KRAVITZ: More IU basketball troubles leave Crean at a crossroads

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Bob Kravitz

So you’re Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean, and you’ve just learned - again - that two of your under-aged players have been charged with possession of alcohol. This time, it’s Emmitt Holt - again - and Thomas Bryant, the ballyhooed freshman. That makes seven alcohol- or drug-related incidents in the past year-and-change, leaving the unfortunate but unmistakable impression that IU is a program careening out of control.

You’re Tom Crean. It’s happened again. What do you do? Besides crawl into the fetal position and curse the gods?

This is what you do in the short term, what he’s been doing since he returned from California a few days back and heard about the excise bust of his two players: He’s run them. He’s worked them. He’s punished them. Not just Holt and Bryant, mind you. He’s got the entire team in Cook Hall, including the newly-added transfer, Josh Newkirk, who showed up and learned that he had to run gassers as part of two players’ punishments.

There is a very strong case here for Crean to send Holt packing. We all remember what happened last year, when Holt and Devin Davis were engaging in under-aged drinking and then Holt accidentally hit Davis with his car and darned near killed him. Davis continues to work at Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana to treat his significant brain injury. Davis was later booted off the team for once again breaking team rules.

Tell me, how dumb do you have to be put yourself back in that position? Even if the alcohol wasn’t necessarily his and Bryant’s - and a source with knowledge of the situation tells me that was the case - how do you make this kind of error in judgment? (If Cris Carter were advising these players, he’d tell them they needed to find a "fall guy.")

At this point, I get the sense Crean is not inclined to run Holt out of the program, which may be a decision that comes back and bites him. At this point, I get the sense Crean believes this particular bust wasn’t what it seems to be, and is willing to give Holt - and, of course, Bryant - the benefit of the doubt. He’d better be right.

Look, I’m not suggesting this is the kidnapping of the Lindbergh Baby. Except for Hanner Perea’s DUI - a serious crime that was not, in my mind, dealt harshly enough by Crean - most of these issues have been relatively minor. Most of them have come under the heading of Stupid, Irresponsible Things We All Did In College. I’m the last man on Earth to cast judgment on young people for drinking before the age of 21 or smoking weed. Been there, done that.

But here’s what Indiana basketball players need to understand, and yes, we’ve written this about a thousand times: They’re not normal students. They’re not even like other athletes in non-revenue-producing sports who get arrested but never see their names in the newspaper. They’re not like my daughter, who, on her 21st birthday, thought it would be funny to show her parents her fake ID, the one she’d used for years to get into the bars in Bloomington (We were not amused, for the record).

When you’re a part of the IU basketball team, you have responsibilities that extend far beyond those of an average college student. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, that’s the way it is. It’s the small price you pay for getting a free college education and the chance to play basketball for one of the most storied programs in the country. Too many young men have made too many sacrifices in years past for the current group to disrespect it in this manner and reduce IU to a laughingstock.

And please don’t tell me how overzealous the excise police are, how social media makes it impossible for a college student to do anything that might be viewed as improper. Times have changed, sure, but kids need to change with it. They need to understand that people are watching. They need to understand this is not the world their parents grew up in, a world where we could get away with all manner of misbehavior without worrying about Big Brother looking over our shoulder.

They also need to know that they must start holding one another responsible for their actions. Good, healthy locker rooms police themselves. And that usually starts with the seniors. But, oh yeah, the most important senior on the team, Yogi Ferrell, has himself gotten in trouble for attempting to enter a bar with a fake ID.

Crean has a mess on his hands, and yes, this is a recording.

For now, he’ll run them until they puke, run them until they understand this kind of behavior won’t be tolerated. But then, he’s done this many, many times before - punished them, ran them, held them accountable…only to see it happen again and again and again.