<
>

Nebraska sends wrong message with suspension of Keith Williams

Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams was arrested and charged with DUI last weekend, and it was revealed that Williams had two prior convictions for the same offense. On Friday, the school suspended him without pay until Aug. 31 and said he will not coach in the Cornhuskers' first four games.

The discipline is not strong enough. Not even close.

Williams has begun counseling and will participate in outreach efforts about the dangers of drunken driving, Nebraska coach Mike Riley said in a statement. Let's all hope Williams gets the help he needs. By all accounts, he's a popular coach among the players. But he also clearly has a problem.

And Nebraska fans should have a problem with the penalty he received.

Huskers athletic director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement Friday morning that the situation "cannot be overstated" and that "Keith's conduct was reckless and potentially fatal." Yet the school's decision to levy a two-week suspension without pay and ban Williams from the sideline for four games hardly seems to live up to Eichorst's words.

Riley said Williams "admitted his error in judgment." Driving while intoxicated -- on at least three occasions -- is more than just an error in judgment. It's a crime. Any time you do it, you're putting your life and the lives of others at risk.

Ask yourself this: If you got your third DUI, how do you think your employer would react?

Williams works on a college campus and is in charge of teaching and molding young men. Alcohol abuse and drunken driving are problems on campuses around this country. Educators and coaches have to be held to a higher standard because they are setting the examples. What message is Nebraska sending to its young people by slapping Williams on the wrist here?

I don't like calling for anyone to be fired, and Williams needs support and help. Nebraska could have suspended him for the season, or moved him into an administrative, noncoaching role while he undergoes counseling. Eichorst said he hopes Williams will take the opportunity "to teach our student-athletes, staff and greater community about making the right decisions." By saying what, exactly? That they might lose two weeks' pay and miss four games if they don't?

The reality here is that Williams is valuable to the program. He's the team's best recruiter, and recruiting trumps everything.

Nebraska fans will defend Williams and the school's decision because that's what fans do. They're already doing it on Twitter. I hope this third arrest will finally force Williams to understand he should never get behind the wheel of a car while inebriated. He's fortunate to keep his job.

But should he have?