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‘Bounty’ Loser Is Commish

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. AP photo

When appeals master and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated player suspensions in the Saints bounty case, it served as a critical judgment on how current commissioner Roger Goodell handled the situation. While some fault was found regarding player conduct, Tagliabue placed most of the blame on the New Orleans coaching staff. Essentially, he is allowing the players to escape with time served, as no mention has been made of restoring lost income.

Jonathon Vilma was the player who had received the stiffest suspension at a full year. He is planning to move forward with a defamation suit against Roger Goodell. Only former Saints linebacker Scott Fujiya was completely exonerated, so Vilma is hardly mollified.

I’m always surprised when smart people engage in bad tactics. Goodell set himself up for this by insisting on being the grand high czar of all discipline in the NFL. He was firm in wanting to identify the crimes, hand out punishments and be the sole avenue of appeal. Outside of demonstrating raw power, there was little upside in this for the commissioner. Where he had been perceived initially as a strong protector of the brand, players have come to see him as unreasonable and inflexible, and quite willing to leap to conclusions not based on solid evidence. It makes so much more sense for Goodell to have a person or committee responsible to handle all appeals to provide some feeling of due process.

Goodell then can be above the fray and gradually restore his reputation as the ultimate protector of the league image. But as of yet there has been no indication that Goodell sees the process as flawed.

It might be time for a couple of the owners to have a heart-to-heart talk their with their highest-profile employee.

* This weekend the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic swings into action, and local basketball fans should see some excellent college basketball.

Hawaii opens with Miami, which notched a big upset against Michigan State. Arizona looks like the best team in the West. San Diego State is very good, and Ole Miss is off to an excellent start. East Tennessee State, San Francisco and Indiana State round out the field.

Ten of the games will be on either ESPN U or ESPN 2, and this is the best field yet for the fledgling classic.

Following the tournament, UH will begin its inaugural Big West season with three games at home.

Judging from results elsewhere in the conference, the Big West seems wide open with preseason favorite Long Beach State facing serious early struggles.

UH will have an excellent opportunity to break out in front and looks to get improved play in the backcourt to go with its formidable front line.