SALEM, Ore. (AP) – Lawmakers scolded Oregon State’s football coach and athletic director Wednesday for not taking “clear and decisive” disciplinary action against football players who break the law.
The criticism of coach Mike Riley and Athletic Director Bob De Carolis came during a hearing on a bill that would prohibit players from stepping on the field if they’ve been charged with certain crimes.
Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, the bill’s sponsor, said it would set reasonable standards for all college football players. He said the bill was in response to “recent incidents,” referring to a string of arrests that he doesn’t think were handled with “clear and decisive action.”
On Tuesday, Joe Rudulph, a sophomore defensive lineman, pleaded guilty to assaulting an Oregon National Guardsman on leave from Iraq. Rudulph will serve 10 days in jail for the incident.
In March, Ben Siegert, a sophomore defensive lineman, was arrested for driving while intoxicated after allegedly driving 60 mph in a 25 mph zone with a 200-pound ram sheep in the back of his pickup.
And two players – running back Jimtavis Walker and long snapper Star Paddock – were arrested Feb. 11 for assaulting a taxi driver and offering to pay a $20 fare with marijuana.
At least eight players have been in trouble with the law since the school year began, and none has been permanently removed from the team.
“On the field, the rules are clear,” Metsger said. “The rules should be clearly designed off the field as well.”
Metsger’s bill would suspend players who have been charged with felonies, possession of controlled substances, some assaults and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Players could be reinstated if they are acquitted or the charges are dismissed.
The Senate Education Committee delayed a vote on the bill because De Carolis and Riley are already working on a retooling of their disciplinary code for athletes.
“Coach Riley and I are serious about making changes that hold our student athletes to explicit standards,” De Carolis said.
Riley said the team faces challenges every day, but is already improving: “We’ve taken control of that and we feel good about our improvement.”
Though the bill puts the spotlight on the Beavers, Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene, said it targets all of Oregon’s college football teams.
Walker said she has reviewed Oregon State’s current policies and was disappointed to learn that a player could be charged with drunk driving three times before being kicked off the team.
“The first time you make a mistake,” she said. “The second time you make a choice.”