and now that he has finally been formally charged and had a date set for his hearing, the conversation is turning to how and when he can be reinstated to the team. That’s fine. By all accounts a fantastic guy with no other history of stupid mistakes, I think everyone agrees that it would be crazy for him to be kicked off the team. That’s just not how things are done.
But I believe that Coach Sarkisian must suspend Seferian-Jenkins for the season opener against Boise State, the first game in the new Husky Stadium. Some of you reading this will balk at this idea. You will say that the game is too important, too historic. The Huskies have too much on the line, too much pressure to win in this second chance matchp, and more importantly, the first game in the new stadium. A loss would be disastrous. Coach Sark simply can’t afford it. All that. And you’d be right in saying that Washington really, really needs to win on August 31st. If they fail to win, the whole tone of the season turns to pessimism, and rekindled discussions of Sark’s job security would instantly grow audible.
Thing is, those are all horrible arguments against suspending ASJ, as they have truly nothing to do with his case. They have nothing to do with whether or not he must be punished, in a serious way, for making a dangerous and irresponsible decision. Of course, he will likely be punished in other ways. Community service, classes, fines, even jail time is possible, though unlikely. But those are the legal punishments. They do not cover the fact that ASJ represented the University of Washington that night, and he embarrassed both the university and himself.
No matter how bad he feels, how certain he is that it will never happen again, if Coach Sarkisian allows him to take the field on that last day of August, he is sending a clear message to ASJ and to the rest of his players that regardless of how much criminal incidents and reckless behavior may impact their personal life, they will apparently not hinder there career as a student-athlete at the UW one bit.
I don’t want that message sent. I don’t want my University of Washington to be a school that gains a reputation for letting athletes live by a higher standard, for putting winning over integrity. I don’t want Coach Sarkisian to plainly, obviously put his job security above the integrity of his program.
Many of you will disagree, and I would love to hear your reasoning either in the comments or on twitter @HuskyHaul (for Evan Webeck) or @EyesofaHusky to communicate with me. In the end, I’m almost certain that ASJ will play against Boise State, and as long as he’s worked hard to redeem him in the offseason, that probably won’t be the end of the world. But I will be disappointed in Coach Sark, and sad for what the move says about the priorities of this programs, and if ASJ should turn out to be a repeat offender down the road, I will look back to the decision to let him play and shake my head all the more.