Oh Bo Pelini, why did you do this?
At this point Youngstown State officials, alums and students have to be asking that very question about Bo Pelini's decisions with regards to convicted rapist Ma'lik Richmond.
Let's recap a few things before we get to the story du jour...
- Bo Pelini's 2016 team had a remarkable season by recent YSU standards, making a highly unexpected run to the FCS Championship game.
- Bo Pelini's 2017 team by all accounts has plenty of talent to compete at the highest level.
Given just those two factors, one would think the smart thing for any coach to do would be to coach the team he had as best he could, putting forth a product that represents & reflects on his University with dignity and honor.
Now let's take a look at what Bo Pelini chose to do.
After noticing Richmond on campus, Pelini sought him out, encouraging him to join the team. Richmond, who was convicted of disgustingly raping a girl while in high school (video of the attack was shared on social media), was at this third college in less than three years. He did not come to YSU seeking to play football. Pelini, once he knew he was on campus, recruited him, convincing him to join the team.
By his own admission, Pelini performed his own background check on Richmond and decided that the potential reward of having him join the team was worth any potential negative publicity associated with such a move. At their media day before this season Pelini refused to discuss any stipulations he placed on Richmond remaining a player in good standing.
Well, the decision to bring Richmond on the team sure does look like an incredibly poor one now, looking back and the incredible amount of negative attention this has caused the University ever since.
In early August it was brought to the public's attention that Pelini had Richmond on his team and planned to have this young man represent Youngstown State on the football field. The public outcry was swift and powerful. Thousands of people within days publicly shamed Pelini's decision. Victims and activists attempted to educate YSU officials of the pain they were inflicting by allowing a convicted rapist to wear the uniform of what was once an esteemed program, asking their fans to support the rapist while looking past the pain this would cause countless women (much less all moral individuals) in the name of chasing more wins.
Pelini did not back down from his decision, stating at the team's media day the he planned to play Richmond.
ESPN, CNN, Fox News, Sports Illustrated and nearly every other outlet in America publicly derided Youngstown State for days. There was no support for allowing Richmond to play football at Youngstown State and officials there felt the pressure.
Thankfully, (modestly) cooler heads at Youngstown State prevailed. Within days of the ever ratcheting public outcry, YSU announced that Richmond would be allowed to remain on the team but they would not allow him to play this season. YSU officials clearly hoped that with another year behind them, hopefully with Richmond serving as a model teammate and citizen, they could then, quietly, allow him to help their team's chances on the field for the 2018 season.
Not two weeks later, YSU's reputation was sullied again, as Richmond's father ambushed and shot a judge. Richmond's father was shot and killed shortly thereafter. Nearly every single report of that days events mentioned that Richmond, a convicted rapist, was now a member of the Youngstown State football team. YSU officials, alums and students had to endure another avoidable black eye for their University.
So, fast forward to today, just another three weeks later, and news breaks last night that not only has Ma'lik Richmond sued Youngstown State, but the presiding judge has issued a temporary order reinstating him to the YSU football team. Further, the judge stated, YSU is prohibited from "forbidding Richmond to play in games, unless such actions result from legitimate coaching decisions based solely upon criteria the coach would apply in evaluating other members of the team."
In Richmond's federal complaint he says Bo Pelini told him he would play this season. On August 9, Pelini called one of Richmond's legal guardians stating that the pressure on the University's Board of Trustees was too much for them and Tressel has proposed Richmond serve as a practice player this season. The lawsuit says Pelini told the guardian Ma'lik probably would have been a started at some point this season.
Upon learning that YSU officials (at Tressel's lead) had decided Richmond would not be allowed to play in games this season the young man quit the team.
Yesterday's order by the presiding judge forces YSU to allow Richmond to rejoin the team he quit. Bo Pelini could choose to allow him to play if he wishes.
No way he would actually do that, right?
We have no indication of when the judge might actually hear and rule on the case, so there is no telling how long this temporary order will be in place. Bo Pelini's team (without Richmond) gave Pitt everything they wanted in a hard fought week one battle (Pitt eventually won 28-21 in OT). Pelini does not need Richmond's athletic talent for his team to be competitive at the highest level on the field. Choosing to play him would be a snub not only at YSU officials who overruled Pelini's decision to allow him to play in the first place but also to every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted. Don't play him, Bo.
No one I've spoken with can imagine Pelini actually playing the young man; but regardless, every article written about this weeks game will, once again, mention that Bo Pelini invited a convicted rapist to be part of his team. YSU officials, fans and alums have to all be wishing none of this ever happened.
Further, although most feel the possibility of Richmond winning his lawsuit is remote, should he win, he has asked for "an award of attorneys' fees, Monetary damages in an amount to be proven at trial; and any further relief that the court deems just and proper." Currently the Ohio Attorney General's office is defending YSU. Costs and mounting by the day. Should Richmond actually win....well, let's not even think about that for now.
None of this should have ever happened; but here we are. A lot of eyes will be on YSU football this weekend as they take on Central Connecticut State (0-2). Safe to assume many alums & fans are hoping to avoid another public black eye for their beloved University.