Tom Keegan: 'Violation of team rules' phrase needs to go away

Kansas linebacker Maciah Long shuffles over a line of pads during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

The crutch phrase on which athletic departments lean, the infamous “violation of team rules,” for suspensions and dismissals serves the purpose of remaining so vague as to not reveal anything, sometimes in order to save the athletic department and/or dismissed individual embarrassment.

It’s time to rethink the whole “violation of team rules” crutch, as evidenced by its use in the dismissal of defensive end Maciah Long from the football program, announced via email at 11:12 a.m. Monday.

Less than a half hour later, news broke of Long’s Sunday night arrest and that he was being held on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. By mid-afternoon, prosecutors had charged him with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a felony, and a couple of misdemeanors (damaging a TV, possession of weed). Prosecutors alleged a loaded handgun was the deadly weapon.

The seriousness of his felony charge, lumped under the “violation of team rules” umbrella, creates problems.

Suppose a student-athlete is habitually late for practice, tutoring and/or weights, or repeatedly tests positive for marijuana, is threatened with dismissal, can’t get his act together and ultimately is run from the team for, you guessed it, “violation of team rules.”

Now for the rest of that player’s life, many will suspect he or she did something really, really bad. Some will assume the worst, which of course won’t be fair to the athlete.

In the case of Long, what would be wrong with saying he has been dismissed from the team for “unacceptable behavior”?

If a player is run for excessive tardiness, call it excessive tardiness. If he steals from teammates or the athletic department and authorities are not notified, call it “untrustworthy behavior.”

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self wisely didn't use the "team rules" crutch when he suspended Dedric Lawson. Self said it was for “an incident in practice,” adding, “an altercation occurred and he didn’t handle it well.”

With that information, the worst you’re going to think is he sucker-punched a teammate, which certainly isn’t good, but is nowhere near as disturbing as one of the three charges leveled against Long.

Coaches and school administrations need not wait for a guilty verdict to act. After talking to law enforcement officials and in some cases the athlete charged, they decide if the player still is welcome on the team. A uniform is a privilege, not a right. Presumption of innocence in a court of law is a right.

Comments

John Fitzgerald

Sometimes a little humility is good.

3 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Can't have any embarrassment saving around here. Shame all the low life.

After all, I've got a keyboard by golly. I deserve the right to know.

3 months ago

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Joe Ross

I agree Dirk.

Why does it matter so much what we think?

"People will think (such and such)".

My answer? "*And...???*

People may assume the worst, but with a doubt lingering they can never get too comfortable in their judgement.

3 months ago

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William D'Armond

This is one of the weakest arguments I have heard in a long time. As a parent of a college kid, I know that they are going to go through a learning phase and that is typically during the college years. As an athlete, the recognition and living life in a limelight has a huge amount of pressure. The schools owe it to these young adults to preserve their "innocent until proven guilty" status until they know what is truly going on.

Local media just cannot stand not knowing and the possibility of missing out or not being the first to report a big story. Stop reaching. Mr. Long is not currently guilty of anything beyond "Violating Team Rule" by putting himself in a precarious situation that for all we know is false.

LJW was quick to jump on Carlton Bragg last year for assaulting his girlfriend. How did that turn out for you. All I am saying is give these programs and young adults the opportunity to hear the whole story and that little thing they call "Due Process" before you throw them to the sharks.

3 months ago

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Don Everett

Get a life keegan. It's really none of your business nor any of ours how it is stated as to why a kid gets dropped. It will eventually come out in the long run.

3 months ago

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Bob Bailey

Yeah, maybe a lot of us got caught at something we shouldn't have done. Like collecting a series of humorous road signs.

But Keegan's suggestions are not too vicious. Particularly with loaded firearms and pot. You can think what you want, but when jt appears in the cops record, it is serious. Even including Bragg, although they should have been prompter with clearing his record. And, even he did not escape some implication maybe later.

3 months ago

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Len Shaffer

Why are you equating loaded firearms and pot??? One is incredibly dangerous and harmful to society and one is a firearm. Seriously, one is something that virtually everyone in college does and that is less harmful than alcohol. Are you just mentioning it because it's illegal? That's not even the case in some states now, and at some point relatively soon it will be legal everywhere. That's like saying Keegan's suggestions are not too vicious, "particularly with sexual assault and a parking ticket."

3 months ago

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Kit Duncan

Marijuana is a federal offense in all fifty states.

3 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

Student athletes have a right to a certain degree of privacy.

Obviously in a case like Long's, there is a public process that will play out, but in other cases where there are no criminal charges it is fair to maintain a players' right to privacy. If the player wants to make public when he was kicked off the team, then he can do so.

I do think however that teams/departments use the phrase "violation of team rules" to save face for themselves more so than for the student athletes. And the main reason that I say so is because I think that teams will use it to get rid of a player that is a net negative on the team, but will use it also to deliver a one game suspension to a star athlete when they just want to send a message. They have every right to do this as long as it's not violating the law or violating any of their internal policies and procedures. But it doesn't look good when a player is dismissed for something that a different player may have been a one game suspension for.

All that said, I don't think that we as fans need to know every detail of a student's behavior and discipline. The media loves to grandstand about things like Grayson Allen's tripping and Carlton Bragg's girl problems, and Josh Jackson vandalizing a car and so on. Now it's one thing to report on a piece of news such as a police report and a subsequent suspension, but then to take it to the level of TV analysts going on for hours virtue signaling, being holier than thou, and criticizing the discipline as too weak and suggesting that a player should have been booted, or that he needs anger management counseling, or whatever the case may be. It's ridiculous... it's all about clicks and TV ratings with no regard to the 18-23 year olds and what they actually deserve and what's best for them.

Generally, I'm ok with only hearing about a "violation of team rules"

3 months ago

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Michael Bennett

I couldn't disagree more. I've never seen why an LJW employee was terminated? As an HR professional, what do we tell other employers about terminated players; dates of employment and position held. Nothing more. Giving out more information would definitely lead to libel and slander suits. The players didn't give up their freedoms and rights because they agreed to play football and the University has no real to increase its exposure to lawsuits just because a sportswriter/fan wants to know.

3 months ago

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Harlan Hobbs

This all about privacy concerns. Academic institutions are notorious for not wanting to risk a lawsuit over a potential privacy violation. Therefore, the "gossip" factor will always be with us. It isn't going to change because a litigious society and political correctness won't allow it.

Also, I have always had a little problem with the the phrase "the public has a right or a need to know." As others have said, it really is none of our business.

Put yourself in their shoes, and you might come to the same conclusion. None of us want to have our "dirty laundry" thrown out there for everyone to see. Sometimes it may be necessary to protect society, but that doesn't apply in this case.

3 months ago

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Randy Bombardier

Shame helps no one. I like taking the high road and think violation of team rules is enough. I don't think it deameans the late to practice player. Besides that kind most likely would not be dismissed, they just wouldn't play.

3 months ago

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Bob Zielinski

Where does the issue of respecting/protecting the privacy of the athlete end and the responsibility to protect the students at KU begin? Violent people (not just athletes) don't have any business being on campus with students and faculty.

I have no problem specifying when a student or athlete commits a violent crime in the name of protecting everyone at KU.

Violent crime by athletes is getting pretty bad.

3 months ago

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Len Shaffer

I agree, when a student or athlete is CONVICTED. Being accused is not the same thing as being convicted.

3 months ago

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Ryan Richey

Clickbait

3 months ago

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Waylon Cook

Tom needed comments to stay relevant. He still isn't but in his mind he is.

3 months ago

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Doug Merrill

Good article Tom. I also think it would be good if everyone dropped the use of "needs to" when what is really meant is "must" or "should" - "needs to" is so Kardashian...

3 months ago

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Robert Brock

Don't sweep student felonies under the rug. Shine plenty of light and attention on violent crimes committed by student-athletes.

They are not special.

3 months ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Violent crimes are one thing, but internal gossip is another. As I said, if there is a need to know to protect society, e.g, a sex offender or something like that, then "ok." However, many seem obsessed with knowing everyone else's business. Let the authorities sort it out!

3 months ago

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Bob Bailey

Not many of you can remember what happened to you 70 (yes 70) years ago. At about 18, with a 17 yr old girl; I was in KU, trying to get a leg up to the Air Force. Had a scholarship requiring half A and certainly not more than half B. In an 8 hour summer term, it was tough; with only 4 students, three with scholarships like mine. The girl went to summer camp, 600 miles away. It seemed serious between us, till a letter out of the blue 'broke us up'. It was very emotional, for the better part of a day. The world goes on, do your duty under the scholarship.
Things have changed some in 70 years, but perhaps not the emotional impact of an 18 yr old.
Looking back, Bragg had a problem. Looking back further, not too far, another problem with a BB short term suspension.
What has changed is the eruption of more violence. Obviously our football player had a problem and turned to a gun. Most likely of not much effect, but you never know. Had he left the gun at home, he would likely have a different suspension.
Perhaps time requires a good counselor for these kind of emotional problems. We have an older BB player from Leavenworth who seems to be devoted to the Lord's work. But he has to be made available BEFORE the problem comes up. It would seem appropriate to have our dismissed player back, had it worked out a little differently. Maybe a lot of students need some emotional help around 18 -- or more.
It has to be available in advance so it would be a place for help.
Coaches, academic advisers, probably don't qualify. But there are people who are helpful. Let's put one on our staff.

3 months ago

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