Two Colgate football players are each serving 21 days in jail on charges of trespassing at a dorm room last December.Looking over the NY penal code, the definition of second-degree burglary that applies here is:
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.
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: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.
2. The building is a dwelling.
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.