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February 12, 2013

HURT: UA, accused better off cutting ties

Second chances are wonderful things, but sometimes they have to come somewhere else.

That isn't to prejudge what University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban should do if police-report details involving four members of the Crimson Tide football team are true.

First, no one knows if the young men involved - D.J. Pettway, Tyler Hayes, Eddie Williams and Brent Calloway - have already received second chances, or third chances. If any of them has a side of this story that somehow renders the reported events less sordid than they seem - fellow students beaten and robbed in brutal and stupid fashion - the accused should get a chance to speak.

But if the details contained in the arrest reports released to The Tuscaloosa News - including admissions to police - are remotely accurate, it would be best if the second chance, should there be one, came elsewhere for at least three of the four players, and possibly all four. (Calloway was not charged in the robberies but apparently used a stolen ACT card to buy snacks from a vending machine, probably making them some of the costliest candy bars ever, particularly in light of Calloway's 2011 marijuana arrest.)

Saban, who was out of town Tuesday, said and did the right thing in his statement of reaction. All four players were suspended indefinitely, pending further information. As a general rule, it has not been easy for players to extricate themselves from the purgatory of indefinite suspension during Saban's tenure.

Aside from the impatience of the media and the general public for punishment, there is no real time urgency here, at least not in a football sense. There is time for fact-gathering, if needed, and contemplation, also if needed. But due deliberation does not mean action cannot be prompt and severe, and Saban has a proven track record that merits the confidence of Alabama fans in his eventual actions.

The wolf of bad, inexplicable, criminal behavior isn't limited to one school, and no athletic program is safe from it. Fans who revel in finger-pointing at rivals should do so cautiously or, better still, should just stay quiet and hope their turn isn't coming soon. There is no refuge, at any athletic program, at any school, from sheer stupidity.

That isn't the big issue, though. There is a much larger consideration than whose fans get to point fingers or criticize coaches.

There is no place in a university's student population - not just on its football team, but in the general student body - for individuals who would attack, injure and rob their fellow students. That is simple common sense. There may not be a place for such individuals in society at large, at least not without a large dose of rehabilitation. Better for all involved to cut such individuals loose.

Some legal issues will have to work their way through the system, certainly. Regardless, it is not easy to see any avenue of return for the three players charged with robbery, and maybe for the fourth.

If they can get their lives together in different surroundings, that would be a bonus. But it will take time and distance.

Given what we know so far, if something positive can happen at all for the Alabama football players involved, it should happen somewhere else.

TideSports.com Recruiting: Rivals100 Tide targets in class of 2014

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.


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