Paul Petrino has enough on his plate these days. In his second season in charge of the Idaho football program, he’s tasked with making an 1-11 team a contender in the Sun Belt Conference, dealing with a bowl ban in 2014, all while dealing with the challenges of trying to recruit enough talent to Moscow.
It’s not a good look for a program that dealt with enough embarrassment the day before when we learned Idaho was dealing with a postseason ban stemming from its Academic Progress Rate dipping below the 930 threshold.
So right now Petrino has to act. He has stated he’ll handle the Epps situation “swiftly and decisively.” What exactly that means, we don’t know. But it’d be disappointing if that didn’t mean a suspension of some kind.
In February 2013, when Petrino was barely two months into his tenure at Idaho, it was star defensive tackle Quayshawne Buckley with a similar DUI situation. Petrino’s response to that was certainly decisive.
Buckley was dismissed from the team, missing all of spring practice before being able to rejoin the program in the fall. Buckley was only allowed back on the team because his name didn’t come across the police scanner during that time, and has since been on the straight and narrow.
Granted, Buckley was a player with a past of run-ins with the police. Epps, since being at Idaho, not as much. Still, Epps’ DUI is an opportunity for Petrino to continue enforcing the type of discipline that Idaho needs to get away from the problems of Petrino’s predecessor
Low APR scores only underscored the numerous problems the program had under former coach Robb Akey. Shortly after Akey’s dismissal, linebacker Homer Mauga, who had just completed his senior season, was cited for delivery of a controlled substance. Athletic director Rob Spear was only able to dismiss quarterback Dominique Blackman from the program for failed drug tests only after Akey was dismissed, since Akey refused to do it himself.
In terms of DUIs, kicker Trey Farquhar suffered no suspension for his DUI in the spring of 2012.
While Epps doesn’t seem like type of player who is likely to be a repeat offender a statement still needs to be made. A DUI puts lives at risk and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Based on the media interactions we’ve had with Epps he seems like a hardworking player who represents the type of character Petrino has been looking for with his recruits. The hope here is that it was one-time mistake that he’ll be able to learn from.
But just to reinforce it, Epps shouldn’t be with the team when it runs out of the tunnel in Gainesville, Florida, on Aug. 30 to take on the Gators. If he does play in Idaho’s 2014 season opener then he should miss a couple of scrimmages during fall practice, allowing his competition to gain a leg up on him. Punishment has to come on the field to get the point across.
If Petrino handles this situation right, Epps could potentially reassume his position as a senior leader which is what Idaho will need from him.
Sean Kramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org