Editorial Section: Dorial Green-Beckham’s Playing Status

College sports discipline is the topic that just won’t leave the headlines. While Air Force tries to confront the enormity of its failures and Nick Marshall’s playing status against Arkansas continues to be the source of speculation, the Dorial Green-Beckham situation at the University of Oklahoma is being closely watched by anyone who cares about college sports.

Today, the editors discuss whether it’s OK for Oklahoma to put DGB on the field this fall. The discussion-starter — essentially, the first voice at today’s particular roundtable — is this piece by Student Section contributor Allen Kenney, from his personal Oklahoma football blog site, Blatant Homerism, which is also his Twitter handle.

The key issue explored in Allen’s piece, providing some background for a conversation about Green-Beckham, is as follows: Missouri’s cooperation has been essential in Oklahoma’s pursuit of getting Green-Beckham on the field for the 2014 season. The details of this process are such that an athlete’s former school has to enable the so-called “run-off waiver” to be granted. Terry Johnson and Matt Zemek weigh in on whether this run-off waiver should be extended to Green-Beckham.


Q. Should Dorial Green-Beckham play this season? What is the most important principle to consider when answering this question, regardless of the actual answer?

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter @SectionTPJ

No, Dorial Green-Beckham should not play college football this year. His dismissal from Missouri should prevent him from playing for any Division I school in 2014.

The most important principle to safeguard is that actions should always have consequences.

Let’s be honest: the principle above is exactly why Beckham was dismissed in the first place. Missouri, like every other college football program, has a specific set of guidelines that its student-athletes must follow. If they fail to do so, they’re dismissed from the program.

Because actions have consequences.

However, if the NCAA allows Green-Beckham to play this fall, it’s basically ignoring this all-important principle. After all, by giving him immediate eligibility without having to sit out a year, the NCAA is setting a precedent that a student-athlete can be kicked out of Division I school and transfer to another one without missing any playing time. As long as the initiating school goes along with the “runoff rule” story, which they might for fear of a lawsuit for derailing someone’s professional career, there’d be nothing to stop a dismissed player from suiting up at another school in the fall.

That’s a very dangerous message to send. While it’s not saying it directly, the NCAA would be implying that some people are above the law.

If the goal of college athletics is really to prepare student-athletes for life outside of sports, it cannot have that happen…

…which is why the NCAA must rule him ineligible. In sports, as in life, every action should have consequences.

Matt Zemek:

On Twitter @SectionMZ

The answer? No.

The most important principle to safeguard is this, and it is also the principle that should have been safeguarded — but wasn’t — in the Ray Rice situation:

There is total innocence, there is innocence in the eyes of the law, and there is innocence in terms of privileges granted. Of these three forms of innocence, one exists before God (if you believe in God) or, if not God, in the deepest recesses of the human heart and what it knows is true. Innocence in the legal system and innocence according to the directives of a commissioner or a murky college sports process are forms of innocence as seen by the limited actions of individuals who face competing interests and priorities.

Dorial Green-Beckham and Ray Rice might be innocent as a purely legal matter, but surely they were not and are not totally innocent in that loftier sense. They are not innocent of reprehensible conduct involving women. The standardization of punishment in sports is an important issue which flows from these incidents and the Sunday revelations about what’s been happening at the Air Force Academy, but they’re issues for another day and time. The larger discussion encompassing the standardization of punishment is indeed the severity of punishment — whatever it might be — for a given set of offenses. Surely, poor conduct toward other persons carrying the whiff of violence if not the act of violence (which definitely existed in Rice’s case with a clarity we could all see on video) should be punished more severely than marijuana use or nonviolent forms of illegal activity. More to the point, if there are doubts about a young man’s ability to treat women in a nonviolent way, society should have the highest interest in making sure that such a man takes as much time as humanly possible to learn how to be nonviolent. Taking a year off from football is the way to teach that lesson… not to throw that man back into the testosterone-drenched world of…. football.

Dorial Green-Beckham wouldn’t have been kicked out of the University of Missouri had he been totally innocent, innocent in the ultimate and purest sense of the notion. Given the severity of the issue of violence towards women, a full season away from football is the only sane punishment to hand down.