Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Could Have Been Worse for Colgate RB Scott

It's been a tumultuous offseason for Colgate fans who have been twisting in the wind regarding the situation involving star rising senior RB Jordan Scott (and WR David Morgan). After reporting that the players were suspended in December for a burglary charge, the state's and school's punishments for the two athlete's infractions were squeaked into a light July news cycle yesterday - and it's caused a firestorm of discussion amongst Colgate fans.

Two Colgate football players are each serving 21 days in jail on charges of trespassing at a dorm room last December.

Running back Jordan Scott and wide receiver David Morgan began serving the time at the Madison County jail last week after each agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of second-degree criminal trespass, said Hamilton village Justice Arnold Fisher. They will each serve a year of probation, too, Fisher said.

Each student was originally charged with second-degree burglary, a felony.

Looking over the NY penal code, the definition of second-degree burglary that applies here is:
A person is guilty of burglary in the second degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building with intent to commit a crime therein, and when:

2. The building is a dwelling.

Since Scott basically admitted he was there to steal money and admitted as much, the legal aspect of this seems cut-and-dry. Their only option (probably) was to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree criminal trespass.

I am no a legal expert by any stretch, but 21 days in jail seems like a long time to me considering their crime was a misdemeanor (not to mention one year of probation). I don't know the answer to this, but I wonder - how many other folks are spending that much hard time on that specific charge? Not many, I'd bet.

It's not the legal response, however, that is raising hackles. It's the response from Colgate itself:
The two players will remain students at Colgate, but will be suspended for one game at the beginning of the season, said college spokesman Charlie Melichar.
It certainly could have been worse for both athletes. They could have been kicked out of the university, kept as students but kicked off the team or suspended for half the season - but coach Biddle and the athletic department chose instead to suspend them for only one game.

Judging by the message board chatter, many Colgate fans find this surprisingly light - especially considering that the NY justice system came down hard on these two kids by any measure. It's confusing, and Colgate fans and Patriot League fans don't really know what to make of it. Was it just youthful indiscretion? One stupid thing they did? Or are Scott and Morgan really bad people? Was Colgate too lenient? Was the NY justice system too harsh?Are the athletes getting preferential treatment?

The message could be: Colgate only cares about winning, while the NY police are rightfully throwing the book at them. Or it could be: Colgate is taking appropriate action, while the NY police are throwing the book at Mr. Scott to make an example of Colgate football.

Who's right? I was not there and I don't pretend to know, but I have my own take on this.

Coach Biddle seems be a stand-up guy who has firm control of his team. His kids persist and his kids graduate as Colgate's APR numbers show. The Raiders haven't had a culture of disciplinary problems in his tenure as head football coach, which will enter its 12th year in 2008. As a matter of fact, Biddle seems to run a pretty tight ship as far as I can tell.

I can't see coach Biddle letting an athlete "off the hook" if he really thought what had happened was a serious situation. I also could easily see coach Biddle suspending him for the year if that was the right thing to do.

Coach Biddle has had a history of doing right by athletes. He personally told RB Jamaal Branch to take a year off to figure out his life before Branch returned to the team in 2003 to lead the Raiders to the I-AA National Championship game. That to me doesn't sound like a guy who is out there to win at all costs. In that situation, he could have easily lost their best player.

My instincts are to give coach Biddle the benefit of the doubt in this situation. He has been at Colgate an awful long time and (to me) developed a reputation as a coach in good standing ethically - and I say this as a Lehigh fan.

I think coach Biddle suggested the punishment he thought best, in regards to his view of the circumstances and without regard to Colgate's football chances in 2008. I think he's earned that much.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Promotion To Assistant Head Coach And Strength & Conditioning Records

Coach Coen announced today some coaching changes that to me seemed very significant for the upcoming season.

First was the promotion of defensive line coach Donnie Roberts to assistant head coach, a move that to me seems like a fantastic move. Originally part of the Lehigh coaching "dream team" in the 1990s, his second stint with Lehigh has featured developing a defensive line that seems to be perennially loaded with all-American talent like NT Eric Rakus, DT Royce Morgan, DE Kyle Adams, and this year's all-American candidate in senior DL Brian Jackson. (Not to mention former NFL veteran DE Rich Owens and another one of Lehigh's best in DE Nick Martucci, who were under his tutalage in the early 1990s.) Roberts couldn't be a better choice for assistant head coach and I'm looking forward to see what his impact will be on the entire team defense going forward.

Other staff additions would not be complete with mentioning the two coaches which are off the staff: last year's running backs coach Mike Kapusta (now gone into private business) and last year's linebackers coach Kenny Lockard (who joined the staff at Cheney University as defensive coordinator). However, the two folks that coach Coen got to join the staff are pretty exciting additions.

Linebackers coach Matt Sanders comes to South Mountain from perennial Big East power Louisville where he was a student-assistant after an injury brought his playing career to an end in 2007. The thought of Sanders bringing his expertise from Louisville to Lehigh to work with senior LB Tim Diamond, junior LB Matt Cohen and junior LB Heath Brickner could make our defense the most fearsome in the Patriot League (I hope). If he can do that, I'll promise to not remind him how his last trip to the area went (hint: it involves the town of Piscataway, NJ).

The other addition comes from the staff of Franklin & Marshall College and new running backs coach Scott Brisson. From the press release:

“Scott came very highly recommended from the staff at Franklin and Marshall,” said Coen. “Scott worked very closely with RJ Ryan who is a former player for us and also coached at Lehigh. Scott has experience in our offensive system and also did a very nice job recruiting for F&M last year. I am confident that he will do a great job coaching our running backs.”

Again, I'm optimistic how he will be able to work with senior RB Matt McGowan and sophomore RB Jaren Walker to improve the rushing game from last year - and keep the unit away from the injury bug that bedeviled us in 2006. I think his fresh perspective could be exactly what the unit needs.

Speaking of injuries, not a lot has been mentioned about the revamping of the strength & conditioning program which was quietly added to the official Lehigh website recently. Not only are there two full-time employees on strength and conditioning, the new website talks about the top strength & conditioning records from 2004 to the present - which includes some starters for the fall.

Bench press features something interesting: beating out senior OL Kevin Bayani (420 lbs) and sophomore OL William Rackley (415 lbs) is... junior FB Anthony Fossati (425 lbs). So a ballcarrier is stonger than the linemen, eh? Bet that's the subject of some discussions on the Lehigh "O" line, and it makes you wonder if we could see Fossati perhaps line up a little bit at TE to use some of that strength on our line.

Also with two strength and conditioning records are senior OL Chris Tiefenthal (Squat, 585 lbs) and senior WR Nick Johnson (4.42 40-yard dash time).

These records might point some tantalizing clues about the 2008 season - not only the thought of Fossati appearing as a TE, but Rackley's strength appears to potentially make him well positioned to perhaps start on the "O" line this year. As for Johnson, could be be our Dexter Jackson, the speedster that causes opponents fits?
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