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Beamer's Discipline Under Microscope

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

  April 26, 2004 BLACKSBURG — In the minds of some observers, the manner in which Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer handled four different discipline situations involving his team in the last few months was confusing. The key word: different. Each situation involved different circumstances that needed to be addressed in different ways, at least from the perspectives of Beamer and athletic director Jim Weaver. If there was one uniform characteristic in each of the situations, it was that Beamer appeared to place greater importance on attitude and how a player's actions affected the entire team rather than the nature of the crime itself. That kind of approach itself would be a worthy matter of debate anywhere. But the recent developments at Tech have caused many to question how significant a role the university's Comprehensive Action Plan, which is a set of guidelines used by coaches and the athletic director to address disciplinary matters involving student-athletes, really plays in decisions on punishments. Keep in mind that the CAP specifies that it is up to the athletic director to determine whether he needs to open his own review of a student-athlete's behavior in cases involving misdemeanor charges. Yet in cases where a student-athlete is charged with a felony, the CAP dictates that the student-athlete must be suspended from athletic practice and competition at least until the charge is resolved. "The idea of the Comprehensive Action Plan is to have a plan to handle student-athlete disciplinary situations and take it out of the coach's hands," Weaver said. "Having said that, the coaches do not have the last say in discipline. The CAP does." So, with those guidelines in place, here's a thumbnail sketch of some disciplinary situations that have arisen since January involving members of Tech's football team. Quarterback Marcus Vick, receiver Brenden Hill and tailback Mike Imoh are scheduled to stand trial on May 14 for charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which is a misdemeanor. All three student-athletes participated in spring practice and have not yet been disciplined by the university, at least not in any official manner. Vick has one previous public strike against him, having served a one-game suspension last season for a violation of team rules. If Vick and Imoh are still on the team in the fall, they likely will be key backups, while Hill will be buried down on the depth chart. Rover Michael Hinton, a second-team player, was arrested April 12 and charged with malicious wounding, a felony, and assault and battery and destruction of property, both misdemeanors. Weaver was out of town for ACC meetings in Greensboro when Hinton was arrested, and when Beamer decided to dismiss Hinton from the team the next day. But Weaver said he was informed of Beamer's decision to dismiss Hinton via telephone and supported the coach's choice. Hinton also had a previous public strike on his record. He was suspended indefinitely from the team in December for a violation of team rules, then was reinstated prior to spring practice. Though it was never stated as the reason for the suspension, it should be noted that Hinton also was charged with assault and battery last year. Hinton gained a reputation as a guy who was tough to get along with during his short stay at Tech, which may have expedited his quick
departure. Hinton was the second player dismissed from the team this spring. Linebacker Mike Brown also had a bit of a reputation as a player with a short temper. That trait may have played a role in his dismissal before spring practice began, for what also was called a violation of team rules. Since Brown didn't commit a crime, there obviously was no need to apply the CAP's guidelines for criminal charges in his case. Finally, rover D.J. Walton got another chance to prove that he's mature enough to be on Tech's roster when he was reinstated to the team prior to spring practice. Walton was charged with his second DUI in March 2003 and was suspended indefinitely from the team shortly after that charge. Many Known, Unknown Variables To Beamer's and Weaver's credit, it didn't appear that talent level factored into their decision-making when it came time to hand out immediate discipline. While Imoh and Vick were both highly regarded recruits coming out of high school, so were Brown and Hinton. Walton was not a highly touted recruit, yet he was granted another opportunity. However, some observers still wonder why Vick remains a member of the team while Hinton is not, especially considering the serious nature of the charges against them and the fact that both players had previous strikes against them. Conspiracy theorists may surmise that there's some kind of double standard at work. Not so, Weaver said. "You don't know what strikes (Hinton) has against him," Weaver said. "When a coach suspends somebody, as Michael Hinton was earlier, that's a lot different than a one-game suspension for a player (like Vick's). … These situations were very different. I don't micromanage our programs. Coaches, if they want to take control of their programs, have the right to dismiss their players if they see fit. I support our coaches' decisions." So, based on Weaver's statements, one can assume that Hinton had multiple strikes against him (including some that were never made public), as rumored. But Vick has been rumored to have some not-so-public strikes against him as well. The severity of the indiscretions had to play a role in Hinton's dismissal, and the fact that Hinton was charged with a felony didn't help his already-shaky status with the team. The danger in overanalyzing the manner in which an athletic department handles the business of internally disciplining its players is that there sometimes are too many unknown variables. What's going on in the student-athlete's personal life that could lead him to act in such a way? Is the student-athlete repentant behind closed doors? Is the bad behavior out of character for the individual? What criteria are being used to analyze the situation? These are all questions that can be answered only by an athletic director, coach and the student-athlete in question after careful review. Thus, the raison d'etre for the CAP. Of course, it's the mere notion that Vick may be getting a free pass because of his last name, and the financial donation potential it carries as it applies to his big brother, Michael, that makes observers question the real motives for delaying athletic department and university punishment for Vick, Hill and Imoh until the completion of their trial. Hopefully, regardless of what, if any, disciplinary measures are taken against Vick, last names won't play a role in the athletic department's interpretation of the CAP, in his case or any others.