Sports

Column: In Quintez Cephus case, Wisconsin is one program doing things the right way

Wisconsin's immediate suspension of receiver Quintez Cephus showed that the program takes sexual assault seriously, unlike many other top athletic programs.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

When Wisconsin suspended wideout Quintez Cephus indefinitely on August 20, it rid the team of one of its brightest talents.

However, the school also sent a message of solidarity to survivors of sexual assault, and acted swiftly against any potential misconduct that may have occurred.

Cephus, a junior, was charged with two counts of sexual assault on the day he was suspended. If he could avoid a lengthy case, he wouldn’t be the first big-school athlete to avoid salacious charges and get back on the field.

In a court hearing Tuesday, any chance of that effectively crumbled.

Cephus was ordered by a judge to stand trial after failed attempts from his lawyers to have the charges dismissed. The trial date has not yet been set.

That development — a non-conclusion of sorts — means Cephus could well take this season in from the sidelines under his current suspension.

In some ways, the suspension of Cephus was simply a bureaucratic, mandatory decision. As per the Student-Athlete Discipline Policy, which the athletic department cited in its decision, “Arrests of or charges of specified crimes will result in immediate suspension and factual inquiry.”

Still, it is encouraging to see a sexual assault case involving an athlete handled so quickly and assertively.

Florida State infamously protected Jameis Winston after he raped student Erica Kinsman in 2012. Michigan State was accused in January of acting indifferent towards the sexual assault cases of athletes, including some on the football team.

Time and time again, athletic aspirations supersede common sense. Not here, at least.

For a team with playoff aspirations, Cephus’ suspension — if continued — could prove to be a massive blow to the team down the line. Before injuring his right leg and missing the last five games of the season, Cephus averaged over 55 receiving yards per game.

But production is more malleable than reputation.

Wisconsin could’ve swept Cephus’ misconduct under the rug, pulled a couple of favors with the police and kept Cephus out of the news and on the field. They wouldn’t be the first to do something like that, but they didn’t.

I can’t tell you whether that’s down to confidence in other players, out of a desire to legitimately protect against sexual violence on campus or to simply adhere to the athletic department’s own policy (which it probably could have contradicted had it really wanted to).

But what I can tell you is that Cephus’ suspension is the welcome common-sense decision which is so often lacking from the tribalistic world of college football.

Wisconsin may have higher stakes than most teams to bury misconduct such as Cephus’. But its growing profile also necessitates a need to avoid controversy and act an in an exemplary manner.

It shouldn’t be surprising that college kids, even with lots at stake, sometimes make terrible decisions that hurt people. But universities themselves should be held to a higher standard.

For now, Wisconsin is setting that bar.

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