ISJ EDITORIAL: It’s time we hear from Phenicie

January 13, 2019

Kevin Satterlee has not been Idaho State University’s president for even a year but he’s already encountering a crisis of the sort that seemed to regularly plague the school prior to his arrival.

The story broke last week regarding the complaint filed by Idaho State University football player Jayson Miller that his coaches were treating him unfairly, including allegedly assaulting him and sending him inappropriate text messages.

Miller filed his formal complaint with ISU in November 2018. He subsequently contacted the media about his allegations, prompting ISU to issue a lengthy press release detailing the matter. The university is already accepting some of the responsibility for what happened and it’s time the football team’s coaching staff does the same.

There are several things that could be said about this situation but first and foremost we believe after reading Miller’s complaint and ISU’s press release that on at least some levels this student athlete was mistreated.

Our take on the situation is that the coaching staff of ISU’s football team and Miller were not a good fit. But instead of sitting down and having a heart to heart with him — a conversation that could have perhaps led him to pursue his football playing elsewhere without incident — ISU’s coaching staff took a passive aggressive route.

It’s almost like they thought if they made life uncomfortable enough for him as an ISU football player that he’d eventually go to school somewhere else.

This culminated with ISU inexplicably failing to file the necessary paperwork to give Miller an extra year of eligibility after he missed most of the 2017 season due to injury.

ISU says that was definitely a big mistake on its part and has apologized to Miller.

Even the dozens of ISU football players who gathered Wednesday to voice their support for their embattled coaches agree that Miller deserves another year of eligibility to play football at ISU or somewhere else.

Then there’s the ill-fated halftime at Cal Poly this past November, when ISU head football coach Rob Phenicie is accused of twice hammer punching Miller on the shoulder pads.

Miller says that after Phenicie hammer punched him once he told the coach that he didn’t appreciate the physical contact.

So the coach hammer punched him again, according to Miller’s complaint.

That sort of behavior coming from Phenicie tells us that there’s some immature leadership guiding this team, starting with the head coach himself. Making matters worse is that Miller says when he approached Phenicie again about the hammer punching a week later, rather than apologizing Phenicie told Miller he should go to school somewhere else.

Miller has reported the hammer punching incident to Cal Poly police, who are investigating.

ISU is also investigating and has already removed one of Phenicie’s assistant coaches, Jay Staggs, because of inappropriate text messages he allegedly was sending to Miller and other players.

ISU says the text messages had racial and gender-based themes and found them so unacceptable that it sent Staggs packing almost immediately.

Phenicie’s fate seems to be hinging on what conclusions Cal Poly police and ISU draw in their separate investigations.

This latest scandal to rock a university that’s no stranger to them could not have arrived at a worse time for ISU.

National college athlete signing day is less than a month away and one has to wonder if ISU is going to lose some potential players because of the national media coverage being heaped on the school regarding Miller’s complaint.

The entire episode might also blemish the record of Pauline Thiros, ISU’s acting athletic director who has applied to be the school’s permanent AD.

As for Satterlee, he seems fully aware of the serious nature of this controversy and our bet is that he’s correctly more concerned about the well-being of ISU’s brand than he is regarding what happens to his football team.

The Bengals are coming off a season that showed a lot of promise and there were high expectations for 2019.

Miller’s complaint changes that.

A lot of people like Phenicie in our community and would be sorry to see him go.

Our advice to the coach — who thus far has not commented about the controversy that he’s largely responsible for creating — is to do the right thing.

A public apology to Miller would go a long way toward healing this wound.

ISU has already removed one assistant coach and apologized to Miller for screwing up his eligibility.

Our feeling is that blame for this mess sits with Phenicie, the leader of the football team, and he needs to start cleaning it up.

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