In the FCS Huddle: Illinois State needs to send a message
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The most telling comment at Marshaun Coprich's court appearance on Friday came from the judge while the plea hearing wrapped up:
"It's not very often you get a do-over in criminal court," Judge Robert Freitag told Coprich in McLean County (Ill.) Circuit Court.
Second chances are a part of life, even to those who run afoul of the law, but the possible quick do-over that Illinois State University gave its All- American running back was curious, to say the least.
Coprich admitted to selling 9 grams of marijuana to an undercover officer in Normal, Illinois, last month. As a first-time offender, he received two years of probation. If he completes it without incident, the felony drug charge will be removed from his record.
Shortly after the plea hearing, Illinois State coach Brock Spack lifted the university's indefinite suspension of Coprich and reinstated him to the football program, which last season won a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title and finished as the FCS national runner-up.
"We will monitor the situation closely and comply with any and all university requirements set forth for Marshaun moving forward," Spack said in part of a university statement.
Coprich's arrest, guilty plea and probation comes at a time when Americans are especially sensitive to athletes appearing on the police blotter. It's been a horrible year for the NFL off the field, although the sport or league or sanctioning body or school hardly matters when it comes to athletes conducting themselves in law-abiding fashion.
The lifting of Coprich's suspension seemingly raised more questions than provided answers, the biggest one being: Why? As in, why so fast, Illinois State?
The quick lifting leaves ISU open to face negative backlash, surely from outside the university and even from within it.
Perhaps the lifting of the suspension is standard procedure. From here, Illinois State could very well evaluate Coprich's action and levy additional punishment. Maybe last year's FCS rushing leader lines up on opening day, maybe he doesn't at the start of his senior season.
But there was an admission of guilt by Coprich, and even if he is a model citizen throughout his probationary period, some form of game suspension is warranted.
Even the well-liked Coprich, who by many accounts is a good young man who made a mistake, would probably have to agree his situation can't be ignored. What message would Illinois State be sending him, his teammates and other students on campus if it doesn't take away some of his privilege of playing college sports?
A multi-game suspension is warranted.