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On A Busy Friday, Incarceration Trumps Graduation
by Jim Alderson, 5/20/04

Well, the good news is that at last Friday’s commencement ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ was not replaced with ‘Thirty Days in the Hole.’ The bad news is that other, not-so-pleasant news overshadowed graduation. On a weekend in which thousands of new Tech graduates received the reward for their years of effort, the big news seemed to be the convictions of Marcus Vick, Mike Imoh and Brenden Hill for contributing to the delinquency of minor girls. I prefer reading about the graduates.

I spent the weekend at Tech helping to celebrate and welcome a new addition to the ranks of Virginia Tech alumni. When I returned home I ripped open my Inbox and found a TSLMail Breaking News announcing the results of the trial. I am still searching for one informing me of Tech players graduating. Such is the nature of things, although I imagine there were more players receiving degrees last weekend than jail time.

It would seem that for the second straight year we will have a lively Dead Zone. I scanned the TSL subscriber’s message board, the only one I read, and found quite a few more posts relating to the criminal activities of Tech players than the academic ones. Most of the discussion was of a level-headed nature. There were posts from some that seemed to have a thirst for justice that rivaled that of the girls for vodka and others that demanded that if all three players were not sent out on the field for the opening kickoff against Southern Cal it would constitute an intolerably cruel punishment. As is usually the case, most arguments fell somewhere between the two extremes. I did find one that had me speculating as to whether my seating situation in Lane might be improved if the poster followed through on his vow. Hopefully he will offer those seats to me.

I have been very reluctant to comment on the criminal charges faced by Vick, Imoh and Hill, and still am. Part of that stemmed from a desire to allow the justice system to play itself out. That still has not been completed as the defendants have, at least for the time being, indicated their desire to pursue all constitutional avenues available. That is their right. I also have been very ambivalent about the charges of which they were convicted. At various times in my life I have also provided alcohol to those whom the state has deemed not of age to consume it, although not quite as young as the young ladies whose winter romp with Marcus, Mike and Brenden landed the players in such hot water.

My flaunting of alcohol statutes has involved what I consider the idiotic stance of a government that will deem young adults of sufficient age to have their heads blown off in the various wars in which this country often seems to find itself, but not old enough to enjoy a beer if they survive. Nevertheless, those laws were enacted without consultation with me and the General Assembly and Congress does not seem inclined to change them simply because I consider them ridiculous. In any event I would not advocate lowering the legal age for alcohol consumption to allow fifteen-year old and younger girls to get drunk with college students. Still, I have been disinclined to judge the conduct of the players because I do not care to be judged. That was Judge Viar’s job, and he did it.

I have a very good friend who makes his living as a restaurant manager. He has in his employ numerous young ladies only slightly older than the girls involved in this incident. This friendship has afforded me some first-hand knowledge of the attitudes and activities of girls of this approximate age. I am often astounded and amazed at what they will say and do and the way in which they will often present themselves. I am also aware that there are some parents with radically different notions of what constitutes parental control and discipline than there were when I was that age. Back then, and we are talking about around thirty-five years ago, I found that parents would turn into snarling Dobermans if I got within hailing distance of their daughters and would not allow them to leave the house unless they were clothed in garb only slightly less revealing than a nun’s habit. Times have changed, and although I am sure I would feel differently if I were still a teenager [certainly my own son did when he was of that age and living with me], I am not sure they have been for the better, at least in this instance. There were what I considered extenuating circumstances surrounding the behavior of the girls. Obviously, Judge Viar did not agree and it was his call.

I am also well aware that the young male libido is an active one and secure in the knowledge that had I been a Tech student thrust into the exact same situation as were Marcus, Mike and Brenden, I would have acted in exactly the same manner, because I once did, right down to meeting in what was then known as Tech Coliseum, the type of liquor served and conclusion to the evening. That the young lady was indeed the Radford student she claimed to be was my good fortune [although I felt a little differently years later when we were in divorce court] because I wasn’t checking ID. There were other processes at work.

The incident with the players and the girls occurred only a few days after Frank Beamer, exasperated by the continuing disciplinary problems with his team, laid down the law in a meeting concerning player behavior. I seriously doubt he instructed any players to go out and hook up with underage girls and get them loaded. Vick, Imoh and Hill then proceeded to do just that, putting themselves into a situation fraught with peril. They got caught, and the fact that they were being bombarded with hormones causing them to think with something other than their brains was not considered a viable defense. Judge Viar found them guilty and imposed sentence. It seems ludicrous to me that over the years Tech players have been accused of rape, assault and drug dealing and served precious little jail time if any, while this was judged to be worthy of a month in the slammer, but that is what has happened. Unless the convictions are reversed or sentences reduced on appeal, a dicey proposition at best, the players are about to get an abject lesson on the consequences of their actions. Let’s hope it takes and they can acquire the maturity to behave differently the next time this situation arises, as it probably will.

Breaking rocks in the hot sun or however inmates of the Montgomery County Jail spend their days will not be the only punishment facing the three players. The Athletic Director has indicated he will take additional action that will likely be revealed when we notice who is or is not taking the field at FedEx August 28. The amount of time the three will not play for Tech will likely be a lively topic of message board conversation. No matter what his decision, he will upset some portion of the Hokie Nation, as he usually does. I am very glad that he will make the call concerning additional punishment and not I.

As I have written this my thoughts have kept returning to the conjunction of the trial and graduation. While this has been an angst-producing time for many Tech fans, for those of us who knew someone who graduated, it was a weekend of happily marveling at and congratulating their accomplishment. To me, that is far more important than what happened to Marcus Vick, Mike Imoh and Brenden Hill. The message board debates will continue as to what constitutes appropriate punishment for the players. Hopefully, somebody will point out that there were many fine people who were in Lane Stadium Friday rather than in a Christiansburg courtroom. That was what really counted.


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