The Curious Case of Minnesota Gopher Royce White

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IDecember 18, 2009

MADISON, WI - JANUARY 15: Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers gives his team instructions during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers on January 15, 2009 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Minnesota defeated Wisconsin 78-74 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Has prized recruit Royce White left the University of Minnesota basketball program?

When most people say they are quitting it is the end, however, with White it appears that this is just the beginning of the next chapter.

While no one knows for sure how this story will end, it is premature to conclude that White will never wear maroon and gold for the Gophers.

White was initially suspended from the team when he was arrested on October 13 for shoplifting and fifth-degree misdemeanor assault at the Mall of America for an altercation with a security guard. White reached a plea agreement to pay $600 in fines and stay away from the mall for a year.

Prior to White reaching a plea agreement in the incident, White was identified as a person of interest involving the disappearance of a laptop computer from a dorm room on campus on Nov. 7.

The publicly stated facts by the police surrounding the incident are limited.  The victim was using her computer shortly before it disappeared and immediately reported it missing.   White and several other students were in the dormitory at the time the laptop was reported missing.

The Associated Press on Nov. 11 quoted University of Minnesota Deputy Police Chief Chuck Miner stating that the dorm room was not locked, there was no forced entry, a videotape was being reviewed, that several people were going to being interviewed, and that the police hoped to complete their investigation within two weeks.

Five weeks later, the University of Minnesota Police completed their investigation on Dec. 16 and referred the matter to the Minneapolis city attorney’s office. 

According to Miner, it typically takes the Minneapolis city attorney's office about a month to review cases before making a decision on how to proceed.

Early Thursday morning, White posted a video on YouYube indicating that he was leaving the program. The video on YouTube is entitled “Royce White—Last Interview.”

In the video, White says he is leaving the program because the legal process is taking too long and as a result it is causing too much stress on his family, the program, and Coach Tubby Smith. 

However, what White adds after stating that he is quitting the program is what makes the video interesting.

White expresses lavish praise for coach Smith, calling him a great teacher, the best coach he has ever had, and saying that no one has taught him more about the game. White adds that he still wants to be a part of Gopher Nation and to bring wins to the University. 

White cracks open the door to returning to the program ever so slightly by stating with teary eyes that he might return but that “it would take something big” for him to come back.

White then adds that he doesn’t know what he is going to do next. However, he knows that he doesn’t want to go to another school and that he doesn’t want to play for another coach.

In watching White’s video, one is left with the impression that he is not really interested in quitting the team.

Later in the day, Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi issued a public statement confirming what many suspected—White hasn't informed anyone in the Minnesota Gopher athletic department that he is leaving the program.

What White appears to want at this time is for someone to tell him to hang in there and that he hasn’t been forgotten by his teammates or by Gopher fans. 

White received such support later in the day from freshman teammate Justin Cobb who said on his Twitter account that everyone should tell White “not to quit.”  Also, several of the posts to White’s video suggest patience, offer words of encouragement and tell him not to quit.

Maybe what White wanted to do was raise the awareness of the media that the length of his suspension has been too long given that there has not been any official finding of wrongdoing on his part. 

The issue that White raises is a fair one to be considered. 

Why has the University of Minnesota indefinitely suspended White until there has been a legal determination as to whether criminal charges are going to be brought against him? 

Under this approach, the City of Minneapolis Attorney’s Office may not decide whether to charge White until the middle of January or quite possibly February. If the decision is not to prosecute White, he has in effect been suspended for the entire season for merely being a criminal suspect.

The decision of the university should be questioned.

While the issue raised by White is a good one, a video on YouTube was probably not the best way to make his point with the University of Minnesota administration. 

The best part of a good story is the cliffhanger. White has given us several good cliffhangers.  

Will the University of Minnesota reexamine the length of his suspension? Will teammates and fans rally in support of White? Is there something that could be said to White that could change his mind? 

Will the City of Minneapolis actually prosecute White?

I can’t wait for the next chapter.

I think it is more likely that we will see another video from White before we see an official announcement that he is leaving the program.

Hopefully, the video will be about his play on the court and not about what is going on in the courtroom.