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Mike McFeely, Published April 16 2009

McFeely: Bohl needs to drop the hammer

Even the rubes are ticked off, which means North Dakota State football coach Craig Bohl is facing the biggest crisis of his successful tenure in Fargo. A gang of drinking and driving players has that effect on a coach’s career.

Kick returner Shamen Washington and backup quarterback Jose Mohler were nailed for driving under the influence last weekend, joining starting defensive end Garrett Johnson in a growing lineup of Bison boozers who climbed behind the wheel.

They join another backup QB, Troy Jackson, in the Mug Shot Brigade. Jackson was busted in February for possessing marijuana, making this Bison offseason memorable for the sheer volume of serious drug- and alcohol-related arrests. This isn’t the Rocky Hager era revisited, but it’s no longer Camelot. The King of Fargo has issues with which to deal.

For evidence, look no further than an Internet message board popular among the hardest of die-hard Bison fans. Even many of those folks – but not all, mind you – smell blood.

“I am shocked and appalled that some of you are more or less condoning this activity just because they are on the football team,” an anonymous fan opined about Washington and Mohler. “The two student athletes at the very least deserve to have scholarship dollars pulled and it wouldn’t bother me at all if they were told to go home. … If it costs us a couple of wins each year … I’ll have to accept it, but at least I know my son can look up to these guys and not have problems with it.”

Take note, coach. The community is not happy with the behavior of your players. And it is watching to see what you’re going to do about it.

It’s time for Bohl to drop the hammer.

Mohler, now with multiple booze-related citations as an

18-year-old freshman, should be on the next flight home to Southern California. Sorry, kid, but this isn’t working.

Washington and Johnson should be suspended for the first five games of the upcoming season. If that upsets either to the point they leave the team, so be it. That is their decision. It matters not if it is uncharted territory for suspensions. Bohl needs to get out the message that DUIs are not boys-will-be-boys, wink-wink matters. They are very adult crimes, and with them should come severe discipline.

One last thing: Bohl should gather his players and inform them that any future alcohol- or drug-related offense – including the seemingly trifling matter of minor in possession – will be met with immediate, indefinite suspension that will last a minimum of three games.

Is this over the top? Of course. But, sorry, we’ve entered that territory. Bohl’s previous deterrents clearly are not working. In the words of his boss, athletic director Gene Taylor, the players are not getting the message.

That means the message needs to be louder and clearer. And to get it through the players’ thick skulls, Bohl needs to use a hammer.

The community, even the rubes, is watching closely.

Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely