It's not a tough call, Mike Riley: Keith Williams has to be suspended
Mike Riley couldn’t come out and say it, but he will eventually. I hope.
Instead of saying the words “Keith Williams is suspended indefinitely,” Riley went with the noncommittal threat of “there will be consequences, but I’m not ready to talk about them right now.”
In fact, just so that his words can’t be perceived as twisted in any way, here’s video of exactly what he said when addressing Williams’ arrest for the first time on Monday:
— World-Herald Photo (@OWHpictures) August 15, 2016
That’s you would expect to hear a coach say about anybody who gets in trouble for the first time. When reports surfaced that the Nebraska receivers coach was arrested on suspicion of DUI early on Sunday morning, that’s all it appeared to be — a first-time offense.
But as it turns out, that was actually Williams’ third DUI arrest. The other two came back in 2004 and 2009. Nebraska’s HR department didn’t see that as a reason to prevent Riley from bringing Williams on board after the 2014 season.
Had Williams’ original BAC of .15 not been changed to .08 — a misdemeanor — the Huskers would have had a coach facing a Class III-A felony, which is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He could also lose his license for 15 years.
And Riley is debating if he should be suspended?
Hopefully he he isn’t debating that and he’s just deciding how long it should be. He wanted to figure out the details after they got a chance to talk to him. After all, they couldn’t get all of those because Williams was in jail on Sunday morning and his court hearing was Monday.
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I’m all for giving people second chances and hearing their side of the story. But technically, this would be Williams’ third second chance. And the only side of the story that matters to the public is that he was arrested for his third DUI.
Williams had so much momentum going in the recruiting world for Nebraska after landing several four-star commitments from California. In fact, he was helping Nebraska host five-star California receiver Joseph Lewis over the weekend. Now Lewis’ name is in stories everywhere about a DUI. Nebraska can kiss that possible commitment goodbye.
Other top-flight recruits noticed. Some even tweeted #FreeDub in support of Williams. He’s obviously as well-liked as they come in the recruiting world, but his reputation had to take a major hit.
How’s he going to look a recruit’s mother in the eye and tell her that he’ll take care of her son? You know who else says that? The other coach who DOESN’T have three DUIs.
Williams’ biggest recruiting rival, Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith, had this to say (or not say) about Williams’ arrest:
I'm sorry… I just can't even… ????#Zone6 is busy getting ready to be the Best in America (on the Field… Not on Twitter)
— Zach Smith #Zone6 (@CoachZachSmith) August 14, 2016
But this is more important than some social media rivalry with a coach. Williams needs help. This is a major problem that a one-game suspension won’t solve. I get that Williams’ prior arrests weren’t at Nebraska, but how would Riley handle a player who was arrested for committing the same crime three different times?
Williams has to be treated with that standard. It’s completely hypocritical to treat him any differently just because he’s an adult. His repeated violations aren’t actions of a mature adult. They resemble that of a kid who has never been punished properly for breaking the rules.
The sad thing is, even if Riley does suspend Williams, it’ll only be for the first two games of the season. He’ll look like the disciplinarian who took action against one of his guys. It’ll be the smart, PR-savvy move for him to make.
Why a two-game suspension? Well because Nebraska is hosting Oregon in Week 3. And oh, the Huskers also happen to be hosting more top recruits that weekend than any other in recent memory. Many of them will be there because of their relationship with Williams. Naturally, Riley will make sure Williams can come back to the team just in time.
That’s what my gut says will be the result of this. Riley will ensure everyone that they’re “getting Williams the support he needs,” he’ll slap him on the wrist, and let him go back to doing his job.
Riley should give his support Williams. We should all support someone who is dealing with something greater than having a few beers and getting behind the wheel one night.
Riley should give Williams his job back. Eventually. To our knowledge, Williams is technically a first-time offender in Lincoln.
But Riley should not give Williams full access to the program whose reputation he damaged. You aren’t going to send a message to a coach by simply fining him, especially one who just received a $400,000 raise. Besides counseling, a significant suspension needs to happen.
Lay down the hammer, or accept your fate as the nail.