Yet again, athletics are under scrutiny

There is no doubt that assistant basketball coach Saul Smith and senior basketball player Trevor Mbakwe made poor decisions involving the law. However, it is not only absurd to compare them with the Penn State Jerry Sandusky case, but it is also inaccurate to make the statement that the University of Minnesota is “putting athletics above the law.”

There are very few student groups and organizations on campus that disown their members on account of poor decisions or actions that involve legal cases. In fact, in my experience as a student at the University who is involved with student groups on campus, times of hardship are when we should be the most understanding. Athletics here should be no different. By singling out athletics, those who oppose the department are giving it the attention that they try so desperately to take away from it.

This is not to say that Smith and Mbakwe should go unpunished. The two should be reprimanded, as they are knowingly in the public eye when it comes to representing the University. However, as members of the University community, as humans and as citizens who have done nothing short of accepting the consequences of their mistakes, it is extreme to make the statement that athletics are being placed above the law.

Not only is it wrong to continue to scrutinize Mbakwe and Smith for actively accepting the legal and University chastisements for their actions, but it is also obscene to compare their actions to the crimes involved in Penn State’s Sandusky trial. Sandusky’s actions were not only much more severe, but they also directly impacted members of Penn State’s community. Mbakwe and Smith did not commit crimes that directly or personally harmed the athletics department or community that they represent.

Collegiate athletics and the funding it receives will never cease to be an area of constant scrutiny. While Mbakwe and Smith undoubtedly made poor decisions while knowingly having influence when it comes to our athletics department, they are not by any means escaping consequences or comparable to Sandusky. As a community we need to focus on supporting our members, regardless of the organization or group they are members of.

“I just wanted to thank everyone for the support and I can’t wait to get back on the court with my teammates and have a big year for Gopher-nation. I love you guys and I’m deeply sorry for my actions … I just hope that you can one day forgive me and give me another chance to represent the [University],” tweeted Mbakwe last week.