Athletic department needs policy


Editorial Board

The issue:Former basketball players suspended before criminally charged.

Our view:Athletic department needs policy to determine suspensions.

Andre Gilbert and Mohamed Berte came to SDSU for one reason – to play basketball.

But halfway through their first season here, the passion and dreams of playing collegiate ball were stripped away.

After the team returned from a Florida contest, Gilbert and Berte were told they had been suspended from the team.

A fellow Jackrabbit athlete had filed a protection order against the men after she said they raped her in her residence hall room.

The men were not criminally charged until four months later. Gilbert was acquitted in December, and Berte’s charges were dropped shortly thereafter.

In this instance, now that all is said and done, the administration and athletic department look like the bad guys because they suspended two players who the court decided weren’t guilty whom of the accused crime.

It’s an even bigger black eye when you look at the team’s disheartening 4-14 record.

The coaches and the athletic department generally make the decision for suspension, with input from the central administration, said Athletic Director Fred Oien. The decision is also made with referral to the Student Code of Conduct set forth by the South Dakota Board of Regents.

However, there is no policy that sets guidelines on how suspensions or reinstatements are handled. It is generally a case-by-case evaluation. That may be a good public relations attempt, but it turns the athletic department against its athletes and poisons the family feeling the department should have.

Would two golfers have received the same discipline if the same charges had been filed against them? We hope so, but it’s hard to tell without consistency.

A clearly explained policy would prevent surprises, and athletes would know the exact consequences.

Student-athletes represent the university, and all should be held to the same standard. That is hard to do on a case-by-case basis.

A policy would erase the inconsistency factor and add justification to all of the department’s decisions.