Feb 28th, 2005 @ 3:52 pm | Author: By Ellen-Earle Chaffee
Behind the Scenes
It was an interesting week, to say the least. The most public part of it was the news that the Rapid City prosecutor plans to charge Viking athlete Matt Klabo with simple assault for elbowing a South Dakota Tech player during a basketball game the previous Friday. The officials ejected but did not suspend Matt for his action. However, following the core values that guide the men's basketball program, Coach DeHaan suspended Matt from what would have been the last game of his college career.

This news has been widely reported regionally and nationally. Why? No one I have talked with so far is aware of any criminal charges ever having been brought against an athlete for an incident that happened while the ball was in play. Athletes are hurt and athletes misbehave during play action, but dealing with those incidents has heretofore been left to the officials, the league, and possibly the universities involved – not the law. In this case, Tech officials turned the videotape over to the police.

I cannot say much about university response, but I cannot allow the university's relative silence to leave false impressions.

·Knowing that legal charges may be pending always generates conservatism in public statements. Other factors that make communication a significant issue include confidentiality rights, the potential to inflame rather than resolve the matter, and the potential for serious misunderstanding from small nuances of word choice or timing.

·We have given a good deal of time and attention to this matter just during the first week. Since it happened, I have spent well over 20 hours conferring, making inquiries, deliberating, and responding to others' inquiries about this matter. Athletic director Doug Peters and Coach Adam DeHaan have spent nearly every waking hour on it. Other involved campus personnel have included student affairs vice president Glen Schmalz, faculty athletic representative Dave Bass, and communications director Doug Anderson.

·The university is implementing any relevant policies and procedures governing students. Whether any process is underway and any outcomes are strictly confidential under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

·In addition, we have talked with the DAC-10 commissioner, the president of the NAIA, Rapid City police and prosecutor, Matt Klabo's attorneys, and several South Dakota Tech individuals, including the player involved and the president. The university system attorney in Bismarck has been very helpful.

·In this, as is nearly every human interaction, there are at least two sides of the story and it takes time to piece them together. The university will have more to say as more information becomes available.

For the time being, I can assure you that the university is taking the situation very seriously and dealing with it in proactive ways. VCSU does not condone the player's action, even in response to being hit himself. We are using this incident as a learning experience for all. And I can tell you this: I am enormously proud of how every VCSU representative has conducted himself since the moment after the incident occurred including Coach DeHaan and his program. True, we are human. But integrity, intelligence, and strong values are hallmarks of this university.