Friday, May 24, 2013
Over at Husky Stadium, construction workers are getting ready for the stretch run, hitting the 100-day mark until the reopening of the storied facility. The Washington football team seems poised for its biggest season in more than a decade, and for an inaugural game, you can’t get much splashier than Boise State on Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, the Huskies’ best pro prospect labors in relative solitude, separated by suspension from organized UW activities. Austin Seferian-Jenkins — All-American-to-be tight end, maybe a top-10 NFL draft pick next spring — is a man without a team.
He might spend that watershed afternoon for Husky football, the start to possibly his last college season, in street clothes.
Not much is being said these days by Washington concerning Seferian-Jenkins, who was arrested minutes before midnight March 9 in the Ravenna area and subsequently charged with drunken driving.
Seferian-Jenkins was suspended from UW spring practices, and that has continued to include any other offseason team activities. His coach, Steve Sarkisian, spoke glowingly a couple of weeks ago of Seferian-Jenkins’ actions in response to the arrest.
Sarkisian is letting the legal process play out before announcing any final penalty, and it’s playing out slowly. Monday, a pretrial hearing in Seattle Municipal Court was postponed until July 1, partly because one of Seferian-Jenkins’ defense attorneys — the player has pleaded not guilty — joined the case only recently.
The delay may have some Husky fans hoping — or perhaps fretting — that the case won’t be resolved until after the season starts. The cold reality is that Boise State is a lot more daunting than the No. 2 and 3 teams on the schedule, Illinois and Idaho State.
“I wouldn’t think it would be too great,” said Bill Kirk, Seferian-Jenkins’ attorney, about the likelihood the case continues past Aug. 31.
You weigh the opposing dynamics. On one side, Seferian-Jenkins took a stupid risk, in the same way many of us have. On the other, it’s not like he’s going to win a lot of points in the court of public opinion on this one.
Not that this will have any impact on what Sarkisian decides, but Seferian-Jenkins’ case could hardly have come at a time when public tolerance for the DUI is lower.
Little did he know that within a month of his arrest, there would be two horrific, high-profile cases of DUI-related fatalities in Seattle, and an ensuing push in the state legislature for tougher DUI laws.
The police report says a witness saw Seferian-Jenkins’ vehicle going at “high speed.” It jumped a sidewalk, ran over a small tree and became stuck in an open catch basin at a city park.
He was found sitting on a curb near the car, his face bloodied after it apparently cracked the windshield.
Although he’s described as a very good kid and has a clean record, it’s hard to engender a lot of sympathy for Seferian-Jenkins. He’s still months short of 21, after all, and the cops say his blood-alcohol level was .18, compared to the legal limit of .08 for adults. When you’re 265 pounds, you have to do some serious drinking to get to .18 — if that was indeed a valid reading.
Kirk says he has ordered additional information from the state toxicology lab, and it would be “premature” to speculate on the validity of the blood-alcohol level.
As for Seferian-Jenkins, Kirk said, “He’s extremely embarrassed by the whole thing. He’s a pretty conscientious young man.”
Sarkisian spoke similarly May 6, when he told reporters on a Pac-12 conference call, “To Austin’s credit, he’s done everything we could have asked and beyond. He’s done a nice job in school, in the community, he’s done all the counseling we’ve asked him to do. To his credit, he’s stayed ahead of this thing.
“One of the keys for me was, was (the incident) truly indicative of a young man’s character, or was it truly a mistake?
“It was a mistake. He’s a good individual.”
It’s not as though there’s a template for discipline in college DUI cases. Months after he took over as Kansas coach, Charlie Weis suspended starting running back James Sims for three games for DUI in 2012. At the other end, the famously indulgent Bill Doba, ex-Washington State coach, let defensive end Mike Graise skate with “missing a couple of workouts,” according to Graise, when he had two DUI arrests in 2007, each pleaded down to negligent driving.
Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov was suspended for the team’s opener last fall, and also incurred what the San Jose Mercury News termed an academic suspension for winter quarter this year related to his DUI arrest in 2012.
If the allegations line up in the Seferian-Jenkins case, it figures that on an electric Saturday afternoon the last day of August, the Huskies will have to play without him.
That wouldn’t be easy for him or them. But to use an ironic word, in these vigilant times the offense is sobering.