Now that the LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill are back on American soil, it falls to UCLA to discipline the players appropriately.
While none of us will likely ever be privy to the surveillance footage that ESPN’s Arash Markezi reported on, it seems that someone from UCLA has certainly seen it.
Tomorrow morning, the three players will address the situation publicly at an 11 am press conference. What exactly will the players have to say? Your guess is as good as mine.
But, this much is clear. These three student-athletes have embarrassed the Four Letters and, in so doing, they created an international incident.
Now, I’ve read as much as I can possibly can about this over the past week. It certainly seems to me that the prevailing opinion is that the penalty for each of these individuals needs to be severe.
If the UCLA Administration knows the full details and, given that both the Chancellor and the Athletic Director made the trip to Shanghai, they probably do and they aren’t innocent, the administration needs to come down hard on them and they should be suspended for the entire season.
I don’t care how much it hurts the basketball program in the short-run.
What I don’t want to see is UCLA suspending them for a handful of non-conference games. The only thing that such a punishment would do is hurt the team during the relatively meaningless non-conference season, but bring them back for the bulk of the season. Such a slap on the wrist would say, “Yes, they did something, but, no, we’re not going to punish them the way we should for it.”
Unfortunately, it’s also the exact response I expect from Steve Alford, who protected his star player when his star player was accused of sexual assault when that occurred at the University of Iowa.
So, will I be surprised if UCLA gives them a slap on the wrist? Absolutely not.
But, Steve Alford and Dan Guerrero have an opportunity to earn a big win with UCLA alumni and fans by doing the right thing and suspending them from the basketball team for an entire year if the players did what they were accused of.
And, if it was a misunderstanding of some sort where maybe the players underpaid for purchases, then they should receive no punishment at all.
There should be no in between here because it isn’t just the act of shoplifting that they would need to be punished for. They need to be taught a lesson that they were representatives of UCLA and that playing basketball at UCLA is a privilege.
And, if the players decide to leave, then I agree with with Bill Plaschke of the LA Times who has published an excellent article on this subject. Sure, Plaschke isn’t exactly a guy we usually put a lot of credibility in here at BN, but, hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
I also say, “So what?” LEt them leave. And, I don’t care how it affects this year’s team.
The University’s integrity and the integrity of the Men’s Basketball program are far too important.
When Steve Alford was hired, a lot of people couldn’t believe that UCLA had hired a guy who defended a star player who had been accused of sexual assault. When UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero was asked about it, Guerrero told a reporter that Alford has a clean slate at UCLA.
That slate now has “shoplifting” and “international embarrassment” written on it and it’s time that Alford and Guerrero prove that the UCLA Men’s Basketball program has the integrity that many feared would be absent when Alford was hired.
It’s time for UCLA to do the right thing.