- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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As you likely already know, on Sunday night Temple guard Khalif Wyatt was arrested on charges of engaging in prostitution and resisting arrest in Atlantic City, N.J., after he was caught soliciting prostitution from a female undercover police officer. Wyatt was one of seven men and 16 women arrested in a two-day prostitution sting in Atlantic City, where he was celebrating his 21st birthday.
On Monday night, Wyatt released a statement expressing his embarrassment and remorse, promising to cooperate with authorities throughout the remainder of his ordeal:
"I apologize to my family, teammates, coaches and Temple University for the embarrassment that I have caused. I was in Atlantic City this past weekend celebrating my 21st birthday with friends and exercised very poor judgment by allowing myself and my friends to be put in a compromising situation. I intend to cooperate with the authorities during their investigation and the legal process."
From a personal standpoint, there are few more humiliating ways to be arrested. Don't get me wrong: Soliciting prostitution is really dumb. (Duh.) And when you're a very good basketball player for Temple University, your legal discomfiture is always going to be public. Even so, I can't help but feel for Wyatt a little bit here. It was his 21st birthday. Does it excuse the decision-making? Of course not. But on the patented Brennan Bad Behavior Reaction Scale -- which runs from "ha, whoops!" to "morally horrified" -- I'd say it falls far closer to the former than the latter.
Of course, it doesn't really matter what I think. For Wyatt's basketball sake, it matters what Temple thinks. Coach Fran Dunphy & Co. aren't commenting publicly yet -- "We have just become aware of the charges and are still gathering information at this point," Temple senior associate athletic director for communications Larry Dougherty said in a statement Monday night -- and much of their impression will no doubt be colored by what happens when Wyatt appears in front of a judge Friday in Atlantic City municipal court.
Even if Wyatt's eventual legal punishment is minimal (the likely outcome, given the "disorderly persons" statutes governing petty offenses in New Jersey), Dunphy will have a difficult decision to make. This is the first time Wyatt has encountered actual legal trouble, but it's not the first time he's run afoul of his own coach. In the 2011-12 season, Wyatt was benched three separate times for showing up late to film study, a study hall and a team meeting, respectively. Despite those issues, Wyatt was fourth in the A-10 in points per game with 17.1, and he earned second-team All-Atlantic-10 distinctions in the process.
Which is why Dunphy's eventual decision may not be as straightforward as a simple early-season suspension. That has often been the de facto punishment for coaches seeking to discipline legally wayward players in recent years. (See: "Willis, Tre'Von" and "Lucious, Korie") It may be the most appropriate here. But will Dunphy be eager to show he isn't taking Wyatt's mistake lightly?
Combined this latest incident with Wyatt's history -- a relatively benign history, but a history nonetheless -- of minor in-house violations, and perhaps Dunphy will seek to come down harder on the player expected to be his star in 2012-13. Or will Wyatt's presence in the lineup prove too valuable to make the subject of a statement on responsibility and propriety? How much will the optics matter? Where will the line be drawn?
Whatever happens from here -- and again, there is still a legal process to go through -- we do know this: Wyatt's ill-advised birthday celebration has put his head coach, teammates and program in a very difficult spot.
As you likely already know, on Sunday night Temple guard Khalif Wyatt was arrested on charges of engaging in prostitution and resisting arrest in Atlantic City, N.