As a Michigan Daily sports columnist, I’m supposed to have strong opinions on any issue pertaining to Michigan sports.
Michigan’s defense under Ron English: Good.
Michigan basketball under Tommy Amaker: Bad.
But the developing legal issue involving Michigan wide receiver Adrian Arrington has my head spinning in circles.
The situation, in case you’ve buried your head in the sand the last 24 hours, or don’t read the front page of this newspaper, goes something like this:
A police report states that early in the morning Oct. 13 in Ypsilanti, Arrington took his girlfriend’s car keys, pulled her out of her car and then drove away. According to his girlfriend – who the report stated had scratches on her hands from the car keys – Arrington was drunk at the time.
Charges of misdemeanor domestic violence have been filed against Arrington, and a pretrial hearing has been set for Nov. 1.
So now, the inevitable questions: What should coach Lloyd Carr do? Should he suspend his rapidly improving wide receiver?
Based on what I can tell, Carr’s answer so far is no.
“I think I made a statement after the (Iowa) game that the facts do not support the allegation, and I maintain that’s still true, and I think it will prove to be accurate in the outcome,” Carr said during yesterday’s Big Ten teleconference. “As I mentioned, that police report . I think there are a few cases down through history where there are inaccuracies, and that’s really all I’m going to say on that matter.”
To Carr’s point, the mere existence of a police report does not mean that Arrington actually did anything wrong. But Carr’s vague reference to “facts” certainly raises some more questions.
What are these facts? Where do they come from? Why haven’t they been brought to light?
And finally, the kicker: Are the Wolverines delaying Arrington’s punishment because they need him to keep their undefeated season going?
I wish I had answers to these questions. I don’t.
My instincts say that Carr is an honorable guy. My instincts say he wouldn’t go to bat for Arrington unless he had real reason to believe he is innocent.
As college football programs go, Carr runs a pretty tight ship.
Could you imagine Michigan players stomping around the Big House Miami-style, throwing helmets at Ball State players?
Not in a million years.
Then again, the Wolverines do have a potential national title in their sights. And Michigan’s passing game is hobbled, with superstar receiver Mario Manningham and two tight ends out with injury.
The temptation is there – even if all the evidence were to point against Arrington – to sit back on the “innocent until proven guilty” defense as the case slowly winds its way through the legal system.
That’s fine as a legal strategy. But considering that Carr has previously suspended players who were merely charged with crimes, presumed innocence is not by itself a reason to avoid suspension.
Most recently, Carr suspended former defensive tackle Larry Harrison after Harrison was charged with indecent exposure. Harrison was eventually convicted.
Let’s assume for a moment that the facts in the police report are correct. In that case, Arrington should be done for the season. Even if no permanent damage was done, Arrington’s alleged actions were reckless, stupid, wrong and deserving of serious punishment.
On the flipside, if Arrington is suspended for something he didn’t do, that’s an injustice in and of itself.
I don’t envy Carr’s situation. Every decision he makes – or doesn’t make – comes with major ramifications.
Suspend an innocent player and needlessly jeopardize a potentially perfect season while embarrassing Arrington. Fail to suspend a guilty player and set (or reinforce, depending on your perspective) an ugly precedent – that serious legal and ethical infractions are acceptable for “Michigan Men.”
I wish I had a firm suggestion to make. But my information is limited. Ultimately, Carr is the only one who can sit Arrington down, look into his eyes and try to determine what happened on the morning of Oct. 13.
Here’s hoping his motives are pure and his judgments correct.
– Singer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.