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.