CIS

McGill Football Program’s Conflict Brought To Forefront

It has not been a good couple of weeks for McGill University’s football program and once again brings the university into the news for all of the wrong reasons.

Let’s start from the beginning. Last Wednesday, McGill running back Luis-Andres Guimont-Mota was arrested after police received a call from his 21-year old wife. The 22-year old was in court for two charges of assault and another of uttering threats. He was released on bail.

This came after Guimont-Mota served a 90-day sentence for the 2010 beating of a man outside a Quebec City bar. He was allowed to serve the sentence last year with a provision that it would not interfere with his football season. During the 2013 season, he was the team’s offensive player of the year.

The university suspended Guimont-Mota that same day citing the university’s athletics department guidelines. Guimont-Mota’s lawyers are saying that it was he that was the victim. They have not yet pressed charges on Guimont-Mota’s wife.

The university also said that they did not know about his previous legal troubles and said he should have never been admitted to the university as a result.

“That student should not have come to McGill University. We take full responsibility for this and we’ll inquire so that these types of things don’t happen in the future,” McGill Deputy Provost Ollivier Dyens said to CBC.

Then, yesterday, head coach Clint Uttley resigned saying that his values and philosophy does not match up with that of the university and refutes that the university was not aware.

“[The statement] does not represent my personal morals or values with regards to sport, recruiting and life in general. I believe in rehabilitation. The student athlete accepted his conviction and did his punishment, a fact that was not hidden from the university. At the time of his arrival, the university tolerated and accepted his presence and then proceeded to celebrate his accomplishments thereafter,” Uttley said in a statement.

It leaves McGill with significant questions on the field. They have yet to name a new interim coach and the most likely candidates – Mickey Donovan among them along with his brother Pat and former McGill quarterback Matt Connell – left McGill to take similar positions at Concordia University.

But, more than that, it shows the tricky relationship that McGill has with athletics. Let’s face it. The separation from football and the legal system has been ever connected this month.

Starting with Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson – among others – football teams have distanced themselves from players who have had run ins with the law, especially when it comes to domestic violence.

McGill does not like negative attention from its sports teams. Among the missteps is having to cancel the 2005 football season after a complaint stemming from hazing that received national headlines.

If McGill stood pat, they risked losing support from alumni who would scoff at the team supporting Guimont-Mota. And perhaps even more importantly, the public’s opinion of the university.

However, they risk civil action from the running back – according to his lawyer – if, for instance, it can be proven that they knew about his previous run ins with the law and turned the other way or if Guimont-Mota is indeed the victim and not the aggressor as his lawyer has said.

I think that McGill did make the right choice if it is proven that Guimont-Mota committed the acts he was accused of. There can be no tolerance of this in society, but especially in sports. However, I hope for their sake that they are sure. Because being too harsh quickly can sometimes be as bad as being too lenient.

But as Uttley’s resignation shows, the university has painted themselves in a corner against rehabilitation as he says by taking the stance that he never should have been admitted. And it opens them up for criticism pending the results of their internal review.

This is from their statement yesterday after Uttley’s resignation:

“[W]e launched an in-depth review of our rules and regulations governing participation in varsity sports to ensure that all rules and regulations are aligned with and reinforce transparent decision-making, accountability and commitment to the values that define the McGill learning environment.

Our review is continuing.”

It will be interesting to see where this story goes from here. But if nothing else, it shows the conflict between University athletics departments and the academic side and the transparency – or lack thereof – between them. McGill is surely not alone in this conflict, but they are the ones under the spotlight now.