There’s a difficult balancing act to pull off in major college sports: When someone — a young, still maturing college student — screws up, do you give him a second (… or third … or fourth) chance, punish him within the program and get him the help he needs while allowing him to compete? Or do you say enough is enough and cut him loose? Or is there a way, somehow, to accomplish both?
The latter is what Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is pushing for after star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was kicked off the team on Friday.
“This decision was made with the best interests of all involved in mind,” Pinkel said in a release. “Dorial’s priority going forward needs to be focusing on getting the help he needs. As we have all along, we will continue to do everything we can to assist Dorial and his family. We care deeply about Dorial and his well-being, but hopefully he can benefit from a fresh start.”
Charges were not filed against Green-Beckham, but the details of an incident early last Sunday morning were not pretty: According to police, Green-Beckham allegedly forced his way into the apartment of a friend of his girlfriend and knocked the woman down four stairs. Afterward, according to police, Green-Beckham’s girlfriend sent text messages to the woman asking her not to press charges, partly because of his status as a star football player.
It’s not the first time that Green-Beckham has gotten into trouble at Missouri, but it’s certainly the most serious. He has had two marijuana-related arrests, the first of which resulted in a one-game suspension after a guilty plea for trespassing in 2012. Regardless of the perception of the severity of the first two incidents, Green-Beckham was clearly on a short leash, and the nature of the events last weekend was enough for Pinkel to act quickly, from the indefinite suspension announced Monday to the outright dismissal of Green-Beckham from the team on Friday afternoon.
In between, Green-Beckham and his family sought to get ahead of the situation, with his father, John Beckham, releasing a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“First and most importantly, I take responsibility for my conduct and my mistakes,” the statement read. “Don’t blame my girlfriend or her friends for anything. I am not looking for sympathy. I thank those who have given me concern. I have been young and dumb. I want to be better. During my suspension I’m entering counseling. With help, I know I can be stronger emotionally and spiritually. My relationship with God, my family, friends, teammates and coaches are more important in my life, not football. It may not be possible to fix everything, but it won’t be for not trying.”
Green-Beckham is out of chances at Missouri, but he’s not totally out of chances in general. He may end up transferring to an FCS school to play football, a common situation for those who get themselves thrown out of bigger programs. Regardless of what’s next in the immediate football future, if he gets and accepts the help he needs, he’ll surely enter the draft a year from now and find a home in the NFL. A five-star recruit in the class of 2012 (the No. 1 overall recruit, according to Rivals), Green-Beckham’s career started relatively slowly, but he really began to emerge as a force, just as Missouri emerged as a force, in his sophomore season, ranking seventh in the SEC with 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. And at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, he surely looks the part of an NFL receiver.
Missouri will move on, and will struggle to replace arguably its best player, but in the long run it should be better for it. Pinkel took a stand, sending a message that such behavior is unacceptable, no matter who’s behind it. There has been a long standing problem in college sports of star treatment causing inconsistent response to transgressions. At Missouri, Pinkel has made a point of stressing the need for players to show respect toward women, and Friday’s decision shows that he’s not just talking tough.
That in itself is admirable, and removing Green-Beckham proves that such a rule is not for show; it’s serious, and deserving of serious consequences.
The next step is for Missouri to follow through on what Pinkel said, doing everything it can to help Green-Beckham move forward and grow as a person from this. You can’t forgive and forget and let someone play, but you also can’t cut someone loose and abandon him, after benefiting from him so much, without some sort of guidance even after football ties are cut.