Swing and Miss: FIU Lets Wittels Play Despite Rape Arrest

FIU won't suspend Wittels despite rape arrest

By Todd Wright
|  Thursday, Feb 17, 2011  |  Updated 7:38 AM EDT
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Garrett Wittels will  not be suspended from FIU's baseball team, it was announced Wednesday at a tense press conference at the school.

Garrett Wittels will not be suspended from FIU's baseball team, it was announced Wednesday at a tense press conference at the school.

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Wittels Talks Baseball, Not Rape

FIU officials will let Garrett Wittels go after the 58-game NCAA hit streak mark despite his arrest for allegedly raping two 17-year-old girls in the Bahamas.

FIU Baseball Star Arrested

Garrett Wittels was arrested in the Bahamas accused of rape.
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The number that matters at Florida International University seems to be 58, not 17.

The most popular and recognizable athlete at the university, Garrett Wittels, won't miss any time on the baseball diamond this season despite facing serious allegations that he took a part in raping two 17-year-old girls in the Bahamas.

Wittels is chasing the NCAA record for consecutive games with a hit and the media attention that he brought the school last year propelled the small university into the spotlight.

But despite countless examples of other schools taking the high road and disciplining a player who has been arrested (search the entire University of Florida football team), FIU has decided rape allegations don't quite meet the criteria for them to get involved.

FYI: Students caught smoking on campus could get them disciplined.

Officials said Wednesday they will let the courts handle the Wittels case and that any media member who asked about it on media day would have their credentials pulled for the season, a threat they later rescinded.

When reports hit that Wittels was allegedly involved in a rape in late December, the same sports outlets that were covering the streak had FIU's name plastered next to the word "rape."

The school doesn't have a policy on suspending players for being arrested, but a gander at any sports section in the country on any given day would have provided a road map on how to deal with Wittels.

Even swimmers accused of stealing jackets are forced to stay out of the water before any trial.

Now, FIU has set itself up for a possibly colossal controversy.

What if Wittels wasn't two games away from breaking Robin Ventura's mark of 58 games? What if Wittels were black? Would school officials be so lenient in their discipline?

FIU wasn't in 2004, when it suspended three black football players after they were arrested. Those players were allegedly involved in a fight that led to one of the players shooting a gun.

At the time, then athletic director Rick Mello released this statement.

"Obviously these allegations are very serious and we're extremely disappointed," it read. "Right now, we are doing everything we can to find out as many facts as we possibly can. Understand that we treat these matters very seriously and we will take appropriate action in accordance with university policy."

Certainly the aforementioned charges were serious, but so are those of rape.

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