Athlete punishments depend more on stardom, team than actual crime

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Jordan Etier was arrested over the weekend for evading arrest, and possession of marijuana. Etier was released from the team on Monday.

Photo Credit: Amanda Martin | Daily Texan Staff

If UT’s new standard of discipline for an action such as peeing-and-fleeing is dismissal from the program, it’s a good thing the school doesn’t dish out retroactive punishments.

What former Texas baseball player Jordan Etier did over the weekend — he was arrested on charges of evading arrest and a misdemeanor possession of marijuana after a DPS officer saw him urinating in public — was senseless enough, and a disappointing action from one of the team’s best leaders. I’ve been told that Etier accumulated a few strikes for poor behavior in his three years on campus and head baseball coach Augie Garrido had warned the entire team this fall that he would be coming down a lot harder with punishments.

But is this too hard, releasing a player without the option of appeal two days after he was arrested?

Is what Etier did any worse than a DWI? Or driving a car into a building? Unlawfully carrying a weapon?

All of those were acts committed in the Mack Brown era by football players on the Longhorns’ revenue-reaping football team. And not one of those infractions got a player kicked off the squad.

So, it looks like a supporting member of a non-revenue sport got a bad deal on this one. Evading arrest is an unintelligent thing to do, of course. But the administration cutting short the final year of his collegiate athletic career sends a message, one both hypocritical and unfair: if a player is not a star or if they aren’t on the Texas football team, their leash is a lot shorter. Call it a double standard if you wish.

A notable case is Cedric Benson, who was arrested twice while in college here — once for possession of marijuana in 2002 and once for criminal trespass in 2003 — but missed just one game in his career.

Then in 2006, starting cornerback Tarell Brown was arrested for unlawful possession of a loaded 9mm handgun and less than two ounces of marijuana. He was suspended for one game, albeit one against Ohio State.

In 2007, defensive stars Sergio Kindle and Henry Melton were arrested on drunken driving charges and subsequently suspended three games. Those arrests came during the “Book ‘em” period, when six football players were arrested in the span of four months. That prompted the Texas head coach to issue a “zero-tolerance” policy.

The policy was broken for defensive tackle Lamarr Houston, who was arrested and charged for driving while intoxicated and was involved in a two-car accident at 3:15 a.m. the morning after a Texas football game. Houston was suspended for a game.

Kindle was at it again in 2009, accidentally driving his car into a West Campus apartment complex at 2:50 a.m. — apparently, he was texting — and then getting out of his vehicle, pushing it down the street and leaving the scene of the accident.

What part of that is so much different than running from the police after they find you urinating in public?

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Kindle, after this second major incident as a Longhorn, wasn’t suspended at all.

So what does it take to actually get released from the Texas football team? Ask Andre Jones, a member of the 2007 recruiting class, and Robert Joseph of the 2006 class. UT let Jones go after he was involved in a holdup of an Austin apartment and was charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Joseph, who was also involved with Jones in the robbery, got his pink slip after he was accused of burglarizing cars in a parking garage.

Sounds a bit more severe than what Etier did, don’t you think?

I’d guess the decision to dismiss Etier from the baseball team wasn’t made entirely by Garrido, who, when asked about Etier’s arrest, said he’d have to “meet with the administration.” But we have to bring up that Garrido was arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2009 and served a four-game suspension.

Would things have been different if Etier was hitting .350 instead of .237, or had 15 home runs last season instead of two? Possibly. Things might have been different if he was the head coach instead of the second baseman, or if he had an obvious professional future (as the football players did) and didn’t instead go undrafted in this summer’s MLB Draft.

I can’t tell you if it was right or wrong to dismiss Etier from the team. I’m sure those close to him would call it unfair, and it does seem easy to agree with that. But I do know this: possession of marijuana and evading police in a foot chase certainly doesn’t seem like something he’d get kicked off the Texas football team for doing. 

Printed on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 as: Athlete punishment depends on team, stardom more than their actual crime