Sometimes it’s really easy to be a Griz fan and cheer on the teams and ignore any naysayers. Other times, I find it difficult to justify the behavior of some students, especially some higher-profile students.

Lately, we’ve all been hearing about behavior that taints the entire university, not just the person involved or his/her team.

That makes the view from afar particularly difficult to see at times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always a big fan of the University of Montana, and I tout its top-notch academics and atmosphere to anyone who will listen.

So it’s troubling when I talk about the school to someone who doesn’t know much about it; for example, a potential student, or a co-worker with school-aged kids, and they do a tiny bit of research and find out about a lot of unsavory things that have happened there.

Not to create a laundry list of things because, as eGriz members, we are all aware that a few people have been accused of some serious crimes in recent times.

Some folks here have debated the merits of various cases even though we don’t truly have a damned clue about the actual events.

I’m not going to do that.  I’m not interested in rehashing any of these incidents or attempting to put on trial in the media anyone accused of a particular crime.  That’s not appropriate, nor is it my place.

I just wonder, is it over yet?

I sure hope so.

And I have a few words of caution.  Caution for any new student, really, but especially those who will be joining the university athletic teams.  And let’s not kid ourselves, potential students or athletic recruits visit this site and read what people here say, even if the message board material doesn’t influence their decisions on whether or not to attend.

You would think it goes without saying, but becoming a student-athlete at UM brings with it some things that other students never have to deal with.

Like it or not, student-athletes live and perform under greater scrutiny than other students.

They agreed to swap their talents in exchange for the chance to be part of a great athletic program, whatever their sport.  And they might even get their education paid for to boot.

And that agreement, that willingness to make that deal, also comes with the responsibility to do more than perform on the field, court, pitch, course, etc.  It comes with the responsibility to represent the team and the school well, at all times, not just when playing.

In truth, any student, even one not playing sports, who runs afoul of the law will bring a certain amount of shame on the university.

If a student is busted shoplifting or driving drunk, his name will make the papers, and so will the fact that he’s a UM student.  And that behavior isn’t just embarrassing to the individual or his family, it’s an embarrassment to the entire school.

If you’re associated with the school, your behavior reflects on everyone associated with it, not just yourself.  I think it’s worth reminding every high school student who leaves home, often for the first time, to go to college, of that fact.

Being accused of breaking the law will move that news from the back pages to the front if a student-athlete is involved.  That might not seem fair to some folks, but I think it is fair. Student-athletes are not just playing sports, they wear the school uniform and have a special “seal of approval,” if you will.  The privilege of wearing the UM colors come with it a certain trust.  Student-athletes don’t get to take off the uniform and then temporarily suspend their membership on a team or their job representing the school.

No.  That is a 24/7/365 job for the duration of the agreement.

And violating that trust isn’t just an embarrassment to a student-athlete’s family, friends or himself, it reflects poorly on the entire university.

It makes other people wonder, “What’s wrong at UM with all those kids (driving drunk, raping, getting in fights, doing drugs, whathaveyou)?”

It’s not fair of one person who violates that trust to taint the entire school.

And that’s why I said it was a few words of caution.  Because that’s not an easy thing to do.

We’re talking about very young adults.  I recall reading several studies in my master’s program about brain development not being fully realized until a person is in his early- to mid-twenties.  That’s usually well past college years for most people.

That’s certainly not an excuse for bad behavior, but it might — might — account for poor decisions that are made from time to time.  So, people in the position of student-athlete need to take a little extra time and ask themselves: “Is what I’m about to do a good idea? What are the consequences?”

Sure lots of us have done things that we wouldn’t exactly brag about, much less enjoy seeing in the media. Hell, I’m certainly guilty of that.  But I also haven’t been caught doing anything dumb or illegal enough to warrant being plastered across the papers, discussed over the airwaves or touted on news web sites.

Maybe it’s a good thing that there has been enough trouble lately to cause the school to investigate and get a committee to review behavior of certain student athletes.

My hope is the latest brouhaha will be enough to prevent some people from making bad decisions.

I sure hope so.

Because I have a lot of great stuff to tell people about my alma mater.  I have golf, tennis, spring football, track and field and other UM happenings that I am eager to talk about.

I plan to get back to them the next time I enjoy the view from afar.

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