Football players' conduct holds entire UA image at stake

UA cornerback Derrick Stewart awaits arraignment in Pima County Superior Court on charges of aggravated assault using a deadly weapon and causing serious injury. This isn't meter-beating. This is a football player (physically stronger than an average person) who supposedly broke someone's jaw in an altercation. Three other players Gary Taylor, Brandon Sanders and Shawn Parnell were cited in the incident against a Davis-Monthan airman in May, all of whom happen to be starters, and stars, on the University of Arizona team.

UA football coach Dick Tomey told the Arizona Daily Star last week that he suspended Stewart and commented that his staff would stand behind the junior and the other three players involved.

Tomey said he wanted to send a message that "we have to let the legal process run its course ."

That's all well and good, but what kind of message is the public receiving as a result of these Wildcats athletes' behavior?

Like it or not, the publicity these players are generating through this incident is creating an image. This image not only affects the football program as a whole, but also the players' teammates and fans. Ultimately, is this the kind of publicity these players strive to create for the University of Arizona?

Just as we stand behind any decisions Coach Tomey makes, he needs to stand behind the decisions his players make whether on the field or during the off season. He is, after all, the head of the team.

Athletes are students. As with any student on campus, they are bound under a code of conduct and subject to punishment set in accordance by the university.

In addition, the UA's Intercollegiate Athletics Department's Student-Athlete Code of Conduct states: "It is assumed that the University of Arizona students who participate in Intercollegiate Athletics will conduct themselves in a manner befitting representatives of the University and abide by practices that enhance their personal health as well as their skills in sports."

It's OK for football players to crush opponents on the field. But it becomes a different story when they crush opponents off of the field. These players are leaders in the campus community, both idolized and admired by their fans and peers, and should act accordingly as much on the field as off.

As fans and supporters of the football program, we want to see an end to this incident an end which reflects not only the legal process running its course, but also weighed into the final decision student and athletic codes of conduct.

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