While I truly believe in the legal concept of innocence until proven guilty, the recent arrest of Ohio State defensive end Nathan Williams for shoplifting, and the recent news of coach Jim Tressel's decision to allow Williams to accompany Ohio State to Arizona for its upcoming Fiesta Bowl game against Texas has left me puzzled.
To put it another way, it truly leaves coach Tressel open for the charge of a double-standard.
Earlier in the season, fellow Buckeyes defensive end Doug Worthington was arrested on DUI charges back in July. While Worthington did not start in the season opener, Worthington did play against the Penguins.
Compare that scenario to wide receiver Ray Small. Small was suspended for two games at the beginning of November for missing classes.
Now you have the scenario with Nathan Williams. Williams pleaded not guilty in this shoplifting case, and it may turn out to be true that he was merely taking the blame for his friend.
Again, I believe in innocence until proven guilty, but I have to disagree with coach Tressel on this decision to allow Nathan Williams to be involved in the Fiesta Bowl.
Do I believe Williams should be kicked off the team for this incident? No, as this is a first-time incident and I truly respect coach Tressel's mentality of a "football family," where you don't kick someone out of the family for a first-time mistake.
By the same token, coach Tressel has opened up the double-standard implications upon himself with the manner in which he has treated Small compared to Worthington and Williams. While I believe a suspension is warranted for missing or skipping classes, I believe more severe consequences needed to be doled out (or need to be doled out, in Williams' case) for mistakes that involve the legal system.
If allowed to make a suggestion regarding Williams, I'd propose the following:
"Nathan, you have played well for Ohio State this season, and I believe you will play well for Ohio State in the coming seasons. But you made a poor choice in judgment, and now there are consequences to that decision. You will not play in The Fiesta Bowl, and I hope you look forward to becoming well-acquainted with the steps at Ohio Stadium.
"Hopefully, this extra running will serve you well in the upcoming winter conditioning program and will give you time to reflect on the importance of making good decisions."
Unfortunately, coach Tressel decided on a different course of action and may now be fairly or unfairly labeled as a coach who will "win at all costs."