Tough decision looms for David Shaw

We've seen David Shaw the offensive coordinator; David Shaw the head coach, recruiter and motivator. We've seen the David Shaw who gets perturbed when his strategies are questioned and the David Shaw who is humbled by praise and deflects kudos onto his assistants and players.

But there's one David Shaw we're yet to see: David Shaw the disciplinarian.

While so much of the attention heading into next season's opener against San Jose State was going to focus on who would start at quarterback, now we must also turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball and wonder who will be starting at inside linebacker. And for all the wrong reasons.

If memory serves, there were no players suspended or forced to miss time for violating team rules in the 2011 season. If there were, it wasn't made public and they weren't starters. But Shayne Skov is one of the best linebackers in the country, a poster boy for hard work and probably the most visible player on the 2012 roster. Whatever course of action Shaw takes in dealing with Skov's reported DUI will serve as a precedent for how all other disciplinary actions are taken.

I think it's safe to assume he's not going to dismiss Skov from the team -- as Mike Leach did yesterday with Washington State linebacker C.J. Mizell. Skov has neither the history nor the offense to warrant that severe of a punishment. He's a good teammate, a good student -- and if you work in the media -- a pretty good quote. All in all, he's a good guy who made a beyond-idiotic mistake.

But Shaw can't let this slide with a couple extra laps after practice and a stern talking-to, either. Skov put his life and the lives of others in jeopardy when he decided to knock back x-amount of cocktails and then turn the key.

Shaw hasn't made any comments about the incident other than an official statement issued through the school. But if David Shaw the disciplinarian is anything like the head coach, he'll approach it in the same, cool and even-tempered demeanor in which he approaches most things. But if anyone saw how distressed Shaw was when talking about Skov's injury back in Tucson, or the way he exploded in Pullman following an illegal hit on Chris Owusu, it's clear he loves his players and he's going to have their back. That makes whatever decision to come that much harder.

A suspension is certainly in order. How many games is the question. Clouding the issue is Skov's health. He's still recovering from a knee injury and we won't know if he'll be 100 percent to start the season. If he is fully healthy -- and he's suspended for the San Jose State and Duke games -- that seems fair.

But if he's still a couple of weeks away from being healthy when the season starts -- and he's suspended for both of those games -- is it really a just punishment? Suspending him for games he might have not played in -- or only played a minor role -- seems like doling out discipline with a dust pan rather than an iron fist.

Which brings us to the third game of the season: USC. This is one of the marquee games on Stanford's 2012 schedule and a true measuring stick for the Cardinal in the post-Andrew Luck era. Stanford doesn't need Skov to beat USC. Stanford doesn't need Skov at all -- for that matter. But they are a better team with him.

Whatever punishment Skov is to serve should begin when he's ready to play football. If that's the third game of the season, so be it. Using Skov's injury as a subterfuge for suspension would be letting him off the hook and a disservice to the position Shaw holds.

Shaw is, above all, a Stanford man. Now it's up to him -- David Shaw the disciplinarian -- to back up the ideals he so frequently preaches.