Recently, Bob Davie has been fond of talking about what he tells his players about what they put “on tape.”
The idea behind the University of New Mexico football coach’s message is that his players should be mindful each week of how its play is perceived by those watching.
“Here’s what (was) put on tape; here’s what people that watched us from the outside saw,” Davie said. “What are you going to put on tape; what are we going to put on tape collectively as a team, and what’s it going to look like?”
What kind of team are broadcasters, the media and fans watching? Are they watching a disciplined team? A team that shows effort? A team that does things the right way?
Davie used the “on tape” reference to describe his team’s undisciplined play during its 38-7 loss to Fresno State on Oct. 20, in which the Lobos committed nine personal fouls, including three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and a targeting call that led to a player ejection.
Perhaps, Davie should’ve heeded his own message in dealing with the Oct. 27 altercation between Lobo players Evahelotu Tohi and David Brown that left Brown hospitalized for five days and Tohi suspended — albeit more than two days after the altercation took place.
The altercation also was the same day that UNM lost at Utah State 61-19 for its third straight loss. The skid is now at four games as the Lobos (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West) travel to play Air Force (3-6, 1-4) on Saturday.
IGNORANCE IS PROTOCOL
In the hours and days after the incident, Davie actively avoided talking to starting linebacker Tohi about the details of the fight.
The coach took that stance that college football coaches should not be the ones to conduct the investigation of any incident involving one of his own players and that he was following school protocol in reporting the incident to athletic director Eddie Nuñez and letting Nuñez alert main campus officials.
A witness said in a police report that Tohi punched Brown in the face; Brown didn’t try to fight back. Teammates then tried to pull Tohi away, but Tohi broke free and punched Brown in the face again, knocking Brown unconscious.
Davie, who said he learned of the incident the day after it happened (Oct. 28), still let Tohi practice for two days before meeting with Nuñez and suspending him from all team activity. He said on Oct. 31 that he hadn’t asked either player about the specifics of the incident.
Ironically, it was Davie who protested his own 30-day suspension in February for violations of university policies in the handling of alleged misconduct because no one handling that investigation talked to him.
In a statement Davie released when he informed the school he was appealing his suspension, he said, “I fully cooperated in every respect and met multiple times with the investigators, but was never asked to meet with or provide information to (the Hogan law firm).”
On Nov. 1, Davie was asked why he hadn’t talked to Tohi about the incident. Davie clarified that he did talk to Tohi. He said initially that he talked to Tohi immediately, but didn’t clarify what he meant by “immediately.”
Davie said he learned of Tohi’s involvement the night after the incident but didn’t talk to Tohi until practice on Monday morning. When he did, he asked Tohi, “Was there a situation and were you involved?”
When Tohi responded, “yes,” Davie said, “Don’t tell me anything else.”
And then Davie let Tohi go to practice.
Is that really school protocol — for the head coach to step aside when two of his players get in a fight and one ends up in the hospital because of it? For the head coach not to try to find out what happened?
If it is, how on earth can any Lobo coach enact any sort of discipline on his team?
And didn’t the contents of the police report shed enough light for Davie to believe Tohi’s involvement merited an immediate suspension because of the negative light it brought to the program?
A LEARNED RESPONSE?
Davie may or may not be overcompensating for what happened to him during the investigation that led to his suspension. He was reprimanded for talking to a UNM police officer during a rape investigation against one of his players and trying to undermine the accuser’s credibility, according to an independent investigation.
Davie also caught heat in 2014 when he suspended offensive lineman Jamal Price for 2 ½ weeks in August in a domestic violence case involving former girlfriend and Lobo women’s basketball player Khadijah Shumpert, in which Price was arrested on charges of breaking and entering and conspiracy to commit a fourth-degree felony. The dispute was over an Apple television.
Price had a male acquaintance break into Shumpert’s apartment, and the two of them were going to search for the TV, not knowing Shumpert was home. She confronted the acquaintance, and they got into an altercation in which he punched her in the face.
Price, a starter, was not suspended any games that season.
That may be why Davie is so adamant now when he talks about following protocol. But those cases clearly are different because they didn’t involve just football players.
Perhaps, media and sports fans expect too much from a coach in disciplining his or her players. Those players are tied to the coach’s livelihood, and their judgment likely would be much different from ours, based on their relationship with their student-athletes.
Maybe we expect too much for them to be the adults in the room. Look what happened at Maryland last week. The school’s board of regents somehow thought it was OK to reinstate coach DJ Durkin, despite the death of player Jordan McNair during an offseason conditioning session in June and subsequent questions about the program’s culture that Durkin created.
Only after a mob-like reaction did Maryland change its mind and do the right thing by terminating Durkin’s contract.
That said, it’s still hard to stomach Davie’s insistence he handled Tohi’s suspension properly, based on the facts that:
—The Lobos had just returned home hours after their worst loss of the season. Wasn’t there any consideration by the fifth-year senior to, perhaps, not party that night — or at the very least, lay low?
—Davie didn’t contact Tohi Sunday night, even to ask what he asked him on Monday.
—The witness said in the police report that Tohi punched Brown, was pulled away by teammates but broke free and punched Brown again, knocking him out. That sounds bad … for the entire program.
—Davie didn’t bother announcing the suspension until KOB-TV pressed UNM athletic officials for a response almost three days after the incident occurred. It does create a question whether Davie would’ve said anything or even suspended Tohi had the media not found out about the incident.
—This incident was not between a player and an outside party. It was between two players.
—Playing football is not a right that Tohi has earned, and suspending him immediately pending further investigation would not have been any sort of infringement on his rights.
—It took Davie and Nuñez two days to gather enough information to suspend Tohi from all team-related activities when a police report was available.
REWIND AND PRESS PLAY
Davie may counter UNM didn’t acquire the police report until Oct. 30, but if that’s the case, someone’s not doing his or her job. Inquiring about a police report should’ve been one of the first questions someone at UNM should’ve asked.
He also may argue that the police report might not tell the whole story. The report, after all, said a witness named Ritshey Bissereth was a Lobo teammate. There is no such player on the team.
But let’s review what was put “on tape.”
In this case, the police report is the tape. And absent the police report, the fact that a Lobo football player was hospitalized after being punched by another football player represents “the tape.” That fact is not being disputed.
Waiting more than 48 hours to suspend the player that knocked out his teammate? Letting him practice two days before announcing discipline and announcing discipline only after a media outlet aggressively asked for comment?
That’s what UNM “put on tape.” What does that look like?
Greg Archuleta is the assistant editor at Enchantment Sports. He was the New Mexico Lobo football beat writer for the Albuquerque Journal for 12 years and worked as a professional journalist for more than two decades. You can reach him at enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.
Nice piece Greg. I have to say that the optics are just ugly in the past year. This whole Hogan’s Heroes Sgt. Schultz “I know nothing. nothing.” routine is quite disturbing. This isn’t 1979 or Notre Dame where the media isn’t going to find out or you can win enough games that people won’t care.
It is one thing to once again finish a season getting beat down every game, but this constant off the field nonsense has most fans not even bothering anymore. What was the SDSU attendance? 6,000.
At this point the final game of the season will look like a UNM soccer home game (less than 1,000). Tough decisions have to be made… But it is time to go “Old Yeller” on this regime.