What's next for Austin Seferian-Jenkins?

July, 15, 2013
7/15/13
5:30
PM ET
Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence stemming from his arrest after crashing his car in March, and he was sentenced Monday to 364 days in jail with 363 suspended.

So he'll serve a day in jail before fall camp begins on Aug. 5.

But the big question, at least for the Pac-12 blog's purposes, is what coach Steve Sarkisian will do now? Not only with Seferian-Jenkins but also receiver Kasen Williams, who had his own offseason legal scrape.

Sarkisian's two best weapons in the passing game appear to be due some sort of suspension, which would mean quarterback Keith Price could be severely hamstrung in the season-opener against Boise State, a likely preseason top-25 team.

[+] EnlargeAustin Seferian-Jenkins
Jesse Beals / Icon SMIWhat kind of suspension, if any, will Steve Sarkisian hand down to star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins?
That game, of course, will be the first in remodeled Husky Stadium. It is a huge game for Sarkisian and the Huskies as they try to take a step forward after three consecutive seven-win seasons.

There isn't anyone who doesn't view that game as huge for the program -- a tone-setter for the season.

You can imagine that Sark is just a bit unhappy that his stars players, who should be barking in the locker room at teammates about not doing these stupid things that they were doing. They've screwed him and their teammates.

Where's the leadership, gents? Call a freaking cab. Heck, call Sark. I know he'd stop whatever he was doing and come pick you up in order to keep you from driving while impaired.

The Pac-12 blog is not going to get bent about underage drinking. But getting behind the wheel at any age after drinking is not a victimless, boys-will-be-boys crime, even if good luck prevails and no one else gets hurt. Putting others at risk by drinking and driving is not a minor mistake that can be addressed by a slap on the wrist.

So the easy answer for Sarkisian is to suspend these guys for one, two or three games. Last year, Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov was suspended for just one game for a DUI. That probably would satisfy the folks who expect Sarkisian to hold his players accountable. Some would say that would send a message to the Huskies as a whole about discipline and there being nonnegotiable consequences for their poor behavior. And maybe it would.

As for the win-loss column, while the opener against the Broncos would be put at risk, the Huskies should be able to handle Illinois and Idaho State without Seferian-Jenkins and Williams.

Yet there are two alternatives: 1. Sarkisian doesn't suspend either player and says punishment was internal; 2. He opts to suspend the players for Games 2 and 3 but plays them against Boise State.

He would not be the first Pac-12 coach to go wishy-washy over an off-field incident -- recall this expediency from Oregon State's Mike Riley.

In both cases, Sarkisian would get plenty of blowback, even some from the Pac-12 blog. He'd probably get more for No. 2, which would amount to an admission that winning the Boise State game mattered more than that whole "molding young men into upstanding citizens" thing.

Yet here's the reality: If the Huskies win 10 games and earn a final top-25 ranking this fall, no one will be talking about Sarkisian going soft on Williams and Seferian-Jenkins. For better or worse, winning cures just about everything in big-time sports, including college football.

Sarkisian, whether anyone at Washington would admit it or not, was hired to win football games, not teach his players tough life lessons that guide them down the path toward high character. He can try to do both -- and my personal opinion is Sarkisian legitimately cares about his players -- but winning comes first.

I remember covering the 1999 national title game between Florida State and Virginia Tech when Bobby Bowden opted to not penalize kicker Sebastian Janikowski for violating curfew. I thought Bowden was hilarious while defending himself against a media pounding, but I found myself in the minority amid much righteous indignation.

Bowden's reasoning was simple: Playing Janikowski improved his chances to win a national title. Suspending him would hurt them.

"I like him," Bowden said at the time. "Sure, it's favoritism, but we have the international rule [Janikowski was from Poland]. This isn't a democracy, and everyone doesn't have a vote. It's communism or whatever. I made the decision."

Bowden got his second national title. Any of you remember much about the Janikowski incident?

I also remember an interesting conversation with former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti after I wrote this in 2004, ripping him for allowing Richie Incognito and Rodney Woods to become Ducks. As was Bellotti's way, which is unusual among football coaches, he was measured and objective.

To paraphrase a long-ago chat, he told me he understood my take, though he disagreed with it. He and I both had a job to do. His was winning football games and dealing with guys like me. And it's notable that the second-chance worked out for Woods (and Incognito lasted just a week with the Ducks).

Of course, decisions have ripples, and those ripples can lead to unintended consequences. Bowden and Florida State, though they played for the national title the next season, began a gradual decline that led to his awkward exit in 2009.

If Sarkisian shows leniency, it could end up loosening his grip on the locker room, where guys might believe they'll also get a pass. It could become a long-term negative for his tenure.

But is Sarkisian thinking longterm? He is under moderate pressure to produce this season or find his seat warming substantially. And he has the team to do it ... at least when you factor in having A-list guys at tight end and receiver.

It's a tough call.

But the only reason we'd still be talking about it in December is if the Huskies underachieve and fans are grousing about Sarkisian.

Ted Miller | email

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