Let’s start with this. Terrell Brown is now a student at New Mexico State University and a player on the NMSU basketball team, and we wish him success, both on the court and in the classroom. It is our sincere desire that the experience will be a positive one for both the student and the school.
But, the decision to admit Brown when he still has felony charges pending against him has exposed inconsistencies in the NMSU Student-Athlete Code of Conduct that need to be addressed.
Brown was one of five people arrested in May 2017 on allegations that they had robbed a man and used his credit card to buy food at an In-N-Out restaurant. He was charged in California with second-degree robbery, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, conspiracy to commit a crime and identity theft — all felonies — and receiving stolen property, a misdemeanor.
Brown entered a not-guilty plea in June 2017. He has an arraignment pending on Oct. 24 in Alameda County Court, where another plea could be entered.
The NMSU Student-Athlete Code of Conduct states, “the student-athlete shall immediately be suspended indefinitely from playing privileges, practice privileges, and all other athletic functions if the student-athlete is: a) charged with a felony; or b) charged with a crime under the laws of another jurisdiction which, if committed in New Mexico, would be classified as a felony.”
NMSU officials claim the rule only applies to student-athletes enrolled at NMSU at the time of the crime.
“He was charged prior to being an athlete (at NM SU) ... I can't make up a new rule if he’s charged someplace else,” Athletics Director Mario Moccia said. “That's not in the handbook.”
That is an interpretation most favorable to the outcome they desired in this case, but it is not clear that is what was intended when the code was written. Under that interpretation, there would be no restriction at all from admitting student-athletes accused of far more serious crimes that Brown’s, as long as the charges were still pending before the court. Is that really in the best interest of the university?
After his arrest, Brown was dismissed from the San Jose State team, where he had played as a freshman. He played for a community college team last year before joining the Aggies as a walk-on this summer.
Basketball coach Chris Jans assured us that they did an extensive background check on Brown before allowing him to join the team. Jans said they are monitoring the legal process, and added that Brown had been “great throughout this whole process.”
Jans and Moccia both make the point that Brown joined the team as a walk-on. That may be true, but the university is risking a lot more here than just a scholarship, should there be another incident such as the one that was alleged in California.
We trust that won’t be the case, and the faith Jans and the university have placed in Brown will have been deserved.
But moving forward, the code of conduct needs to be clarified. NMSU officials need to decide if it is in the university’s best interests to admit student-athletes who still have felony charges pending against them. Whatever that decision is, it needs to be explained clearly in the code.