Legality vs. Morality
by Scott Heiry, 8/21/00
Well, isnít this a kick in the teeth? A football player pleads guilty to felony possession of cocaine after being caught attempting to deal the stuff to a police informant. How should VT proceed? In my mind, there are two sides to this case, and they arenít "right" and "wrong". They are legal and moral.
Legally, most of us are aware that Monroeís conviction has been adjudicated for two years, at which point the proverbial slate will wiped clean if he, and I love the irony in the statement, keeps his nose clean. There is a lot of contention on the HokieCentral Message Board about whether Monroe has been found guilty of a felony, centering mainly on the adjudication of the sentence, and Iíll accept that this is the foundation for Monroeís reinstatement to the team. It may not be the cause of his reinstatement, but it certainly is the vehicle by which Weaver has allowed the player to return to the practice field.
Which leads me nicely to the moral issue. I donít post incredibly often and most of you donít know me personally, so Iíll try to give you a little bit about my perspective. Iím not terribly conservative Ė I value diversity in opinions, lifestyles and perspectives. I donít make moral arguments very often, because I recognize the relative nature of morals across cultures and generations. Basically, Iím pretty even-keeled, except for those issues I feel passionately about. Iím passionate about my alma mater and its reputation.
Having said that, Jim Weaver and Frank Beamer have a moral obligation to remove Derrius Monroe from the Virginia Tech football family. Itís very simple Ė playing football on scholarship at Virginia Tech is a privilege that few people ever attain. We have a lot of GREAT people in the VT football family. Not just great players, great people. Guys and gals that work hard every day to make those 11 (or 12) games the best experience they can be for everyone (well, except the opposition). And I hate to see another kid who was offered the chance to be a part of that experience flat-out blow it, and in doing so make the good kids seem less so, by association.
How did Monroe blow it, you ask? See, Monroe was a partial qualifier out of high school, meaning he had the grades but not the test score to meet NCAA requirements for athletic participation. Tech follows the ACC guidelines, and will only accept one "Prop 48" kid a year, and Monroe was our guy. That was Monroeís second chance, and instead of keeping his nose clean, he dirtied it up with crack cocaine, allegedly.
And hereís the kicker: he wasnít using, he was dealing. Thatís why I couldnít care less about the actual plea arrangement, or what happens to Monroe. He chose to involve himself in the distribution of one of the most addictive substances in the world. Some people are saying Monroe has suffered enough. Ever seen a crack addict? Think they suffer? Before you jump to "well, someone else would sell it if he didnít," Iíd say this: no single snowflake feels responsible in an avalanche. The only way to make this world a better place is to positively affect everything within our sphere of influence. Monroe chose not to do that with his second chance, and youíre darn right Iíll judge him for that.
I wouldnít care less if the guy was firing up a kilo of crack a day for his own personal use, but heís a dealer. The guy had a shot at the NFL, was given a free ride to a major institution of higher learning, and decided to run with some major-league bad characters. And Iím supposed to feel sympathy for this kid? Heís willing to deal one of the most addictive substances on the planet to anyone who will cough up ten bucks, and Iím asked to have sympathy, to want this kid to play represent my alma mater on the football field? Um, big fat NO! I never once posted that Kendrick should be banned from the team, because he was using a controlled substance, not dealing. There is a huge difference, IMHO.
So if we move past poor old Derrius for a second, letís look at the other casualty here: Virginia Tech. I havenít even gone into all the wonderful press weíre going to get as a result of this. Press weíll deserve if he ever plays another down for us. In fact as of this writing, weíve already had one poster suggest we call Paterno to ask him how to handle it, and another suggesting we send him to FSU, references to the recent legal issues at those schools. Think that wonít get turned around and sent right back at us, with double the velocity? Not by opposing fans (who cares), but by the media? If not, you must not have been around in í95.
Ah yes, 1995. The original Golden Year Ė Big East championship, Sugar Bowl victory over Texas before anyone had ever heard of Michael Vick, twenty-odd arrests over eighteen monthsÖ Wait, that isnít a highlight, is it?
No, it wasnít. We, as a University, football team, and alum, were dragged through more mud than you find at a monster truck rally back then. Can you recount the number of jokes about players in jail we heard when we played Nebraska in the 96 Orange Bowl?
But we did something smart in response to that horrible run of off-field incidents: Dave Braine and the Athletic Department staff drafted a Comprehensive Action Plan. The idea was to send a strong message to everyone, especially the student-athletes, that we would not tolerate improper behavior from our athletes. That as representatives of our fine University they would be held to a standard of conduct that was clearly stated in writing, and would be signed by each incoming athlete. Derrius Monroe signed it, right along with everyone else. Is it the bible or Constitution of the United States? No. But it was our Universityís attempt to set standards for our athletes to follow. Standards that Monroe violated.
So why does it seem to be so tough to do the right thing? Iím glad that Derrius apparently sees the error in his ways, and that the judge has given him his true second chance. If he ever plays a single down for Virginia Tech, that CAP is no better than the man wielding it, and Weaver comes off overly accepting of Monroeís behavior.
Jim Weaver wasnít around Tech in í95. He didnít experience the absolute embarrassment we all went through. That embarrassment was caused by two things: 1) our athletesí poor decisions and off-field behavior, and 2) our coachesí willingness to forgive those players of their transgression. What I loved most about the CAP was that it appeared to spell out to athletes that if they got in serious trouble, they were gone. It sent a message that we donít coddle athletes, that they had to be aware of their role as representatives of our University.
Jim Weaver, in his concern for Derrius Monroe as an individual, has undermined that message in his handling of this situation. Does Weaver owe us any further explanation? Absolutely not. Do any of us owe the Virginia Tech Athletic Department our continued support, financial or otherwise? Thatís a question that each and every one of us must answer for ourselves. Itís a serious one, which should be deliberated on, once we have as many of the facts as we are given. It is a decision I hope does not end in my withdrawal from the VT Athletics family.
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