The University of Delaware men’s basketball team is having its best season on the court in a long, long time. But off the court, the Blue Hens have been having one of their worst seasons. On Wednesday, the university announced that two starters – Jarvis Threatt and Marvin King-Davis – will be suspended for a month for breaking team rules, the third time this season that players have been suspended and the first time more than one has been benched for breaking the rules.
Women’s player Shanice Johnson was also suspended for the same amount of time and for the same reason, although the school won’t reveal what rules were broken or how badly they were broken. In a statement announcing the suspensions, Delaware said that the three players have been suspended for “separate, unrelated violations of Athletics Department policies.’’
So, far, three starters will have been forced to miss time this season for disciplinary reasons. Devon Saddler, the team’s leading scorer, was suspended for seven games earlier this season for breaking unknown team rules, and Threatt was suspended for a game last week for skipping a class.
The fact that these guys failed to live up to their responsibilities is discouraging, and if you’re a Delaware fan is has to be irksome that this is happening just when the team is finally worth watching again. But what is very encouraging has been the school’s response – swift and harsh. That’s refreshing to see in this day and age when personal responsibility seems like a quaint notion from the past.
Still, it’s hard to know what to feel about Delaware’s problems – on one hand, the coaches and administrators obviously haven’t gotten the message across that certain behavior is unacceptable and a price must be paid if rules are broken. When players are punished four times – one of them for the second time – there is an obvious breakdown in the system.
On the other hand, the Blue Hens haven’t hesitated to suspend their best players in a season when they have a real shot at winning the CAA title and that’s commendable. It makes you believe, albeit briefly, that these guys really are student-athletes and the first part of that title actually means something.
Delaware certainly tries to preach its message of conformity to the rules. They even have a staff member, David Baylor, with the title of personal development coach. But Baylor isn’t and shouldn’t be a baby-sitter and these young men and this young woman must take responsibility for their own actions and accept the punishment that comes with getting caught.
You would have thought that message was driven home with authority when Saddler was suspended early in the season. At least he returned in plenty of time for the conference schedule and had plenty of time to get himself back in the swing of things. But Threatt and King-Davis will probably play in just one more regular season game before the CAA tournament begins in March and the long layoff and disruption of team chemistry could adversely impact the Hens’ chances of winning their first CAA basketball championship. The loss of Threatt could really hurt – the point guard is the only player in the conference who is in the top 10 in scoring, assists and steals, and that package is hard to replace.
University officials won’t comment on the suspensions, although Eric Ziady, the school’s director of athletics and recreation services, did release a statement.
“This athletics department has very high and very clear expectations of our student-athletes,” Ziady said. “When these expectations are not met there will be certain and consistent consequences. Our student-athletes will take ownership of the decisions they make both on and off the court.”
Maybe this time everybody will get the message. Maybe now they’ll realize that the price they’ll pay for misbehaving is too steep. Delaware has made it clear that it won’t tolerate breaking the rules and if its athletes don’t understand it now, then they probably never will.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.