If you're reading this blog post then you most likely have heard about the most recent suspensions in the Wake Forest football program. No less than two weeks after six Wake Forest players were suspended for "violating team rules and policies" (see smoking weed), Devin Bolling and Duran Lowe were suspended indefinitely for a "violation of athletics department policies).
From this article in the Winston-Salem Journal by Dan Collins, he states that the two were arrested on October 9th. Bolling was charged with possession of marijuana while Duran Lowe was charged with a more serious "intent to sell and distribute marijuana.
Coming off of the heels of the first suspensions I have to think Duran Lowe's career as a Wake Forest football is likely over due to the nature of his charges. I'm not sure that Devin Bolling is in the same boat, but he could be looking at a long road back to the playing field as well.
With all that has happened off the field for the Deacs, it prompted Ron Wellman and Jim Grobe to "co-author" this letter to the Wake Forest faithful:
Dear Deacon Club member,
As a loyal supporter of our football program, you deserve to know the reasons for the decisions that have been made over the last couple of weeks about some players on our team. The off-the-field incidents have been embarrassing to all of us and it is important that you understand our approach to matters like this. We want you to know that we do not minimize the seriousness of these matters.
Parents understand that children do make mistakes and sometimes do things that are seemingly self-centered or amazingly thoughtless. We can assure you that we never take a young man into our program without recommendations from coaches, teachers, counselors, and school administrators. Recruiting is certainly not an exact science and we diligently try to bring student-athletes to Wake Forest who will try their best to do what is right both on and off the field.
Coaches are teachers. Everyone in our program takes that role very seriously. A primary goal is to develop our players for life after school and football. The hardest decisions a coach has to make are those that may sacrifice winning a game in order to teach a player that making good decisions and caring for others are more important. Parents are most heartbroken when their children make foolish decisions but coaches run a close second. We are disappointed in the behavior of a few of our players but feel that our team will grow from the experience. Lost in the distractions of a few are the overwhelming number of players who are working hard to be the best each and every day.
We want to assure you that every decision we make in our football program and throughout our Athletic Department is with the future and well-being of Wake Forest and our student-athletes at heart. Winning is VERY important but it will not be pursued at the expense of our integrity. Our players need a reminder sometimes that their commitment to football extends beyond the practice field. We want our players to look back years from now and know that they were more important to us than winning a football game.
Thank you for all your support and loyalty to our program! We look forward to sharing many wonderful moments with you in the future.
Jim Grobe Ron Wellman
While I certainly appreciate that somebody is finally communicating with the fans about what's going on behind the scenes, my initial take on this letter is the demeaning tone that it takes throughout. It begins by saying that this letter will reveal why the decisions were made in the past couple of weeks, but then does absolutely none of that throughout it.
I know they can't reveal exactly why they suspended the players due to privacy laws, so why even bring that up to start the letter? It seems to me to come off as a ploy to get the reader to read the entire thing to "figure it out".
We all know that Wake Forest "takes these matters seriously" because we have seen it happen over 10-15 times in our two flagship sports over the past 3-4 years. If you want to keep spinning the culture angle to the fan base then you better back it up with the actions, not words.
Not to mention that the "culture" talk continues to deflect from the biggest problems right now, and that is poor coaching, poor play on the field and continued lack of passion in playing the game. At what point do you stop blaming all of the actions off the field and focus on the ones that actually matter in the football game--the ones on it?
I don't want to read letters like this explaining why we are suspending players on our teams, I want to see the whole thing stop. The administration has clearly taken to the "high-horse" angle with regards to "culture". They act like Wake Forest is a completely different place than other colleges where we, God forbid, go to class and cultivate a higher education for athletes on and off the field. If that is the case then why do we continue to see things like this pop up???
It's insulting to fans to have to continue to read and see about this in the news. It's getting harder and harder for me to even make fun of the UNC situation because of our own problems on and off the field. As a recent graduate of Wake Forest I know what goes on with athletes and non-athletes alike when it comes to weed and alcohol.
I'm not saying that weed is bad, heck I think it should be legalized, but the debate isn't over whether or not weed should be legalized, it's whether or not the players we are recruiting understand what is expected of them when they are at Wake Forest and to represent the University accordingly.
Right now that is clearly not happening and that reflects poorly on the players, the coaching staff and the University as a whole. I'm glad that action is being taken by the coaching staff because it is extremely selfish and downright stupid to risk your athletic scholarship (and your college education) to make a little money on the side or get a two hour high instead of doing something else productive.
I've certainly partaken in my fair share of stimulants, but I also didn't go to college for free to play a game on Saturdays, so the trade-offs there are probably pretty favorable to the athletes.
The worst part of this all is that the Wake Forest athletic teams are struggling on the football field right now as is. Duke and Maryland were thought to be two wins coming into the year and at worst a win and a loss. Now after our bye week the Deacs sit at 3-3 and face a must-win game on Saturday to keep bowl hopes alive.
It's one thing to recruit players that are borderline characters if all you care about is winning (as a lot of schools these days seem to do), it's another thing to recruit these types of players if they aren't even that good on the field. I am in no way condoning a "win at all costs" mentality), but I guarantee you if Wake Forest were 6-0 or 5-1 right now then the fan base wouldn't be as up in arms as they are.
For now the team needs to re-focus on the game on Saturday and yet again try to pick up the slack that their "teammates" have left them on the field. Now, for a second week in a row, the players that are working hard and attempting to be more than a "Saturday player" are being punished for the boneheaded selfish actions of a few individuals.
If these types of trends continue then the finger will eventually turn to Coach Grobe and the athletic department as a whole, which has been going on for some time now on the pulse of the fan base in the message boards community.
That's the primary reason for this letter, it's for the people in charge to save face and try to convey to the fan base that they "understand" what the fans are going through. Based on this letter though it is becoming clearer to me at least that our administration is moving in the opposite direction and continues to be extremely out of touch with what the fans believe and want to see.
This is something that can be addressed in a different article at a future point in time. As for now, I just have to say it is an embarrassing time to be a Demon Deacon when it comes to supporting the athletic teams that are representing the University.
We have always been able to say that we do things the right way here in Winston-Salem, but in just over 3-4 years it has become clear that we no longer even have that to hang our hat on, and that in itself is a sad thought indeed.