Bryant out of courtroom, yet off the court

After being arrested for allegedly choking his girlfriend on April 22, Eastern Michigan University redshirt junior forward Glenn Bryant had his case dismissed last Tuesday after the witness in the case failed to appear at the hearing, according to AnnArbor.com.

After being arrested and charged with a felony count of assault by strangulation as well as a misdemeanor charge of aggravated domestic violence, Bryant was suspended from the team in accordance with the Student-Athlete Discipline Policy.

As per the policy, the suspension would only last until the conclusion of the case, but according to the Athletic Department, as of May 31, Bryant was still suspended as the situation was still “an administrative matter.”

While this might look like a happy ending, I’m still left wondering what the “administrative matter” is.

One possibility is for the case to be re-opened once the witness is available to appear in court because double jeopardy does not apply, as no verdict was actually entered. If this were to happen, Bryant would still fall prey to the discipline policy and would still be ineligible to participate in team activities.

Another possibility is for Bryant to either remain suspended indefinitely or be dismissed from the team based upon the arrest itself.

After the James Still fiasco in November, I’m wondering if there is another surprise waiting around the corner in regards to Bryant’s status with the team moving forward.

To refresh your memory, on Jan. 24, The Eastern Echo ran a story about the sentencing of former EMU forward James Still in connection with an assault he and former Providence College teammate Johnny Lacy committed while attending PC. You can find it here if you haven’t already read it.

At the time, then-Athletic Director Derrick Gragg, now the AD at the University of Tulsa, as well as the EMU Athletic Department, refused to comment on the matter, and has still said nothing to date.

Now, it’s time to ask the obvious questions that stem from the Still fiasco.

The first question is why was Still allowed to play basketball for two schools after already being dismissed from Providence? Still was admitted into Henry Ford Community College and allowed to play there before transferring to EMU and being allowed to play here while the legal issues were ongoing.

I attempted to reach out to Providence about Still’s history at the school, but Assistant Vice President Steve Maurano declined to comment.

According to the website for HFCC, there is no item on their transfer application to indicate those convicted or in the process of being convicted for a felony, as there is on EMU’s. Additionally, the only policy at HFCC which applies to this situation is for those who commit any acts of assault while a student at the school, not anything that happened before the student gets there.

I spoke in November with HFCC’s head basketball coach Abe Mashhour and he said Still was a very different person at Henry Ford than he was in Providence. Mashhour said Still was very remorseful about what took place and had even gone so far as to not go to bars or clubs with his teammates so he wouldn’t be in an environment which might induce another incident.

What about EMU?

Any student who, in the application process, indicates either conviction of a felony or ongoing illegal activity is subject to a board convened by the university whose job is to review the student’s application.

According to EMU Executive Director of Media Relations Geoff Larcom, approximately 200 students face this board annually. Larcom could not specify how many of them were in the athletic program.

The Eastern Echo attempted, through the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain information about Still’s application process, as well any indication as to whether Still being allowed to play was simply an oversight or a calculated decision by the university, but the request was denied.

This begs my next two questions: Why was Still allowed to participate early in the 2012-13 season, if allowing him to play would be a violation of school policy? Also, why admit him to the university knowing he would be pleading to a crime which would likely force him to spend time in prison?

Still was, according to a press release in November, admitted to EMU based upon “numerous positive recommendations” and the associate degree he earned from HFCC.

I want to take a minute and make one thing clear: I am not against people getting second chances in life, as Still clearly appears to have attempted. I am here at EMU in large part because I am getting a second chance. I’m not a convicted felon, but I came to EMU in an effort to make a big change.

I just don’t understand why the Athletic Department and more specifically former AD Gragg, who have refused to comment, would ignore the policy and allow Still to play. I’m sure there is a factor none of us know about, but all we have, to paraphrase from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, are the “known-knowns” and it’s been up to us to draw our own conclusions.

Not only was it, in my opinion, a waste of Still’s time to get his hopes up about a second chance at playing his sport and then suddenly pulling the rug from under him, but also a waste of time for the Admissions and Athletic Departments, but most importantly those who follow or are fans of the team.

In November, the Athletic Department stated on no uncertain terms it would not comment on an ongoing matter. Now, Still is in a jail cell and Gragg is in Oklahoma. Wouldn’t you say the issue is closed?

On Jan 22, a story ran in the Detroit Free Press about Still’s sentencing and one thing stood out to me.

Accoding to Detroit Free Press writers Kevin Bull and Gina Damron, EMU coach Rob Murphy traveled all the way to Providence in an attempt to speak to the court on Still’s behalf. Rhode Island law prohibits everyone but the victim of a crime or the lawyers involved in the case from speaking to the court in such a way, but I was impressed that Murphy took the time to go and to speak on his player’s behalf. For someone who was clearly trying to earn a second chance for himself, the support of his coach is very important.

Now back to Bryant.

After taking another glance at the AnnArbor.com article, and also having heard from a source back in April who “wasn’t surprised” at the mention of Bryant’s arrest in the first place, maybe one is left to conclude that there might be more trouble on the horizon and, in addition, we are barely scratching the surface of what might well be a very complicated issue. On the other hand, maybe the answer is simpler than anyone is considering.

I am certain that interim AD Melody Reifel-Werner, in conjunction with the Athletic Department, will handle the Bryant situation with more openness than Gragg handled the Still matter. Even if the situation is as simple as dismissing Bryant for conduct detrimental to the team, there won’t be nearly as many questions and we can all move on a lot more quickly.
Countdown to EMU tipoff 2013-14: five months…and counting.

Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho


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