As I sat down to write a different article about our Florida Gators and UF athletics, I was suddenly confronted with the news that Mr. Treon Harris, the possible starting quarterback for UF this week against LSU, was under investigation for an alleged on-campus sexual assault. As a result of these allegations, the University of Florida has immediately suspended Mr. Harris indefinitely while the incident is investigated.
I have always been proud to wear the orange and blue and hold degrees from University of Florida. However, today I have never been more proud of my alma mater.
While, I do not know any of the particulars of the allegations against Mr. Harris, I just know that a young woman has accused him of something very serious. Sexual assault is one of the most serious crimes anyone can be accused of or commit. It would not be fair or ethical to either Mr. Harris or the accuser to have this drama play out on Sportscenter or any other public venue.
By suspending Mr. Harris, the University has sent a strong and clear message; the University of Florida takes sexual assault seriously and the integrity of their student-athletes and the University of Florida matter; however, it is simply not in the way most people will think.
Suspending Mr. Harris at this point is not a punishment; it is the only way to protect him, the accuser, and the University. In this media filled age, it is the only way to insure the dignity of the process for both him and the accuser. Mr. Harris may indeed still have a bright future at the University of Florida; however, these serious allegations need to be resolved before he steps back out to the practice field. Otherwise, he is simply a distraction to the team and the University. Mr. Harris has rights and he needs to concentrate his energy on giving these allegations his full and undivided attention.
I don’t want to have our coach awkwardly trying to answer legal questions or dodging pointed questions about how and when a suspension might take place. Doing something like that would be an undignified sham on the words truth and justice. I don’t want the focus on football or our player; I want it on what happened. I want my University to handle things like this the right way. I don’t want to see our fan base calling this young woman a cleat chaser or some other undignified name because no one knows anything at this point.
However, there is simply no way that he could be fully invested in his defense and clearing his name if he has to worry about identifying a corner blitz against LSU. He needs to concentrate on his defense and how to clear his name or reasonably explain the circumstances. That is the greatest service that Mr. Harris could do for himself, his teammates and the University of Florida.
Playing football with these allegations would not be in his or the University of Florida’s best interest. Allowing him to play with these allegations swirling around simply sends the wrong message to Mr. Harris, the victim, and the public at large; it says that the allegations are secondary to the game of football. Is that the message that any one of us wants to send?
Additionally, the victim’s allegations need to be investigated and handled by those with the sworn duty to do so. These allegations need to be handled with respect and dignity because it’s not about football at this point. It is about what happened between Mr. Harris and the victim and that’s where the focus should be. The focus should always be on finding out as best as they can what happened between the victim and Mr. Harris. It should not be on whether or not Mr. Harris should be suspended until he is arrested or charged.
Our fan base should not be praying for a misdemeanor. They should be cheering for the truth to come out, good or bad.
I never wanted to have one of my school’s student-athletes have to face something like this; however, the University of Florida found itself where no school wants to be and still rose to the occasion. We did not hoist a crystal trophy today; instead we elevated justice and the dignity of the process above sport.
Sadly, as we have seen in the recent past, some people in power laugh and joke through a press conference when talking about an alleged sexual assault. So while I sit here and congratulate the University of Florida, I still feel the anger I did last fall when others in power at Florida State University did nothing when a young woman came to them with an allegation in December 2012.
As I sit here today, I do not know what happened that night and neither does anyone else but the people involved. However, the biggest failure in that case for both the accuser and the accused was that neither was afforded the dignity of the process by the people in power around them. They will never be able to truly move past this because a group of powerful people were either too incompetent to do their jobs, or simply, chose not to do their jobs.
A small cabal of people had the power and the responsibility to do what they took a sworn oath to do. Those people failed to do what was required and necessary by design or by ignorance. I do not know which option they followed in that tragic tale, but neither gives me comfort.
The greatest indignation I have is not for Mr. Winston; it was for the members of the Tallahassee Police Department because everyone involved was denied the dignity of the process and the power of the truth. Even today, all the main law enforcement characters from that morality play labor on as if there were no consequences for their stunning lack of either intelligence or character. I don’t know what happened that night, but the people in power that should have protected the rights of both the accused and the accuser did not do what they should have done.
While I love college sports, beyond the fields of play, issues exist that dwarf these contests. I give kudos to the people in power at the University of Florida for recognizing the truly progressive idea that football is merely a game played for the enjoyment of fans. I commend the University of Florida for setting a shining example for how to handle a case like this; perhaps other Universities should pay attention. However, I am not going to hold my breath because at some places the ONLY thing that matters is winning.