Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Aaron McFarling: Vick must go
This is due process gone bad.
This is where all the "I don't knows" and "maybes" and "we'll have to sees" and "let it run its courses" need to stop.
This is where all the excuses and deferences to councils and administrative buck-passings must end.
This is where fear of a lawsuit must be fired 60 yards downfield and common sense must be handed the ball. Suspensions are not enough. Marcus Vick has to go.
If what the Virginia State Police are saying is true, an embarrassing situation for Virginia Tech has become sad.
Vick, already awaiting a second court date on May convictions of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, apparently wasn't feeling much contrition when he blew past a cop on Interstate 64 in New Kent County east of Richmond on Saturday morning.
Do we have any reason to believe that these new charges -- reckless driving and possession of marijuana --will scare Vick straight?
If they do, great. I'm all for second chances, third chances, fourth chances in life. My mother was a public defense attorney, and I've seen many of her clients rehabilitate themselves and become fine citizens.
But that shouldn't matter when it comes to football.
Vick's name should be erased from the Hokies' roster, creating space for someone who has a little more respect for himself and the university he represents.
Although Vick deserves most of the criticism here, he has company. Tech's athletic administration botched this situation badly from the beginning and is now paying a heavy public-relations price. It's never easy for a school to protect its image when a high-profile player runs afoul of the law, and the sordid tale that unfolded in a Montgomery County courtroom two months ago -- the stripping, the drinking, the explicit photography -- certainly qualifies as a difficult situation to manage.
But difficult situations often require difficult decisions, and Tech failed to make one until it was much too late. Instead of announcing a stiff penalty in May -- a five-game suspension for Vick sounded about right to me -- athletic director Jim Weaver hedged. His department issued a wishy-washy statement that condemned the acts of Vick and his two teammates but didn't specify what their punishment would be.
Last week, Weaver said he still hadn't made up his mind about Vick's football fate. He said he was monitoring the appeals process and indicated that the possibility of a lawsuit could delay his decision until after the season began.
At that point, somebody needed to remind Weaver that this is a football team. On a football team, you can be suspended for showing up five minutes late for a team meeting. And if you've ever heard of a player suing over that -- heck, that guy might even have a case -- please let me know.
Only now is Weaver beginning to act. The backtracking began Tuesday afternoon when Weaver released a statement announcing three-game suspensions for Vick, Brenden Hill and Mike Imoh because of the earlier incident in Blacksburg. He also suspended Vick indefinitely for his latest arrest. You're getting warmer, Mr. Weaver, but you still don't get it.
As of today, Vick is still a Hokie, and he shouldn't be. Talent level shouldn't matter. Surname shouldn't matter. Even court findings should be immaterial. This should be a judgment call made in the best interests of a university's image. And an easy one at that.