Is there a pattern? On Winston, Dantonio, and Thugs

Submitted by Seth on November 24th, 2009 at 10:24 PM

Glenn Winston, it seems from his release from the team, was likely involved in recent events which, among other things, led me to create Jayme in MN's new avatar:

His (Winston's) previous incident, from early indications, was scarily similar to this one -- he went to a location with violent intent after a previous exchange, and ended up hurting people who were not involved.

Repeat shit.

Winston is now gone, meaning whatever Michigan State can presently do about him they have now done.

What is the concern of Michigan State right now is if this represents one or two isolated incidents, or is there something about their head coach which is letting the kids get out of control?

Dantonio's earlier treatment of Winston certainly should come under scrutiny. After the first violent incident, Winston spent much of the summer in jail, but was released and didn't miss any time.

This has happened before under Dantonio.

Police had charged Donald Germany, 21, with two counts of felonious assault but the grand jury returned no indictment because of a lack of evidence.

Coach Mark Dantonio welcomed Germany back to the football program Wednesday and didn't rule out the possibility of him playing Saturday against South Carolina. He has appeared in all nine games prior to the Nov. 6 incident and has eight tackles.

Follow-up story with more details here.

The case basically came down to the brother of the band who had punched the bouncer in the face and almost been killed by a knife, versus the word of the bouncer. Dantonio didn't know the guy was working the club. A jury threw the case out. The player didn't miss a moment of football, and had no further incidents.

PSU fans remember Germany for literally throwing a guy at Cincy's punter (drawing a B.S. personal foul penalty against the thrown Nittany Lion). Germany had more than his share of personal foul penalties, but hasn't again had trouble with the law.

At MSU, there was also the matter of the three players (including two defensive starters) involved in a robbery (non-violent):

Despite the charges which were officially brought up on Wednesday after police investigated the incident for months, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said all three men will still play on the football field for the Spartans as they will not be suspended from team.

All three players have told the coach that they are innocent of the charges.

Much later on, SirDarean and T.J. missed the post-2007 bowl game, Adams for "unspecified violations" and Williams for being academically ineligible, one of five MSU players to earn that distinction after Dantonio's first fall semester. Neither Adams or Williams returned to the team in 2008.

What this says about Dantonio is hard to say.

It's absolutely not clear evidence that Dantonio turns a blind eye to violence by his players. However, the Germany incident might have taught Dantonio a lesson about trusting his own players, a lesson which might have served him poorly in subsequent cases.

No school can get by without discipline cases. However, I do think these can be minimized by a coach taking decisive action.

What we can honestly say about Dantonio at MSU is that it seems his first instinct is to trust his players, issuing no missed football games for first offenses. When he gets burned, however, he brings the hammer.

I think MSU will keep Dantonio around for long enough to test this "first is free, second is your last" supposed discipline strategy. Right now, it's just a hypothesis.

Another hypothesis: it's not working too well.



November 24th, 2009 at 11:04 PM ^

Any sports team, especially ones as large as football are going to have their share of incidents. This is not new. What can be called into question is whether or not D'Antonio is a good judge of character, especially once they are on his team and he supposedly gets to know them.

It is very difficult to truly get to know kids when you are recruiting them. It's like when you start to date someone. You have limited time to get to know them and it may take a month or two before you find out they are "boil bunnies crazy." Same with your players, once you have them on campus a coach should be able to determine what type of person they are.

At Michigan we have had our share of incidents. Harrison and Feagin for example, where our coaches at the time could not have known that they were certifiable nut jobs or a wanna be drug dealer. On the other hand, Brian Griese had legal issues as well, but the coaches stuck by him and it served him (and the team) well in the long run. It made him a better person. Carr didn't kick Griese off the team because he was a very good judge of character and he knew who he could stand by and give a second chance to and who was a lost cause.

At this point, you have to wonder if D'Antonio is able to judge the character of his players or if he is only able to see their talent, believing whatever excuses come out of their mouths.


November 24th, 2009 at 11:49 PM ^

That's a good point.

However, I think with 18- to 21-year olds, "character" plays a role, but "environment" still plays a much larger role.

This is an age which, in our society, a lot of people haven't yet made that intellectual leap to where you're always weighing the consequences of your every action (which, admittedly, makes life more boring). In that regard, the environment that person is in can play a large role in his decisions.

I joined a fraternity at 18. Through it I learned lessons of personal culpability and met my closest friends. However, I also made substance and academic decisions I would not have made in later years.

Most of the "Fulmer Point" antics you see from football players are the same dumb shit I did in college, sometimes to a much lesser degree. There are pranks we pulled, which all involved took as funny at the time, which would look very different in the next morning's Crime Notes.

I think a better disciplinary coach will get better disciplinary results from his players, no matter what their background. Certainly, "character" flaws (e.g. Larry Harrison) can ultimately derail any coach's efforts. But also, a coach can create an environment that suppresses these acts.

For proof, look no further than West Virginia. Under Rich Rod, who then had a rap for recruiting kids from, let's say "hardscrabble" backgrounds, West Virginia had its share of disciplinary problems (normally thefts and pot/alcohol offenses) but not more than any other school. In fact, his record on this was clean enough that the stodgy, Lloyd-influenced coaching search hired him.

However, in RR's absence, many of his former players have had "character flaws" emerge at a much higher clip. Bill Stewart has had numerous disciplinary struggles the last two years. And former RR players Chris Henry and Pacman Jones have had well-documented struggles with discipline in the pros.

If you take the position that these players all had "character" problems, why didn't they emerge at all when Rich Rodriguez was coaching them?

I don't think that 18-year-olds with Division I football talent can be so easily separated into "good" and "bad" characters. I won't discount personality differences which make some more likely than others to run afoul of team and societal rules, but neither do I believe any of them are absolutely predestined to become disciplinary problems. I believe that a good coach is one who can encourage his wards to make better decisions, and that this can be accomplished by a good disciplinary system.


November 25th, 2009 at 2:25 AM ^

First of all, as an 18 year-old college student, I find the idea that the relative lack of maturity of myself and others in my age group should mitigate the moral implications of our actions to be offensive. If I, or any 18 year old for that matter, were to rob a convenience store, it is just as wrong as it would be if a 30 year old did so. We know the moral implications of our actions and if we do something wrong, we should damn well face the consequences.

Rich Rodriguez has demonstrated that he believes this. When Justin Feagin committed the criminal act of brokering a cocaine deal that went very badly, he was kicked off the team immediately. When Boubacar Cissoko repeatedly broke team rules, he was kicked off the team as well. Both Feagin and Cissoko were responsible for their actions and were punished correctly. For this reason, I respect Rich Rodriguez, because he acknowledges that the age of his players do not give them license to cross clear ethical lines.

Mark Dantonio, on the other hand, has demonstrated nothing of the kind. When Glenn Winston assaulted several people who he didn't even have a quarrel with (leading to a prison sentence), he was let back on the team without any significant penalty. His rationalization, as I understand it, is that Winston was an inherently good person and that one mistake as a college freshman shouldn't cost him the chance to play football. This is downright disrespectful to the rest of the 18-21 year-olds in the universe, who know that it is wrong to start punching people for no reason. This philosophy of 18-21 year-olds bearing little responsibility for their actions, coupled with clear character flaws* (to put it mildly) of a significant number Michigan State football team, are the reasons for the most recent incident of thuggery committed by MSU football players.

*Assaulting people you don't know is indicative of major character deficiencies, regardless of how old you are.


November 25th, 2009 at 11:29 AM ^

I hear you. And I apologize for my offense.

I think at 18 I might have responded the same exact way, and been just as offended.

Thanks for setting me straight. I think I vowed a million times since I hit my teen years that I'd never be the kind of condescending asshole who says "kids" instead of "men" when referring to 18-year-olds.

From your writing on MGoBlog (we have the same first name so you kinda stick out for me), I imagined you were much older than 18. Perhaps instead I simply forgot what it was to be 18.

I'm sorry about that.

If you'll allow me to re-state my position: it really isn't about age mitigating moral responsibility. I didn't really mean it was just age. I had that "society" qualifier. This was to say that if you're 18 and privileged/adored, and have been under a dictatorial thumb.

Did you ever see numbers on alcohol-related crime in foreign countries? The countries that have a drinking age of "bipedal locomotion" have way, way, way less than we do, especially from citizens in their teens to early 20s. In the States, we have a ludicrously high drinking age, meaning most of us are introduced to alcohol in a sub-legal binge atmosphere, a hyper-freedom. Psychologists see this same kind of effect among people who have been freed from bondage, and, here's the kicker, privileged/adored 18- to 20-year olds going from a strict high school atmosphere to the freedom of college. I'm not saying it happens to everybody. You may be a big exception.

So it's not that they're 18. It's that at 18, this man is not characteristically all that different than he was at 17; but his environment has been radically altered, and how he reacts to this radical shift has a lot to do with what kind of people are around him at that time.

Make sense?

Becoming an "adult" isn't just successfully sucking air for a certain number of days. You don't wake up one morning and "pop -- I can now make decisions!" You didn't realize that violence was morally wrong on your 18th birthday, did you? You didn't learn that you are responsible for Planet Yourself by filling out a voter registration card, right?

So if this is a gradual, herky-jerky, very uneven process, it stands to reason then that you'll never really be "grown up" in the sense that you have learned all of life's lessons. You will never be entirely "responsible" for all of your actions. There's a Philosophy Class you can take at Michigan that will spend a third of the semester proving to you exactly that.*

In other words, just as I forgot that an 18-year-old is a perfectly capable adult, may I impress upon you that in many ways, adults are still juveniles. You sound like you've learned culpability already. I can't tell you how many people twice your age and more have never learned how to take responsibility for their actions, or that "I can do it" is far, far more important with regard to getting things done than "what is fair." And that, for our purposes here, just like children, adults need to keep learning, need to be taught lessons, need to be shown when we are wrong, and convinced of it, and given the chance to admit our wrongdoing, understand what why it was a fuck up, and take action to rectify it.

I think adults are entitled to fuck up every once in a while. I'm saying I believe in second chances, in opportunities to admit responsibility and fault, serve one's sentence, and get back on track. However, I think second chance shouldn't come free, else the adult at fault is never discouraged from repeating the behavior.

From the tea leaves of Dantonio's disciplinary policy, it seems that this is exactly what he's not doing. Instead, he gives his players a "get out jail free" card, then goes nuclear when the player (who had no repercussions the first time) repeats the act. I'm saying, considering the paradigm shift these guys are almost unanimously going through to varying degrees, that this is a pretty shitty way of going about that.

* If you wanna piss off your GSI in this class, do what I did, and suggest a "Percentile Determinism" which, when placed on a population instead of an individual, proves the existence of free will, and thus responsibility for one's actions.

While you're at it, you can tell that asshole that if you're a brain in vat, and you can still experience pain and love and cheeseburgers, then your best option is to choose to operate in the reality you are given, and in which everyone else around you is pretty much in accordance. Then, when they tell you a 3-O God cannot exist, ask said GSI to find you a deity in mankind's infinite imagination who has ever been Omibenevolent, Omniscent, and Omnipotent; certainly the "I'm gonna drown your asses because I don't much like you" big guy of Judeo-Christian tradition isn't any of those three.

Nothing gets a Philosophy GSI uppity like proving the irrelevance of his question.


November 26th, 2009 at 10:58 AM ^

But I think your whole premise is flawed (WRT Dantonio going "nuclear" on the second offense). You're under the assumption that Winston was released from the team because of involvement the recent violent altercation. I don't think this is really the case, Winston is still on crutches right now. I could be wrong here, but I think he was kept on the team solely because without him they had no chance. Again, maybe I'm wrong about that, I don't know.

If Winston was involved in this most recent beating, I would have to say you're right; otherwise, I disagree. Dantonio is a douchebag.


November 28th, 2009 at 7:20 PM ^

LSA FTW. I pissed off my GSI re: the 3-O God question by suggesting that "evil" does not exist in an objective sense, that we only define evil as such and stigmatize evil action because it is the privation of benefit for a large number of people. Altruism itself is valued by us because it helps us en masse, and all morals are the result of what I called "Sensory Bias" --forming preferences based on our sense and perception of phenomena-- which wouldn't matter a wit to an omniscient and omnipotent deity not limited by our self-serving sensory apparatus.

Philosophy GSIs are proof that an easy target is no less fun to torment.


November 29th, 2009 at 9:22 PM ^

Ah, Ayn Rand-ing Dawkins. I like it.

Along the same vein, we could prove we're not a brain in a vat because if we were brains in vats, why would the Matrix programmers let us know about brains and vats?

In other words, I'm calling solipsism on solipsism. Cogito ergo sum yourself, Monsieur Descartes.


November 25th, 2009 at 12:01 AM ^

My question: if there were 15-20 people in the masked potluck posse, are there MSU football players besides Winston and Jenrette who got off scot-free?


November 25th, 2009 at 12:11 AM ^

I think Mark D'Antonio is just being a "Good Catholic", and showing his players mercy. Being a Catholic myself, I understand his reflexive desire to forgive ....

Ah, what the @#$% am I saying? He's a milquetoast who can, apparently, take issue with OTHER teams' players, (including one opposing RB who wore #20) but not his own.


November 25th, 2009 at 12:18 AM ^

1. MSU player commits felony

2. Is either freed immediately on a techincality or serves time.

3. Whatever the case, player is welcomed back immediately to the football team as soon as he is legally able to play.

4. Media kisses Saint Dantonio's ring and God knows what else.

5. Media criticizes RR and UM because UM player spits on sidewalk.

6. Repeat ad nauseum.


November 26th, 2009 at 1:04 AM ^

Dantonio can have players gut- punch the President's daughter as long as he keeps beating Michigan.

So we have a moral imperative to start beating his ass. For the kids.