| March 22, 2018

OUR VIEW: Vandal Athletics’ words don’t align with actions

September 14, 2015

Editor’s note: This editorial is the opinion of the Argonaut editorial board.

Coaches are supposed to be someone who helps their students grow as athletes and as people.

Idaho football head coach Paul Petrino may be holding up his end of the bargain on the field, but his actions off the field tell a different story.

Friday, nearly a month after reports were filed about a theft at the VandalStore, University of Idaho released the names of two football players who allegedly stole merchandise while the store was closed for a team-only event.

The university released a statement and video surveillance footage to news organizations who requested it under the Idaho Public Records Law. Dezmon Epps and Isaiah Taylor were identified in the statement as being involved in the alleged shoplifting incident.

The identities of the players involved were known long before they were announced. Petrino himself returned the stolen merchandise. However, it was not until the university learned the footage wasn’t covered under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act that the names of the players involved were released.

In a separate statement issued by Petrino Friday, he said, “Part of my responsibility to our players is to call them out when they make mistakes, hold them accountable, and help them to learn and move forward as people who are equipped to make good choices. I have done that throughout my coaching career.”

It’s hard to see any evidence of accountability in the way Vandal Athletics has chosen to handle the incident. Petrino did not call the athletes out on their mistakes — at least not out of the locker room.

Instead of making his players return the merchandise themselves, Petrino recovered and returned what was stolen, effectively treating his players like children.

The VandalStore followed its internal protocol and didn’t press charges, which left the discipline up to Vandal Athletics and the Dean of Students Office.

In his statement Petrino said, “We took immediate disciplinary action in addition to imposing strict daily behavioral requirements for them to meet.”

Allowing both players involved to play in the season opener — while knowing their involvement in the shoplifting incident — against Ohio University must fall under Petrino’s definition of disciplinary action.

Sometime after the first game, Taylor decided not to comply with Petrino’s sanctions and left the team, according the university statement. Epps remains on the roster.

Epps has a history with law enforcement that includes petty theft, being arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and two misdemeanors for driving without privileges and for driving without a required ignition interlock device.

He was previously suspended from the team. But now, after another incident, he remains in the “Vandal Family,” Petrino said.

Epps remained on the sidelines, in full pads and uniform, Saturday in the game against USC. This is the only sign of disciplinary action coming from the Athletic Department.

Petrino claims to hold his athletes accountable, but in this situation he has not upheld his claim to the degree to which his athletes deserve. The punishment does not fit the crime.

Rob Spear, who is in charge of the entire athletic department, has also done nothing. He is the one who is responsible for how coaches behave, as well as how players act. It is Spear’s job to hold players responsible and uphold the integrity of the athletic department in addition to holding the coaches accountable.

Vandal Athletics should turn it words into actions. Letting their athletes, no matter how talented they are, get away with repeated incidents and still stay on the team is unacceptable and causes many students, alumni and community members to lose respect for both Vandal Athletics and the university.

— KH

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  1. Bravo, Editorial Board!!

    1. R U a tool? How sure are you that it is like it is? Really? How much do you really now? Serious…is what you know what you’ve heard?

  2. AMEN!!!

    I so glad that someone finally got the nerve to call like it is!!!

    In my opinion FIRE SPEAR!!! FIRE PETRINO!!! IMMEDIATELY SUSPEND ALL OF THE INVOLVED PLAYERS FROM ANY & ALL NCCA ACTIVITIES FOR A MINIMUM OF 1 YEAR!!! Last but NOT LEAST file criminal charges against all of the involved players!!!

    1. Really? You would deep six all of the wonderful achievements of the other student athletes?

      1. What about all the hard earned achievements of the student athletes who don’t deserve to belong to a athletic department where theft is acceptable? Or if all their work isn’t enough; what about all the hard earned work of the general student population who don’t deserve a school whose largest social face belongs to a football team who doesn’t discipline its athletes? This is not a question of the football team’s success or failure, or the success or failure of all of the U of I athletic teams for that matter; its a question of who we want to be as a vandal community.

  3. Rob Spears is the cancer that is single handedly killing UofI athletics, he should of been let go after his first year a decade ago,

    1. Hey…I was really impressed by the Lady Vandals soccer team results!

  4. Watched the Lady Vandals play volleyball in Portland. Had an awesome time. I was also encouraged by the Vandal football teams offensive performance against USC.

  5. This is just one of many reasons why I’ve lost respect for the university. Other reasons include; policy changes without students opinions and/or vote, not holding some Greek houses accountable for hazing and drug allegations. If the university would simply do the right thing, care about their students and enforce sanctions; ie have some moral standards about what’s right and what’s wrong, their retention rate would go up.

    1. Can you really use this incident as a reason to lose respect for our University? Here’s a website that will demonstrate just how dirty football programs area across America. Please note…BSU shows up…does Idaho? The ANSWER IS NO! http://i.imgur.com/4jTMAGn.png Go ahead I challenge you to explore the Fulmer Report. I want you to see just how dirty other programs are and just how much more dirty Boise State is than UI.

      1. That’s so disappointing that we don’t show up on the list of the most criminally active athletic departments! I guess we haven’t set our standards low enough.

  6. Bravo. Thank you. We need some accountability in UI Athletics!

  7. Joeyvee, IFMike and sportsisfun are GV.N handles. But that is OK. We share. 🙂 The Arg is fun.

  8. Accountability is one thing, and in the end it’s the most important thing, but what about the other parts of doing his job as a coach? You quote the following from Coach P.:
    “Part of my responsibility to our players is to call them out when they make mistakes, hold them accountable, and help them to learn and move forward as people who are equipped to make good choices. I have done that throughout my coaching career.”

    Just dismissing players would relieve him of what I consider to be a very important and harder part of his responsibilities. Help these student athletes learn and become better people and equipped to become productive citizens in life. Isn’t that also very important? These student athletes may not be children, but they are still “kids” a long way from home that have many life lessons to learn. They will always make mistakes and exercise poor judgment. Isn’t the UI in the business of teaching young men and women to become better people?

    Let’s remember, all merchandise was returned. Players were suspended and put on very strict living/practice/class restrictions. It was turned over to the UI student code of conduct to resolve. Obviously one of them couldn’t or wouldn’t adhere to Coach P’s requirements and is no longer with the team. I believe Coach Pertrino when he says part of his job is to teach these student athletes life lessons to become better young men.

    1. You point out that the merchandise was returned, which is true. However, this does not change the fact that these players committed a crime. Further, the merchandise was not returned by the players who took it. No was the return the merchandise the result of the players reflecting on their actions, recognizing that what they did was wrong, and deciding to make amends. The bookstore contacted the coaching staff about the theft, the coaches identified the players involved, and then the coaches returned the merchandise. There may have been valid reasons for the process to be handled in this manner, such as to protect the 5th Amendment rights of these players. However, in my mind these facts undercut any argument that the seriousness of the players actions or the resulting punishment should be mitigated by the return of the stolen merchandise.

      You also note that the players were suspended. It’s my understanding that one of the players has actually been dismissed from the team due to some subsequent violation of conditions imposed upon him as a result of the theft. Regardless of this distinction, doesn’t the timing of the suspension of Epps cause you pause? I am not aware of any statement from the athletic department indicating or suggesting that all along the plan had been to suspend Epps for the SC game. If such a statement has come out or been made I would appreciate it if someone would make a note of it on this board. Assuming there was no plan to suspend Epps for the SC prior to the time it was discovered that his name would be made public, doesn’t the decision to suspend him seem reactionary and arbitrary?

      I am not suggesting that Epps’s conduct doesn’t warrant a suspension for a game or a number of games; in light of his history it may have been appropriate to dismiss him from the program and the university. However, that was not the route chosen by the athletic department or the university. Absent obtaining additional factual information that justifies adjusting the nature or extent of the discipline imposed, once a disciplinary decision has been made shouldn’t it be final? Assuming a suspension for the SC was not part of the original discipline plan for Epps, doesn’t the decision to suspend Epps come off as a botched PR move by the athletic department to minimize the appearance of favoritism? Shouldn’t Epps and the rest of the UI athletes be able to have confidence in the consistency with which they will be treated regardless of the severity of their conduct? Shouldn’t the University of Idaho family and the people of the state of Idaho expect a higher degree of resolve and logic from the individuals who have the honor of filling prominent positions within the university?

      There are people better suited to be the University of Idaho’s head coach and athletic director. it is time we went about the business of finding them.

  9. I haven’t heard or read anything suggesting the reason Epps did not play against SC was for anything other than the bookstore incident/theft. Assuming that is the case, Coach Petrino’s decision creates more questions than it answers. Prior to learning that the names of the athletes involved in this incident would become public had the coaching staff and athletic department planned on making Epps sit out of any game(s) as a form of punishment? If the answer to this basic question is yes, the following questions arise: 1) why didn’t Epps’s “suspension” start at the beginning of the season; 2) why was the SC game chosen as the game for which Epps would be suspended; 3) who all was involved in making the decision to suspend Epps for the SC game; 4) was Epps allowed to choose the game(s) for which he’d be suspended; 5) was Epps suspended for the SC game because coaches felt his absence would not effect the outcome of the game?

    If, prior to the end of the Ohio game there was no plan to suspend Epps for any game(s), what is the factual basis supporting the coaches’ and athletic department officials’ decision to impose harsher discipline than originally planned? Was it due exclusively to the fact Epps’s name/involvement in the incident would become public? How does that fact change the underlying nature/significance of the incident? When was it decided that Epps would be suspended from the SC game, and who all was involved in making this decision?
    Will Epps be held out of any more games; if so, how many and which ones? In the time since the Ohio game ended and warm-ups for the SC game began, did coaches or other athletic department staff learn that Epps’s conduct during the incident was different/worse than what they had formerly believed? In the time since the Ohio game ended and warm-ups for the SC game began, did Epps commit some new violation of any rule or condition applicable specifically to him and/or to football players generally?

    The answers to these questions are critical in order to evaluate the thought process and ethics surrounding the decision to suspend Epps for the SC game. Currently, I am unable to conceive of a scenario where imposing a suspension on Epps that does not include the first game of the season is in anyway consistent with the principles Petrino claims to be trying to instill in his players. Perhaps the answers to the questions posed above will allow me to have a revelation in this regard.

    Suspending Epps solely on the fact that his name was going to be made public (if that is in fact what happened) seems to violate basic notions of good faith, fair dealings, justice, and fundamental fairness. If the lesson to be imparted is that it is appropriate for the consequences of one’s actions to be dependent upon the general public’s knowledge that one has committed those acts, instead of the nature/quality/seriousness of those actions, then lesson learned. On the other hand, if the plan all along had been to suspend Epps for the SC game, are Coach Petrino and athletic department officials trying to teach Epps and his teammates that cherry-picking or engaging in gamesmanship in selecting a consequence is to be expected?

    I do not actually believe Coach Petrino or athletic department intended on teaching any of the “lessons” described above. Rather, it seems likely that these are the unintended consequences of an athletic department caught off guard by a legal decision, who was then left scrambling to figure out how to mitigate any claim that Epps was shown preferential treatment with how he was originally disciplined. As you can tell from my post, I think this attempt back-fired. This situation appears to be further proof that Coach Petrino and Rob Spear lack the foresight and judgment necessary to hold such prestigious positions with our university. The entire University of Idaho family deserves better. So do the people of the state of Idaho.

  10. I just read a story on the Idaho Statesman’s website in which Coach Petrino defended his decision to suspend Epps for the SC game “because that was the game that hurt him the most,” due to the fact that Epps is from California and had long dreamed of playing in the Coliseum. I will take these comments at face value and it appears that the plan all along was to suspend him for that game and that they stuck with this plan. That being the case, my concerns over inconsistency and lack of resolve within the athletic department were misplaced. I would like to know why this plan was not made public once it was learned that Epps’s name would be made public? Was Coach Petrino worried that such an announcement would effect the competitive balance of the game because SC would no longer have to account for Epps in its game plan? That is laughable.

    Further, my initial concerns have been replaced by another, and greater concern: is it a common practice of Coach Petrino and Rob Spear to dispense discipline such a subjective and vindictive manner? Again, shouldn’t Vandal athletes be able to expect consistency in this regard? How can this type of consistency be achieved when the decision of what form of discipline should be imposed is driven by what will “hurt” the athlete the most? This analysis differs from athlete to athlete and from sport to sport. Admittedly, Epps is an outlier in that he has significant discipline issues in his past, but even he should be able to expect some objectivity in how he will be disciplined.

    Further, Epps was punished for an act based in selfishness: this (insert item) doesn’t belong to me, but I want it so I’m going to take it. Doesn’t selecting the game for which he will be suspended on the basis of which game he wants to play in the most simply serve to reinforce the notion that it’s all about Epps? Isn’t this particularly true when the game he wanted to play in the most is the game that his absence would have the least impact on the final score? With Epps, perhaps we score 1 more touchdown, or perhaps we get a few more first downs and SC scores 1 less. The game is still a route.

    Wouldn’t it have been better to suspend Epps for a game that the Vandals actually may have a shot of winning and for which his absence actually impacts the game? It seems like that would be a much better vehicle to show Epps and his teammates that a person’s actions have consequences and that those consequences impact more than just you.

  11. This whole thing about keeping Epps on the team after since violating the rules twice after being reinstated with the understanding that he follows them, this made me lose whatever faith I had left in both Petrino and Spear. I did in fact make a petition about this: https://www.change.org/p/university-of-idaho-fire-head-coach-paul-petrino-and-athletic-director-rob-spear

  12. Let’s look at this situation like a father/son — the father being a very strong disciplinarian. I grew up with a strict dad, and I would much rather deal with law enforcement than the enforcement that I would see at home.

    Let’s remember, the bookstore did not press charges — regardless what their reasons were, they did not press charges. Has there been any call for the manager of the VandalStore to resign? Fire him? If Mr. Dugger had not been frightened like a little kid when a (very small man, by most accounts) was yelling at him – no one would have ever known. “Almost charged” isn’t really reported anywhere. The only reason anything was done was because Dugger pressed it to find out what happened.

    I’m not saying any of it was handled perfectly, but isn’t this just a pissing match that helps no one? One kid has already been kicked off the team for not complying with the coach imposed penalty — it appears Epps is complying. Good for him. Let’s hope this incident really pushes him back in the right direction – he showed so much resilience by getting his degree and working toward playing this season — I want to see him do well.

    As for the Coach, The AD, The VandalStore Manager, the MPDN reporter? Why don’t we call this dumpster fire a draw? Honestly I just laugh when I see any new references. Might as well put any future articles about it in the comics.

  13. Here in the cesspool called Boise, my lover Bill and I make sweet love to the radio replay of the thrilling Hum Bowl victory over Southern Miss in 1998.