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Kevin Schnepf, Published September 04 2012

Schnepf: Mr. Distraction is back for Bison to deal with

Fargo - Distractions are a coach’s nightmare. They can lead to disruptions and disturbances that can potentially create disorder.

North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl has been there, done that. It was only three years ago when a Best Buy theft ring involving two of his players and a drug delivery charge involving another player were partly to blame for a 3-8 season.

Bohl has survived the last two seasons without any distractions – in part explaining a playoff appearance in 2010 and last year’s national championship.

But just when the Bison faithful thought everything was going honky-dory for their top-ranked team, Mr. Distraction reared his ugly head once again on Tuesday.

Charges were filed against eight current Bison football players for their connection with voter fraud. It’s hardly an offense you would connect with athletes.

Nonetheless, the names usually listed in a Game Day program were spelled out in a news release issued by the North Dakota attorney general’s office.

One of those names is All-American cornerback Marcus Williams. Another is starting running back Sam Ojuri.

Does the fact that four of these players are starters and three others are No. 2 backups factor into NDSU’s decision to delay any disciplinarian action? There will be a lot of people who think so, especially with a big showdown with Colorado State scheduled for Saturday night.

“It has nothing to do with them being star players,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said during a Tuesday news conference, in which he announced his players will remain on the team until the legal process takes its course. “We feel every person deserves their day in court.”

Then why was senior Brandon Jemison suspended from the team last month before his day in court? There will be some, like Jemison’s dad, who think Bohl should have suspended these eight players for a Class A misdemeanor just like Jemison.

“It’s a little bit upsetting knowing that these guys can still be on the team,” said Chad Desjarlais, Jemison’s dad. “If you are going to say one Class A misdemeanor is more severe than the other, that’s basically going against what the law says.”

According to the law, they are both similar charges with a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment, a fine of $2,000 or both. The difference is Jemison was charged with indecent exposure.

“Look what (Jemison) was charged with compared to this,” NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said. “Look what he was charged with.”

Based on public perception, copying names from a phone book onto petitions may seem far less severe than exposing yourself to a young female.

Neither case is as severe as the above-mentioned distractions Bohl dealt with less than three years ago.

For their involvement in the Best Buy theft ring in 2010, Bison football players Garrett Johnson and Greg Reid were charged with a Class C felony, with maximum punishment of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For possessing enough marijuana with intent to sell it in 2009, Bison wide receiver Jordan Schultenhover was charged with a Class B felony, with a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and $10,000.

In each case, Bohl suspended those players before their day in court.

“This (Tuesday’s charges) doesn’t rise anywhere near that level,” said Taylor, emphasizing the philosophy that anything violent, drug or sexual in nature will be dealt with more harshly. “So in terms of Craig’s consistency of handling these disciplinary actions, it’s very consistent with what he’s done over the course of time that he’s been here.”

Whether you agree with how he dealt with this or not, Bohl will now be dealing with Mr. Distraction.

Supporters of the two initiatives that were taken off the ballot because of the players’ actions may no longer be contributing to Bison athletics. You can bet Colorado State fans will try to make this an issue during Saturday night’s game. There will be those grumbling that by the time these players go to court, the season will be over.

Will all of this disrupt NDSU’s bid for a second straight national title? We’ll see if the Bison are playing again in Frisco next January, about the time these players could possibly get their day in court.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com