Fitz Pleads Guilty of Operating While Visibly Impaired

Submitted by Frank Drebin on August 28th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

Pleads down from OWI. You would have to figure this is the day Hoke was waiting on to make the final say in whether or not he plays. After pleading down, I have to think he is going to play. the crime was committed in July, and he has had nearly 1 1/2 months to pay the price, along with having to suffer the legal consequences. I would be surprised if we don't see Fitz on the field at some point on Saturday.



August 28th, 2012 at 2:37 PM ^

I don't know the legal penalties for an OWI in Michigan, but if it doesn't include any potential jail-time, I suspect Fitz will play against Alabama.

I live in Arizona, and pleading down from a DUI in Arizona would take you to a reckless driving. Reckless driving in Arizona is a large fine, and you have to take some defensive driving classes.  I doubt a typical college football coach would suspend a player for a reckless driving.

Frank Drebin

August 28th, 2012 at 2:41 PM ^

Here are the penalties for OWVI in MI

Operating While Visibly Impaired

  • Up to a $300 fine, and one or more of the following:

    • Up to 93 days in jail.
    • Up to 360 hours of community service.
  • Driver's license restrictions for 90 days (180 days if impaired by a controlled substance).
  • Possible vehicle immobilization.
  • 4 points added to the offender's driving record.
  • Driver Responsibility Fee of $500 for 2 consecutive years.


August 28th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

It's essentially a "half OWI" most of the time. Pretty much it takes the OWI penalties and cuts them in half, so it is cheaper, usually shorter and less restrictive. He will probably get a year of probation + community service in lieu of any jail time. It depends on the judge, of course.

EDIT: To be clear, I mean half in terms of a legal punishment, not half in terms of how bad the crime is/was.


August 28th, 2012 at 3:05 PM ^

I agree.  If he's not even partially suspended, what sort of punishment and deterent really happened?  He missed a few days of practice??  Big whoop.  This is the type of shit we used to go nuts on Sparty for.  But when its our starting RB vs Alabama...naaaaw...we'll just just let that pled down OWI slide.  I'm sure he's learned his lesson, get him the game.  If this was Will Gholston who had the OWI, and Sparty was debating on whether he should play vs Boise, people would be having aneurysms on this board.


August 28th, 2012 at 3:38 PM ^

The punishment and deterrent are determined by the laws of the State of Michigan and its municipalities. You know, the same for  every non University of Michigan football player.

I would be careful using "we" and implicating all UM fans or even all mgoblog denizens. If by "we" you meant you, then maybe you shouldn't be so quick to judge Sparty or whomever about their situations. It might save you some of those aneurysms.


August 28th, 2012 at 3:44 PM ^

I'm conflicted on this issue;

On one hand I say 1 game suspension as you've said this is something we rag on other teams (specifically MSU) for. 

However, the crime occured in the offseason, it was his first discipinary offense that we know about and I would be ok with a 1 half suspension as long as Hoke came out and said that Fitz has already completed 100 hours of community service, attended a MADD outreach etc. basically more than just "he ran a bunch of stairs". 

PS we can never be as bad as MSU though with Dantonio picking up Chris L. Rucker from jail and having him in uniform that Saturday. 


August 28th, 2012 at 8:58 PM ^

why is this downvoted? the point of a courst system is to set penalties it feels are worth the crime.  If I as a student get caught drunk driving i don't get suspended from class for a week, you dont get suspended from your job, not sure why we think college football coaches need to add punishment that the court system unless they think it would be beneficial to the character of the player when nobody else is expected to have punishment beyond the courts added on.


August 28th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

As an alum, if I see Fitz playing this Saturday, I will be very very disappointed. The university is greater than a single game and a very public embarrassment like this needs a very public punishment. I really don't care about some sort of "private" punishment handed out by Hoke, that just makes us sound like Penn St. I really hope the coach does the right thing.


August 29th, 2012 at 6:08 AM ^

I don't understand why the Ted K view, but especially the general non-suspension views, seem to get so much traction.

1. Problems With The Ted K Analogy.

The point of Fitz's punishment is to create a meaningful cost for some unwanted behavior for those who attend Michigan. This has nothing to do with penalizing the Michigan football program itself, though that is one unfortunate consequence. A suspension is only about penalizing Fitz in significant ways to uphold a desired standard of Fitz's off-field conduct.

So I must disagree that this is a sound analogy. Ted K wasn't a student at Michigan when he committed his crimes. The University could not create any meaningful cost toTed K for what he did. As such, with the analogy, the consequence of penalizing the University is improperly twisted into the point of the act--and not some unfortunate consequence. 

2. Generally and Responses.

What Makes Michigan Different. Playing for any college football team is voluntary. At Michigan, the priviledge of playing depends on what you do on the field and off. In my opinion, combined with a tradition of winning. this is what really makes the whole Michigan Arrogance thing at all tenable. I definitely buy into that--it's exactly why I'm a Michigan fan. 

Now I can agree that articulating this Michigan Way precisely is difficult to do. The whole 'RichRod Michigan Man Definition War' proved that to me. But I bloody know there is a culture of penalizing off-field indiscretions. And I know that if you get a DUI at Michigan, you sit a game. I've been reminded of both on the blog, and I think the Twitter reactions from those who cover Michigan football echo the same. That's how things have been done for as long as I've followed the program, and I happen to agree. I'll argue for why I agree below.

Responding to "There is no connection between sitting a game and getting a DUI." This is sort of addressed above, but just to be clear: the connection is punitive, and hopefully, corrective. The point is to punish Fitz for not upholding a standard of conduct. Optimally, missing a game leads Fitz to some meaningful introspection. 

Responding to "College football is a business." While that's true, it's only one part of college football. College football is also about college, and academic priorities aside, college itself is very much about growing up.  Especially when considering that some of these kids may not come from the most stable backgrounds (not to mention the demigod social status which creates more lenient standards and consequences for them in high school), this 'molding of men' stuff really is important to one aim of going to college. 

But let us say it's only a business. Even then, it is in Michigan's (especially, long-term) interest to cultivate responsible individuals. Law-abiding football players don't miss NFL football games due to jail time and arguably have fewer off-field distractions. No matter what business model you apply ("College is just a farm system for the NFL" or "Michigan is only out to make money for itself"), it can be in the football program's interest to develop character. When coupled with a tradition of winning that draws big-time talent, Michigan's formula, from a business standpoint, makes sense to me.

Responding to "Agreeing that Fitz Should Be Suspended = Puritanical." Having Fitz sit a game is not asking for some particularly narrow or harsh interpretation of Michigan's MO. It's completely in keeping with how Michigan has dealt with DUIs in the past. And there are no known reasons to make this DUI exceptional (not that it matters to the law, really). As soon as Fitz's .12 was legally unrefuted, it's a common Michigan practice that he sits a game. 

Responding to "Michigan shouldn't have this policy of sitting players for one game." Michigan is witholding playing time when Michigan state laws that carry a certain heft in degree or kind are broken. Michigan's standard is the law, which roughly acts as a summary of the moral views of those who live in Michigan. That's as not-arbitrary as it gets. So, if you're going to penalize a conduct--from skipping class to cheating on your girlfriend--breaking the law should be pretty unimpeachable.

Games are the most meaningful to players. Sure running stairs hurt. And missing a practice can suck, too. But NFL teams heavily weight production in their evaluations--that's why games are where it's at. How much of this meaningful thing you withold is a good question. At one extreme, an entire season would be too crazy for most people. One game, especially a high-profile game like 'Bama, carries a decent sting. I can see some room for debate here. But to not withold a game is to not have a meaningful punishment.

In sum: if you break a meaningful standard of conduct (the law) and you want to punish it meaningfully (sitting games), then sitting Fitz for a game is a good idea. 

Responding to "Michigan has no right to enforce on-field penalties for off-field discretions." A player's participation with the football program is at the discretion of the coaches and administration. Your quarrel is with the NCAA or whoever is in charge of making that a fact--not Michigan's coaches.

Responding to "DUIs aren't a big deal." Please see the first paragraph of the previous italicized point. There may be arguments for why this isn't a big deal, but the expressed will of Michigan citizens disagree. I don't think this is the place to argue whether DUIs are really a big deal, and I don't need to. When the law gives you a standard, it makes sense to sync your penalties with that standard and not pick which laws you really agree with when penalizing players.

Responding to "This is different from MSU, 'Bama, &c." If Fitz plays, how is it different? If a kid breaks the law (in a manner described above), the coaches have a choice to punish this with game time or they don't. Michigan punishes meaningfully, and the above-listed thug-factories do not. If Michigan doesn't punish it, there's no difference when it comes to punishing off-field indiscretions.

Responding to "Trust in Hoke." Everyone errs, and if a fanbase doesn't stand up for a program's values, leadership has fewer penalties for violating those values. There is one piece of information that Hoke and I both know, and in this case, it's pretty much all we need to know: the kid blew a .12. It's an uncontested and key piece of evidence. Historically, at Michigan, that means he sits a game (and I've addressed why above).

3. Conclusion

The Michigan I know--the Michigan that I think mgoblog writes about--cares about both the ends and means of winning. This is what makes Michigan awesome and worth cheering for, in my opinion. Of course Michigan doesn't do this perfectly, but I believe that they try sincerely and do better than most.

The consequentialist argument should satisfy some. It is in Michigan's interests, especially in the long run (please see the business argument), to punish off-field behavior. But I really believe in this molding of men stuff for non-consequentalist reasons. If you get a few years to connect with someone's life through something they find meaningful (football), and your moral standard is the law, why wouldn't you?  Another force influencing kids to be law-abiding citizens doesn't strike me as a bad thing. 




August 28th, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

I would say an administrator level conspiracy to cover up years of child molestation is quite a bit different than letting Fitz play two months after he got popped for an OWVI.

Furthermore, as an alum, I'd rather beat Alabama while playing a perfecly eligible Fitz and have to deal with non-UM fans complaining that we played Fitz, as opposed to losing and taking the moral high ground.  Quite frankly, I find the moral high ground to be a cop-out.  We're Michigan because we win and develop high quality men, not because we suspend our players when they make youthful mistakes.


August 28th, 2012 at 5:20 PM ^

That is not what I meant when I said Penn St. I was referring to how JoePa declared to the administration that only he can punish the players and only he knows what is the proper punishment for any football player. Keeping punishment for such a public incident under wraps just reeks of that kind of behavior and it is not something we should be advocating. I am not for making all punishments public (especially for minor team violations and privacy related violations like grades), but you need to be open and transparent so that a culture of secrecy does not take a foothold.


August 28th, 2012 at 7:16 PM ^

If the University wants to punish Fritz, by all means they can.  Coach Hoke knows the situation, knows Fitz, and knows his program better than all of us.  Therefore, he should be responsible for doling out the football related punishments.  If the university wants to tack on additional punishment, I agree that Hoke cannot step in and stop it.  But no one is suggesting that Hoke do this.  

Furthermore, I'd rather have a culture of secrecy take foothold rather than a culture that submits to public pressure from us interneters and the likes of Drew Sharp.   Now I know many fans, myself included, have ragged on MSU for the handelling of the Winston, Rucker, et al., situations.  I think many of the people in favor of suspending Fitz are because of said ragging.  This is not a sufficient reason to suspend Fitz.  Furthermore, if we want to feel superior to the likes of MSU, OSU, SEC, etc., we just got to beat them.  


August 28th, 2012 at 11:59 PM ^

of the doubt? It's hypocritical for U-M fans to say that Hoke knows his program and players best but then jump all over MSU when Dantonio claims the right to punish his players as he sees fit? Just keep quiet about MSU and others in the future. And I don't mean you specifically, I mean the U-M fanbase.


August 28th, 2012 at 4:06 PM ^

the fact that it's Bama shouldn't change the analysis. He SHOULD play regardless of who the team plays Saturday, as long as he's paid a real price so far, and Hoke said he has. End of story to me, and I'd say that for any team, not just mine, for a first offense under these circumstances.


August 28th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

He operated a vehicle impaired (drunk) and should sit.  This has bigger implications than one non-conference game (albeit a big one!) in the second season of a coach's tenure.

Sit him, Coach.  We're not the SEC.  Or Sparty,


August 28th, 2012 at 3:15 PM ^

Also worth noting that the state of Michigan is not some absurd teetotaling outlier on this one.  There is nowhere in the entire world where it is legal where it is legal to drive at .11 or .12. (

So while it might not be drunk-drunk, for driving purposes there seems to be a consensus that it is plenty drunk.


August 28th, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

He would have been found guilty of DUI.  A .12 for a kid his size is laughable.  You can't act like he was stumbling drunk when the kid weighs 220#.  HAd we waitied 45 min to an hour, he would have fallen under the limit.  HE basically could haveforgotten to put in his contact lenses and gotten the same violation.

As Ron Burgundy would say... "It's science".


August 28th, 2012 at 8:46 PM ^

In general, the less you weigh the more you will be affected by a given amount of alcohol. As detailed above, alcohol has a high affinity for water. Basically one's blood alcohol concentration is a function of the total amount of alcohol in one's system divided by total body water. So for two individuals with similar body compositions and different weights, the larger individual will achieve lower alcohol concentrations than the smaller one if ingesting the same amount of alcohol.

However, for people of the same weight, a well muscled individual will be less affected than someone with a higher percentage of fat since fatty tissue does not contain very much water and will not absorb very much alcohol.

To say that it doesn't matter what you weigh or what gender you are is false.



August 28th, 2012 at 6:02 PM ^

Hence why it is a relevant measurement for some whose 220 or 105 lbs.  What you are really arguing then is that someone whose 220 has to drink more to reach .12.  However, talking on a cellphone causes people to drive with the equivelant impaired skills of a .12 blood acohol level.


August 28th, 2012 at 8:19 PM ^

how BAC levels are set. Back when BAC levels were set based on real world data from tens of thousands of traffic stops, below or at .1 was considered to be unimpaired. Above that limit the officer was to assess if the driver was impaired. Now these limits are set politically and have little to do with actual impairment. So the correctness of your statement that .11 or .12 is "plenty drunk" is dependent on how an individual reacts to alcohol. Some poeple are plenty drunk at .05 others are not impaired at .12 or even .15.

This is not really relevent because Fitz plead guilty to visible impairment. He was impaired and should have realized it and not driven. 


August 28th, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

Not sure about Michigan but in California, .08 to .19 is "under the influence" and .2 or higher is "drunk". The later is much more difficult to plead down from and has harsher penalties. 

Frank Drebin

August 28th, 2012 at 2:43 PM ^

Here is the difference according to Sounds similar, just a way to take a plea.

Operating While Visibly Impaired (OWVI) means that because of alcohol or other drugs, your ability to operate a motor vehicle was visibly impaired.

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) includes 3 types of violations:

  • Alcohol or drugs in your body substantially affected your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.
  • A bodily alcohol content (BAC) at or above 0.08. This level can be determined through a chemical test.
  • High BAC means the alcohol level in your body was at or above 0.17. This level can be determined through a chemical test.