Fitz Toussaint pleads guilty to lesser charge

If Michigan coach Brady Hoke wanted an excuse to play star running back Fitz Toussaint against Alabama on Saturday, he may have just received it.

On Tuesday, Toussaint -- who had been arrested on a DUI charge July 23 -- pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving while visibly impaired, a misdemeanor. He will be sentenced Oct. 23.

Hoke has been noncommittal about whether Toussaint, whom he indefinitely suspended following the arrest, would be available for the much-hyped opener. Toussaint was listed as the starting running back on the depth chart the Wolverines released on Monday. On Tuesday's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, Hoke wouldn't even confirm if it would be a game-time decision on Toussaint's status.

Hoke did say Monday that the outcome of Toussaint's court case would have no effect on his decision. But if he wanted to play the running back who ran for more than 1,000 yards last year, he could point to the fact that Toussaint was merely convicted of a misdemeanor.

That doesn't much change the circumstances of Toussaint's poor decision-making, as he was found to have a blood-alcohol level of .12 when stopped by police last month. But Hoke could avoid some of the criticism he might have faced if his starting running back was convicted of a more serious charge just days before he played in the season's first game.

I'm still of the opinion that Toussaint should sit the game out as a reflection of how serious his offense was. But at this point, it would not register as any kind of surprise to see him taking the first handoff for Michigan on Saturday night.