Washington State power forward Deangelo Casto could have completed the trifecta. Hours ago, he was set to become the third of Washington State’s three best basketball players to be suspended for marijuana use this season (PG Reggie Moore and SF Klay Thompson were also suspended earlier in the season). He was saved when “new information”—as yet undescribed by WSU’s athletic department—came to light.
Here is an aggressive guess as to what that “new information” was: it makes it unlikely the charge will stick. That is not a blind guess. Pullman’s police department is notorious for having little to do—it is Pullman, WA after all—besides set draconian speed traps and enforce the most harmless infractions through dubious methods. Rumor is that Pac Ten recruiters use Pullman’s policing-to-say-we’re-policing policy of law enforcement to encourage players to avoid Washington State University.
Which brings us back to Deangelo Casto. WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos reinstated Casto for tonight’s NIT Quarterfinal against Northwestern. He surreptitiously cited “new information” regarding the police report, and is now going to let the legal process play out before deciding on any punishment.
Don’t mistake this for Moos wanting to pick up a win tonight—Thompson was suspended for a crucial game against UCLA which the Cougs lost by just two, and star PG Reggie Moore also missed one game in December. More likely is that abnormality on the police report—read: lack of probable cause, unlawful search and seizure, etc—gave Moos pause about punishing the junior before any sort of legal outcome.
It’s a question that is not asked enough in my opinion: when (if ever) should players be suspended before their legal guilt is established? Our legal system embraces a guilty-until-proven-innocent philosophy, yet the NCAA, the conferences, and the teams have the opposite mindset toward their players. Yes, they have a reputation to uphold, and maybe it’s true that more often than not an accused player is guilty. But what of the players like Casto who, if I am confirmed correct, may be legally innocent?
I argue that schools, divisions, and the NCAA are all too perception-conscious with regard to crime-related suspensions. While it’s undeniable that an accused rapist should not be allowed to play amidst his trial, I think in the case of a minor, victimless drug charge players should be given the benefit of the doubt so long as they maintain their innocence. On the day of a guilty plea or conviction, a suspension must come that fits the crime and the player will do his or her penance. And any innocent players go rightfully unpunished.
This altered policy would save players like Casto from missing games despite their innocence. Moreover, it would do a great deal to align the punishment policy of college sports with our legal and social policy of presumed innocence. After all, due process is a little more important than the NCAA or its universities’ reputations, right?
Thankfully for Mr. Casto and the Cougars, Bill Moos is already one of the enlightened.