Wisconsin Badgers' running back Lance Smith, he of the dynamic outside sweep, was just suspended from the football team indefinitely. Why, you ask? After his shoving/shoe-stealing/cab-fare incident last fall, has he done something else? NO. He just refused to follow through on the sweetheart, first-time offender program deal the Dane County DA's office cut him. These programs allow a first-time criminal defendant to have the charges against him dropped entirely, if he or she completes this first-offender program, which involves counseling, community service, meeting with probationary-type folks, a lot of admitting you were the bad guy, etc. Tedious, yes. But it is so, so much better than going to jail, it's not even funny. And at the end of it-- you don't have a criminal record! The charges have gone away. That's huge in the long-term.
Lance was supposed to complete his first-offender obligations by this December. But he's been so half-assed and delinquent in following through on his responsibilities that the DA is calling off the deal. Lance, this was one class you couldn't blow off. You're going to jail and you'll likely never see a Saturday at Camp Randall ever again. Argh.... This is exactly, exactly, the same as Boo Wade's situation several years ago.
- Very talented player, full of potential? Check.
- One moronic initial crime involving violence against a woman? Check.
- Receipt of lucky/sweetheart deal from prosecutors? Check.
- Only need to complete "first offender program" in order to make whole thing go away forever? Check.
- Inexplicable failure to complete "first-offender program"? Check.
- Suspension from team, jail time, end of Wisconsin career as both student and athlete? That final check is coming.
This is intensely frustrating. Lance had so much potential. But he's what, 20 years old? If he isn't mature enough to follow through on these obligations, he's not worthy of having a scholarship to UW. He may come from a tough background (Warren, OH is not a particularly nice town), but in reality he's had an extraordinarily lucky life-- athletically gifted, healthy, smart enough to qualify for a scholarship to a top university. It's sad when you see someone throw all their gifts and everything they've worked for away. And it's especially sad when they don't throw it away for something else, for a new direction, but just because of laziness and apathy. I hope Lance recovers someday, manages to finish school somewhere, and goes on to have a happy and meaningful life. If he does, it's likely he'll have learned something from this foolish episode. This is a shame.