SDSU Athletic Director Says He’ll Set Punishment For Stiegelmeier, Who Then Will Add More

South Dakota State football coach John Stiegelmeier has spent the past couple of days indicating to South Dakota media outlets that he’ll determine his punishment after getting arrested for driving under the influence.

Jackrabbits athletic director Justin Sell clarified that Friday, saying he would decide Stiegelmeier’s departmental discipline and the coach would add on his own punishment “above and beyond” the school’s.

Stiegelmeier was arrested Jan. 27 in Brookings when a police officer saw the coach’s car in a ditch at about 11:30 p.m. and, after seeing Stiegelmeier exit the vehicle, determined he was unsteady and had a hard time maintaining his balance. After conducting field sobriety tests and smelling alcohol on the coach’s breath, the officer determined Stiegelmeier was driving under the influence. The coach has a court appearance March 6.

That will determine the legal end of things.

Stiegelmeier told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper that he met with Sell shortly after the arrest and they discussed punishments, but he didn’t elaborate.

“I’m going to do something to myself, I haven’t decided what yet,” Stiegelmeier told the newpaper. “I don’t think that needs to be made public, because we don’t publicize when we punish our players. But it will be a substantial punishment.”

The coach reiterated that approach with KWSN, saying that he hadn’t met with Sell about the DUI since shortly after his arrest and that he still hadn’t decided on a punishment for himself.

“It’ll be self-imposed and drastic enough to impact myself and my family,” Stiegelmeier said.

Reached Friday afternoon, Sell said Stiegelmeier will face discipline from the school.

“John and I have discussed this topic and will sit down to finalize once his legal proceedings are complete, including if anything will be made public,” Sell said. “I will be setting the departmental consequences. As you know with John, he will take this matter seriously, take responsibility and as he stated will add his own consequences at a significant level above and beyond my expectations.”

That clears up one potential oddity about Stiegelmeier’s situation.

There are still a couple of others, at the risk of heaving opinions from 190 miles away from the city in which SDSU’s biggest football rival resides.

One of them is how long it took for SDSU to go public with Stiegelmeier’s arrest. One month, to be exact.

In an interview Thursday with KWSN-AM in Sioux Falls, Stiegelmeier said he contacted his lawyer immediately after the arrest and informed SDSU president Barry Dunn and Jackrabbits senior associate athletic director for development Scott Brown (whom Stiegelmeier called his supervisor) the next morning. That means top administration at SDSU knew of the arrest a month before it was first reported by the Brookings Register newspaper and they saw no reason to issue a press release informing the public — including citizens of South Dakota whose tax dollars support the public university and state legislators who decide on funding — that one of their most visible and highly paid employees had been arrested on a serious charge.

Yes, there is a responsibility by the media to uncover and report such things — whether it’s in Brookings, Sioux Falls, Fargo or anyplace else. Failing that, there is also a responsibility from a public institution to be forthcoming about such situations. This was not a student-athlete or chemistry professor who got into trouble. This was a 61-year-old man being paid a base salary of $240,000 a year who regularly appears on television, radio, online and in newspapers.

Stiegelmeier said his lawyer told him to not tell anybody about the arrest, other than who he’d told already. “He’s a lawyer and I’m a coach and so I honored what he said,” Stiegelmeier told KWSN.

Transparency would not be the SDSU administration’s strong suit.

Nor would being up front about whatever penalty Stiegelmeier receives. If the school disciplines him, it needs to make that public. It should want to do so, in fact, if for no other reason than to tell people it is willing to deal with problems in an open and just manner. SDSU is, again, a public university.

Stiegelmeier’s contention that his football program doesn’t make public punishments for players doesn’t exactly hold water, either. There might be many cases of in-house discipline the public never learns about, but the Jackrabbits issued a press release prior to the 2017 season saying that two players were suspended for the six games.

“In any successful family, there are rules that need to be followed and enforced. SDSU football is a successful family, and because of some rule infractions, Matt Clark and Makiah Slade have been suspended,” Stiegelmeier said in the press release.

It is also standard for players who are academically suspended to be outed.

The message to athletes if the coach’s penalty isn’t made public: Justice for thee, but not for me.

When asked, Stiegelmeier told KWSN the penalty for a Jackrabbits player who gets a DUI might be a one-game suspension or a $1,000 “office scholarship” fine. The coach called the penalties a way of mentoring athletes who get in trouble. When asked by the hosts if the punishment he was going to impose included a one-game suspension, Stiegelmeier said “that wasn’t discussed” when he met with Sell.

Under most standard coaching contracts, a DUI would be just cause for termination. North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman’s contract, for example, includes three clauses that could be cited as a reason for termination if Klieman was arrested for DUI. Dunn and Sell have already said Stiegelmeier will not lose his job.

NCAA Division I college football head coaches getting DUIs appears to be uncommon, according to an Internet search. One of the more noteworthy was the 2011 midseason arrest of Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, who received significant discipline from athletic director Mike Alden.

Pinkel was suspended for one week without pay and missed Missouri’s game against Texas Tech. Pinkel had his pay frozen for one year, received no bonus for appearing in a bowl game, wrote a letter of apology to the team’s fans and did 50 hours of community service. He also had to donate a week’s salary to the University of Missouri Wellness Center.

The school said the financial impact to Pinkel was $306,538.