Over a week has passed since VSU quarterback Kellen Lewis was arrested for one count of misdemeanor battery. Charges are still pending. The Indiana transfer returned to practice last Thursday, just two days after the arrest, and made the start at Harding.
Our question: should Lewis have played?
The answer will depend on who you ask. Some will say he’s done nothing wrong and a suspension, or worse, would be unjustifiable. Others will argue that he needs to be kicked off the team without even so much as a goodbye.
This question is not just being asked at VSU, but at different universities across the nation as well.
Oregon suspended LeGarrette Blount for the season for punching Boise State’s Byron Hout after the Ducks’ 19-8 loss earlier this season.
Oregon chose to maintain the reputation of the university to the detriment of the football team.
Vance Cuff, a backup cornerback for UGA, was arrested on Oct. 13 for “misdemeanor charges of driving with a suspended license and improperly ‘emerging from an alley’,” according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Cuff was suspended for the Bulldogs’ game against Vanderbilt.
These two cases, at big-time universities, seem of less consequence than an accusation of domestic violence, yet both players were suspended.
The reason Lewis played, according to Coach David Dean on his radio show on Monday, was because he felt Lewis is innocent of the charges.
VSU President Patrick J. Schloss voiced his opinion.
“Any sanctions, whether issued by the athletic department or Student Conduct Office, authorized in the absence of a hearing on campus or in the courts would deprive Kellen Lewis of basic due process and is contrary to university policy,” Schloss said.
The main concern with this is where is the line drawn?
If an athlete is charged with a felony, armed robbery for example, does the university respond the same way? Doubtful.
There needs to be delineation between the need to win and the integrity of not only the athletic department, but the university. That line right now is muddy.
This is a statement on vstateblazers.com, the Web site of Valdosta State sports:
“Valdosta State University strives for academic and athletic excellence, as well as maintaining the highest standard of ethical conduct.”
Does the decision to not suspend Lewis violate that “standard of ethical conduct?”
It’s your school, you be the judge.
Go to www.vsuspectator.com and post your thoughts under the comment section of this editorial.
The two instances that are compared to Kellen Lewis were incidents that occured and people witnessed them. LeGarrette Blount’s offence is on video and in the other case, Vance Cuff was obviously caught by a police officer.
In Kellen’s case, they were still investigating the issue when this popped up in the newspaper. If he had truly done this crime, we would have seen charges at this point.
People should not get upset with a decision until evidence has been found.
I am a member of the VSU class of ’98 as is my wife. I have also been employed as a peace officer since I graduated from VSU. I was critical of allowing Lewis to transfer into VSU after having been kicked off of the team at IU, but he is here.
An arrest is simply an accusation. Lewis, just as anybody, is entitled to his day in court. Dr. Schloss is exactly right in his position. Handing out punishment without a hearing is a violation of due process. Lewis isn’t accused of breaking a team rule. He is accused of committing a crime, and he has every right to contest that charge and confront the witnesses against him.
Quite frankly, Coach Dean’s opinion of guilt or innocence should have no impact whatsoever.
J. Lee Weems