Rules Are Rules….Right?

So the news broke yesterday that Sekope Kaufusi, the athletic linebacker heading into his junior season and a guy looked at to be a possible force in the new 3-4 defense at WSU, has been dismissed for violation of team rules.  The story goes that someone(s?) in the Kaufusi residence was smoking weed, and a neighbor called the police, complaining of the odor.  The police gathered the information, enough so to get a warrant, went to Kaufusi’s apartment, and the rest is history. 

There are so many questions and reactions to consider in this particular case. 

1) Was Kaufusi the one smoking the weed?  Or were there others in his residence who were lighting up and Kaufusi was just hanging out?  It seems pretty damning that he was charged with possession, plus paraphernalia, so one would be able to connect the dots based on the reports that he was at least one of the offenders.  It’s not as though the Pullman PD was hiding in the bushes and looking through windows, hoping to catch Kaufusi doing something he shouldn’t have….right?  Although Victory Bell can recall some stories of Pullman’s finest lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce and give those intoxicated, under-21 the dreaded MIP!  But by all accounts, it at least sounds like this wasn’t some sort of “witch hunt”.

2) Shouldn’t they let this all play out in the courts first?  Was coach Leach too hasty to give him the boot?  Well, Victory Bell is all for freedom and liberty and all that good stuff that comes with being a citizen of these here United States!  Yes, Kaufusi has been charged with a misdemeanor for possession, but has he been found guilty by a court of law?  Maybe it’s just a matter of time before that happens, but being charged and being found guilty can be two different things, as witnessed by the DeAngelo Casto “situation” last year.  Remember the Casto story, where he was basically in the same place as Kaufusi is now, caught by police smoking weed in his apartment?  The charges were eventually dropped as it was deemed an illegal search and seizure, and Ken Bone had full knowledge that there were some unusual circumstances surrounding the whole thing.  Casto was allowed to return to the hoops team after being temporarily suspended from team activities, and then a month later, the charges were dropped. 

3) It this really the end-game for Kaufusi?  Or is there a chance he can come back, perhaps by fall camp?  It’s really hard to know right now if there is a path for Kaufusi to return.  In Mike Leach’s book, he described a situation where a player was dismissed from the team, but the coaches provided the player a path to return in the future, provided he met a series of benchmarks as set forth by the coaching staff.  The player did meet all the standards and did come back to the team.  BUT THIS WAS THE EXCEPTION under Leach at Tech, not the rule.  By and large, if Leach shows you the door, the odds are extremely long that you will in fact return to the playing field, at least under his watch anyway.

Kaufusi now makes the third potential defensive starter coming back for the 2012 season who has been kicked off the team (linebacker CJ Mizell and d-tackle TJ Poloai the others).  Factor in the graduation of Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Brandon Rankin, and suddenly you have a below-average-at-best defense from 2011 looking awfully young and thin all of a sudden for 2012. 

If any of you have read Leach’s book, you will likely have been struck just as much as Victory Bell over the hard-and-fast rules that Leach lives by, and how harsh he is in dealing with the rule-breakers.  It’s easy and clear to understand as ABC:

A) No fight….err, STEALING, yeah, that’s it (whoops!).  Cool

B) No drugs.

C) No violence against women.

Seems simple enough.  Mizell was booted for assault, Poloai and now Kaufusi for drugs.  And Leach makes it clear in the book, and has reportedly made it crystal clear to the WSU football team on at least two different occasions – you break one of these rules, you are off the team.

OK, fair enough.  Mike Leach has won a hell of a lot of football games as a head coach, and has a ton of experience coaching division I athletes from all walks of life.  A huge part of what has made him so successful is Leach building his system his way, adhering to his rules, and taking a seriously hard line approach to those who simply cannot or will not toe the line.  Who can argue with his track record of winning seasons, bowl games, and excellent graduation rates?   And Leach himself says that while the rules might sound harsh, he can look back now and say that he never regretted kicking a player off the team or felt like it was the wrong thing to do.  In fact, Leach writes that one of his only regrets is that he didn’t kick Adam James off the Tech team, a player who would eventually start the process of sending Leach to the unemployment line!

But it also has to be understood that life is simply not black and white.  Nobody is perfect, and making mistakes is a big part of growing up.  And hey, we all break the rules at some point or another?  As meaningless as they seem at the time, almost all of you break the rules here and there, right?  There are areas of gray that we all dabble in our daily lives, from an 8-year old who eats a grape at the grocery store to the 40-year old who regularly drives 5 MPH over the speed limit.  Against the rules, sure, but they don’t seem like that big of a deal at the time.

But hey, whoa, hold on a second.  This isn’t like Kaufusi stole some food or was doing 30 in a 25 MPH zone.  This is drug use, and it’s not good!  But that said, there are many who are fighting like hell to make pot legal in this country.  And there are medicinal MJ prescriptions out there, all across the US.  Is pot use really that much worse than drinking?  I won’t debate that here in this space, there are many other places on the interwebs to go there.  But it is it really THAT bad? 

Yet, here we are.  Did Kaufusi screw up?  Sure, absolutely he did.  For a player who would be an upperclassmen next year with a decent amount of experience and talent, he was likely going to be looked at as a leader of some kind for a new, young defense.  And Kaufusi had a lot on the line in all this, including a full ride scholarship and the dream of one day playing professionally.  With a 3-year old son to take care of, that’s a hell of a lot to risk just to smoke a bowl, don’t you think? 

I’m not here to judge however.  Victory Bell has stepped outside the law a few times, sure, and especially in his younger, impressionable days.  And he was known to “spark a fattie” or two back in his run of youth and freedom and really, really bad decisions.  But if I have one reaction to all this, it’s just an incredible sense of DISAPPOINTMENT more than anything else.  And it’s disappointment at all levels that makes Victory Bell down in the dumps about this. 

I’m disappointed in Kaufusi’s decision to get high, with so much on the line (even knowing how damn boring Pullman can be this time of year!).  All the while, Kaufusi knew the harsh rules of the Leach program, saw two other players get kicked off the team, and STILL decided to get high.

I’m disappointed with the black-and-white law of the land with Leach on this situation, and wish that Kaufusi, as well as Mizell and Polaoi, would get a chance to redeem themselves, learn from their mistakes and come back to the team.  After all, can’t we look at mistakes as an opportunity to learn? 

But that doesn’t sound likely.

Ah well.  Rules are rules….right?

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