Putting athletics above the law

The University athletics department shouldn’t tolerate reckless behavior.

Daily Editorial Board

Earlier this week, assistant men’s basketball coach Saul Smith, son of head coach Tubby Smith, was put on indefinite unpaid administrative leave following his Saturday arrest on suspicion of driving drunk.

Saul Smith’s B.A.C. was .18 — more than twice the legal limit.

The athletics department is waiting to see how Saul Smith’s legal case goes before making any long-term decisions.

The day before Saul Smith’s arrest, Trevor Mbakwe, a sixth-year senior with the Gophers basketball program and star forward, was sentenced to two more years of probation for a DWI this summer.

Tubby Smith allowed Mbakwe to stay on the team, and he’s expected to play when the season opens in November.

Mbakwe and Saul Smith both made dangerous choices for which they will be held legally accountable, but the athletics department is taking it relatively easy on them.

During a press conference Monday, Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague denied that these two incidents were indicative of a larger problem in the men’s basketball program.

“All programs have slip-ups,” he said.

While these incidents may be unrelated, a lack of consequences will send the message that athletics programs are more important than public safety. More than 110 people died last year in Minnesota as a result of drunken driving.

In the wake of the Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State, the athletics department here at the University of Minnesota and universities elsewhere, cannot afford to put college athletics above the law. Coaches and athletes should be punished harshly for reckless and unlawful behavior, regardless of how it might affect the University athletics program.