Couldn't Cornelius Get a Hand As Well As a Ban?

By Joe Schrank 10/10/11

Why is punishment college football's default response to alcohol transgressions like UGA linebacker Cornelius Washington's DUI?

Washington: "taking it like a man" Photo via

After blowing a .12 and almost doubling the speed limit last week, standout linebacker Cornelius Washington will sit out the Georgia Bulldogs' next two games. UGA policy mandates that a DUI means the offending athlete must miss 20% of the regular season. Coach Mark Richt declared, "He is going to take his punishment like a man." Clearly there have to be consequences, but does punishment always make for good policy? Washington is of an age where it's difficult to pin him with an accurate diagnosis. Maybe he is alcoholic—a willingness to drive drunk would suggest the possibility—but maybe it's not so clear. After all, in the alcohol-fueled sports world, getting drunk can be pretty hard to avoid—and how many 22-year-old men do we know with good judgement? So what should the university do? Treatment could be an overreach, but at the same time, trying to "punish" alcohol offenses is rarely that effective. The University of Georgia athletic department has an annual budget of more than $77 million: this is big-time college sports. It's worth noting that punishment—the coach yelling at him and leaving him out—conveniently takes nothing out of that large budget. Treatment would require an investment. For all of the support systems in place in a major college athletic department, a social worker isn't one of them. That seems odd for a department catering to hundreds of late adolescent boys, many of them from poor or violent backgrounds. Sitting out a couple games may be the right consequence here, but is there any follow-up? In the booze-steeped sports culture, alcohol always seems to get a free pass.

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Joe Schrank is a writer and social worker in NYC. He was one of the founders of TheFix and is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Gawker, Salon, and Fox News. Intoxicant-free for 18 years, Joe remains a depressed disgruntled alcoholic. You can find Joe on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.