As things stand today, the New Mexico State basketball team will put a player on the court who’s facing a felony charge — something that according to the school, would ultimately result in his removal from the program if there is conviction of a felony.
If there is an assumption charges will be reduced or dropped against senior Tyrone Watson all together, then why was he suspended in the first place for a fight at a college party as Watson acknowledged in his only public comments since the incident. Watson isn't the first to be re-instated facing such a future, and there is the problem.
What kind of message does that send to the public and future incidents in basketball or other programs at NMSU, and what will the reaction be when the Aggies return home next weekend — senior weekend at the school no less?
Watson was indicted by a Grand Jury on Friday and his suspension was officially lifted on Friday. Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies indicated on Tuesday that Watson will join the Aggies on the court at Denver on Saturday.
Watson may very well be cleared of all wrongdoing. Personally, I hope that happens. The description of Watson as a standout member of the program is well warranted in my limited access, as well as talking to folks in and around the program during his five years at NMSU. Watson made a mistake and fair, or not, his stature as a basketball player (one of 13 on scholarship) puts him under a microscope. A microscope with a glare that’ll glow brighter the further the Aggies travel in their postseason journey.
A decision in the court system won't likely come until after basketball season. If the courts reduced or dropped the charges before the end of the season, then by all means put him on a plane to immediately join his teammates. But that seems unlikely to happen within the next month, which is unfortunate for a fifth-year senior who is close to graduation.
What is more important it seems to the university is getting Watson back in action, no matter the possible reaction by the public.
That wasn’t the case in a recent incident where four Alabama football players were arrested and charged for second degree robbery and credit card fraud. Less than two weeks later, the players were not only dismissed from the team but from the school.
The school didn’t waffle and didn’t wait to see how the issues worked their way through the legal system. The decision appeared to be made with the reputation of the school and the program in mind.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said the players' actions did not "reflect the spirit and character that we want our organization reflect."
There are some who believe NMSU missed an opportunity in their ruling of Tyrone Watson’s playing status, to handle difficult circumstances with a sense of empathy. Instead, it appears such a decision was made, typically, with no more than one or two people in mind
An NMSU committee didn’t wait for the courts to make their decision. They recommended his suspension for a quarter of the season was sufficient. Athletics Director McKinley Boston agreed to let Watson return to the team.
This is indicative of a university that operates in its own little world.
Who can blame Watson or the basketball coach for reinstating Watson operating under that umbrella. It's business as usual at NMSU.