Sunday, August 05, 2012

Another Arkansas Trooper, Football Event

In case anyone thinks football troubles are unique to the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State completed its own crisis involving state troopers, high profile people and its head football coach.  Michael Dyer was dismissed from the ASU team, and head coach Gus Malzahn initially resisted discussing the matter.  The problem was the public record via Arkansas State Police due to the dismissal of an arresting officer who pulled Dyer over in March.

The timelines here intertwine with those of Bobby Petrino's motorcycle accident.  Dyer was stopped in March, an internal ASP investigation into began in May.  Petrino, of course, was April 1 through the month.

The Searcy Daily Citizen got the ball rolling with the first Freedom of Information Act request which brought out the details of the investigation and the trooper's video.  I'd like to give you some samplings of what is there, but the paper has a hard firewall.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had a accounting of the dismissal of the trooper, Royce Denney, who among other things turned off his in-car camera to lecture "Dyer about his future and how these items can mess up his football career".  Before the video was stopped, Denney told Dyer on tape that he was being a "total dumbass" for driving 96 mph in a 70 zone, possessing marijuana and a firearm and that he -- Denney -- was going to leave what to do about the weed and gun to "Coach", implying that he was going to give the Auburn transfer and former Little Rock high school superstar a break.

"You've got a career ahead of you. . . . What I should do is bend you over here and whup your butt."

Unlike Arkansas where the connection between Troop L commander Lance King as the head of the sideline protection delegation with Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino (and others before him) was quite clear, whether or not Malzahn really knew Denney isn't clear -- and that Denney in his mind was trying to help a young man get straight by giving him just a speeding ticket and turning the rest of the details over to the ASU head coach.

What we do know is that as soon as Malzahn had the full story -- the claim was Dyer had told him about the traffic stop, but not about the weed and gun -- he dismissed Dyer from the team.  And after putting off trying to talk about the event in detail, Malzahn used the start of a press conference a couple of days after the story and the dismissal broke to talk at length about it.

The initial problems were using the "I'm here to talk about something else" politician's move when first challenged, something he corrected soon after, for the football coach and the "I'm taking the law into my hands and giving you a break because you are a talented young athlete" by the trooper.

Turns out, trooper had other issues and while the focus will now be on his most recent mistake, he's fired.  This detailed out in the Friday ADG.

As yourself, would any of this have been hotly pursued by media prior to Sandusky?  Or locally to these folks in Arkansas, Petrino.

Do we have a larger systemic problem as it relates to law enforcement and college football, regardless to the size of community?  The DA in PA went public the week after Joe Paterno reached his record-setting win, but two games before the close of the season.  That was timing that to me appears odd.  The ASU events show that at some level, it wasn't just UA.  Don't overlook that a part of what is transpiring in Montana with investigations into the football team relates in part to the local police department or campus police and reporting Cleary Act crimes.

You get the sense that Denney in his mind was trying to the right thing in getting a talented young person to stop acting like a fool (and on the tape, the female passenger was joining in to berate Dyer).  We also get another careful what you do in public like the Chick-fil-A protestor (especially when you are a public servant) because video is out there and it will get to YouTube.  Here's a link to the dash-cam video, which was picked up via Freedom of Information Request.

But at some point, trying to guide young people and give them second chances to learn from mistakes as they mature in college -- something we all are suppose to be doing in higher ed whether it is athletic or academic side of campus -- crosses the line into enabling.

For Michael Dyer, who now has found himself gone from a second major college program, those second chances look like they are fading fast.

For the wider us of higher education and governance, it gives everyone pause and consider -- and remember that while we in theory have been in a transparent world as public servants that today's tools -- social media (where first rumors of all these events with the football programs at all levels started) and digital media (for the tapes and other records) are now fully enabling FOIA.

In other words, get your procedures in line (ASP issued new ones now to deal with football related duties -- since all of this brought up that they didn't have one) and make sure you are fulfilling that first crisis plan rule -- trust in God, verify everyone else.

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