Jamaal Bass should never play another college football game.
The freshman linebacker for Northern Illinois was recently indicted in Ohio for felonious assault. This indictment stems from a pre-game incident that happened when the Huskies squared off with the Toledo Rockets last November in the Glass Bowl.
When Northern Illinois was running out on the field the Toledo band was leaving the field after its pre-game show. Bass decided to run over a couple of band members, which he did with a strong sense of purpose.
Reports indicate Bass faces a maximum sentence of eight years in prison if convicted of felonious assault.
Here is video if the incident. Pay close attention to No. 6 at the bottom-right of the screen.
Bass planted both feet and jumped, shoulder-first, into the band member's head. This was not an accident, it was not "boys being boys" or "just one of those things." This was assault. It was bullying. It was a well-conditioned young man, fully-padded, using his shoulder pads to assault another young man that was just doing his thing to represent his school.
The band member ended up with a concussion and Bass a two-game suspension. NIU coach Dave Doeren also apologized to the NIU band and the university, saying his program was "embarrassed." Sorry, Dave, that's not going to cut it. Why not? Here is your answer:
"As the legal proceedings in Toledo involving NIU football player Jamaal Bass are ongoing, we will reserve any comment until that process is complete," Northern Illinois said in a statement. "Jamaal is currently enrolled at Northern Illinois and his status with the football program has not changed."
That's right, his status has not changed. I wonder what status they are talking about...is it his status as a thug? Maybe his status as a probable felon? How about his status as a bully?
We know they are simply talking about his status as a football player, but does NIU expect this to all drop down the memory hole?
Here was a kid, a member of the marching band, getting leveled on national television and in front of a packed house. He was doing what he loves to do and representing his school in the process, and for his efforts he ended up concussed.
We all remember high school where, in most cases, marching band members were kind of the social outcasts. At my high school, Elyria Catholic, joining the marching band was a form of social suicide...it wasn't something you did if you wanted to run with the popular circles.
Looking back at this, 25 years later, it's amazing how stupid and short-sighted we were in high school. The band members weren't actively picked on...it was more like they were ignored; they really didn't matter. How sad is that when you really think about it?
At our 20th reunion a few years ago it was great to see everyone from my graduating class getting along. Here we were, a bunch of 40-somethings with families, careers and memories...and I'm sure some of those memories weren't very pleasant for some of my classmates that were also in the marching band. It had me wondering how many people there, people who didn't pay very much attention to the band members back in 1987, wondered if they should apologize for their ignorance two decades prior.
Here was a kid at UT, probably very proud of his place with the Marching Rockets, getting the same kind of crap he probably got in high school. With family and friends watching it all unfold either live or on television.
Bass is also still a kid, obviously. His maturity level has to be non-existent to do what he did, but that does not excuse him from responsibility for his actions.
Why did Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shoot up Columbine High School? Why did T.J. Lane shoot up the cafeteria at Chardon High School? What leads to a lot of school violence?
Here is the finding of a recent study done by bullyingstatistics.org:
New bullying statistics for 2010 revealed about one in seven students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade is either a bully or has been a victim of bullying. Sometimes a teen or child who has been bullied eventually becomes the bully as a way to retaliate. In fact, revenge for bullying is one of the strongest motivations for school shootings, according to recent bullying statistics. A reported 61 percent of students said they believe students shoot others at school because they have been victims of physical violence at home or at school. This is a true indicator that bullying can occur in all forms by other students, children, teens as well as adults. According to various bullying studies, many teens and children act out violently on their peers through acts of bullying because they are abused at home.
Bullying is a huge problem in our schools, and people like Jamaal Bass, college football players that kids look up to, should strive to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Bass should not play football for Northern Illinois again or at least until he goes through significant counseling and undertakes a radical change in attitude. Bass is a bully and will not change until someone stands up to him.
There is a personal side to this for yours truly. My wife, the mother of my two wonderful sons, was in the marching band at Slippery Rock University. She is the first one to admit being a member of the marching band in high school (she went to high school in Western Pennsylvania) didn't exactly enhance her social life in school.
But she was dedicated to her flute and her music. She spent hours upon hours practicing in high school and in college. When other kids were out partying at Slippery Rock, she could probably be found in one of the practice rooms at Swope Hall. She sacrificed quite a bit, but had a goal in mind.
Eventually she ended up being accepted and performing at a master class at Juilliard in New York City as well as getting her master's degree paid for, with a stipend, at Kent State. And if she was a "band geek," she is the best-looking one I have ever seen.
That's why what Bass did is so offensive. Not everyone can play college football. Not many people have the physical ability to go through the conditioning, practice and game day grind that college football players must embrace. For some, being in the marching band, being in the theatre department or joining a fraternity or sorority are their chosen paths for the college experience. And they deserve everyone's respect.
Some idiot like Jamaal Bass, plowing over a member of the Toledo band because he was a convenient and available target, deserves nothing but scorn. I noticed that the NIU head coach apologized...what I have never read or seen reported was that Bass had done the same. That, in my opinion, shows exactly how sorry he actually is.
It wouldn't be a good thing if Bass is found guilty and ends up going to prison. You hate to see that happen to any young kid who, obviously, is lacking in the brains department. However, he should lose his scholarship or receive a punishment that actually has some teeth. He can't claim he made a mistake and that it was a momentary lapse in judgment... if this were the case Bass would be front and center right now, talking about how sorry he is that he did something this stupid.
College is all about learning, and part of the lesson of college is accountability for your own actions. No one is there, forcing you to wake up and go to class. Either you do or you don't. No one forces you to study for a huge exam. Either you do or you don't. No one is there telling you not to bully someone. Either you do or you don't. But for each action there is a consequence.
Don't go to class and you will probably struggle to pass the course. Don't study for the exam and you will probably fail it. Bully a band member by plowing him over and, well, so far not much has resulted. Two games on the sidelines is hardly going to teach any serious lesson. We'll find out really soon, assuming Bass is convicted, if Dave Doeren is just a football coach or if he also is an educator that holds his players accountable for their mistakes.