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MIKE DOWNEY

On Second Thought, He Rails Anew

August 25, 1993|MIKE DOWNEY

Well, excuuuuuse me.

Inasmuch as I seem to be the only one in the occupation of print journalism who believes that Coach Don James and the University of Washington got a raw deal, I have been rethinking my conclusions and have come to a decision that many of the people around here might not like.

That I was never more right in my life.

I repeat:

The Pacific 10 Conference overreacted, overacted and went far too far in convicting and sentencing a Washington program contaminated by outsiders.

These penalties were unaccountably severe and I do not blame James one bit for submitting his resignation.

Were I from Washington, I would consider turning this conference into the Pac-Nine.

But, I'm not.

I'm from Los Angeles, land of: "They messed up, so let's get 'em! Grrr!"

In the last 24 hours, the editorial page of my newspaper has supported the Pac-10's action, an editor from my section has supported the Pac-10's action, the college football editor of my section has gone on national television supporting the Pac-10's action and the top columnist from a competing newspaper has gone on record supporting the Pac-10's action. So far, everybody here but the dude who draws Doonesbury has supported the Pac-10's action.

Alone, I hold the fort. The barbarians are at the gate.

The consensus seems to be that Washington's coaches should have known exactly what their players were doing behind their backs. That a previously impeccable program must be penalized to the fullest extent for violations committed without the coaches' knowledge. And, as I understand it, that Don James, 60, is acting like a big, spoiled, Gerber's-spitting baby for quitting on his team instead of swallowing whatever is forced down his throat.

I guess this means that whatever anybody hands you, you have to stand there and take it.

I guess this means Don James has to keep coaching in a conference that he no longer respects and no longer wishes to represent.

I guess this means that the next time a writer for this newspaper commits an act of plagiarism, the editor will accept a two-year suspension because, after all, it is the editor's newspaper and he or she should be held responsible for everything that happens here.

And, remember, that editor cannot submit a resignation if he or she deems this punishment to be unfair, because the editor must stand behind the newspaper and not stomp off and behave like a baby.

Oh, and something else.

I guess this means that UCLA should go on Pac-10 probation, and I mean immediately.

After all, two of their players went out and committed serious crimes. Where were the coaches when this was going on? Remember, a coach should be responsible at all times for the off-field behavior of the players. I guess that means this newspaper will state that UCLA and Coach Terry Donahue will have gotten exactly what they deserved when the Pac-10 places the Bruins on two-year probation with reduced TV money and scholarships.

It won't matter to my colleagues that UCLA's coaches or other players had no involvement in the crimes that these two players committed. No. Facts are facts. A couple of UCLA's players did bad things. Therefore, the school must suffer.

What's that?

That's not how it works?

Ohhhhhh. Excuuuuuse me.

Golly, I must have read our editorial incorrectly. Here is what it said about Washington's punishment: "Let it stand as a warning to every player . . . that breaking the rules won't be tolerated." That's what I read right here in Tuesday's edition. Be sure to turn to Thursday's editions when probation for UCLA is recommended on these very same pages.

And remember, no leniency. Guilty is guilty.

I repeat:

No Washington football coach was involved in the school's violations. No faculty member altered a student's grades. No administrator or coach has been ordered disciplined or terminated. Virtually all charged infractions implicated off-campus elements. In some cases, student-athletes received money before they enrolled at the university. Washington agreed to promptly disassociate with each accused booster. Washington had no prior history of reported misdeeds.

One year without a bowl would have been plenty.

One year without a bowl is precisely what the Pac-10 Conference's compliance committee recommended.

No, no, no, the Pac-10 Council disagreed, wagging its big, fat finger, exercising its veto. Two years is more like it. Mush, you Huskies.

Everybody here is telling me the Pac-10's officials were right.

The hell they were.

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