Louisville’s Darius Ashley Suspended for DUIs, Coach Vows to Help

By Joe Schrank and Dirk Hanson 06/28/11

The NCAA usually can be counted on to cover up alcohol-fueled indiscretions, but Coach Strong doesn't agree.

coach strong.jpg
Ashley’s coach wants to do it differently.
Photo via cfn.scout

Promising Louisville Cardinals cornerback Darius Ashley has picked up his second DUI in 7 months. The college standout was placed on indefinite suspension by Louisville heach coach Charlie Strong—but not dismissed from the program. Cue the snide jokes about letting top jocks off the hook for booze violations. But this time it may be a little different. Strong told NBC Sports:

Any time you talk about do you dismiss a young man, when you see what has happened, two within seven months, you dismiss him from the team—What does he become? Just another statistic in society? So what did we accomplish and how did we help him? You have to help people. Here’s a young man who has never been an issue on our team until those two issues that he had, which are two serious issues, but he’s a young man, he went to class, never had a class issue with him, did all the right things… We have to help young people.

This reaction is so rare in the ranks of college athletics that we feel it’s worth celebrating here. Traditionally, the NCAA can be counted on to cover up or ignore such alcohol-fueled indiscretions, for the greater good of the school, the team, and the world at large. But Strong said of the incident: “He may never make another tackle or interception but we have to help him tackle what he is facing, alcoholism.” Strong elaborated on his position on Ashley stating: “When they place their life or someone else's life in jeopardy, it's a major problem.” While he may not be a trained mental health professional, it seems that Coach Strong has picked up a thing or two during the last 30 years coaching young adult males. According to the University, Ashley, a 3.7 GPA student, will keep his scholarship.

If Ashley had injured his knee or shoulder, he could expect state of the art medical attention and physical therapy, as well as academic support for any time missed from class. Is the University of Louisville prepared to suggest that there should be parity for athletes? Are athletes diagnosed with alcoholism or other mental illness entitled to the same top tier treatment as those with torn ligaments?

The NCAA and colleges in general have been traditionally punitive with this issue, assuming an "or else" approach to substance misuse rather than offering treatment. Its hard to say what will happen to Darius Ashley, but it sounds like he has a real advocate in Coach Charile Strong--one who isn't willing to treat his student-athletes as disposable.

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