Miners failed test of due diligence

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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Much has been made of Bingham High defensive star Viliseni Fauonuku's arrest for aggravated robbery.

Court records show the defensive tackle is accused of holding five teens at gunpoint and stealing two of their wallets last spring. If the charges are true, Fauonuku failed himself.

But an even worse failure was committed by the very people who are supposed to be doing what's best for him: Bingham High's administrators and Miners football coach Dave Peck.

There is no way Fauonuku should have played this season. His two-game suspension, levied after The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the story last week, now rings hollow. Fauonuku sat out the Miners' 52-7 rout of Kearns on Friday, and will miss this week's game against Copper Hills — another game in which Bingham will be a prohibitive favorite.

Peck, who has built the Bingham football program into a national power — the Miners were ranked third nationally by USA Today last week — is masterful between the lines. This year's Bingham team might just be the best high school football team the state of Utah has ever seen.

But Peck botched this one.

Based upon extended conversations with him last week, it's clear that the coach had good intentions in this matter. But the execution has been so faulty that he deserves whatever heat comes his way.

Essentially, Peck said that, he wasn't aware of the severity of the charges levied against Fauonuku. He was aware that there was an arrest, that there was an incident and that if the charges proved to be true, he would then take action.

As the leader of the Bingham football program, Peck failed the test of due diligence. It took The Tribune less than a day to obtain the police report of the events that led to Fauonuku's arrest and felony charges. The report is fully and readily available to the public.

Because he didn't seek out the information, Peck left himself open to criticism. He looks like a coach who places winning over ethical standards and discipline.

If Peck were aware of the specifics in the case, that's even worse. It sends the worst possible message to Fauonuku: It's OK to get charged with a felony, just keep the tackles and sacks coming.

Either way, Peck and Bingham Principal Tom Hicks owed Fauonuku more. This is a kid who hasn't had it easy. He was forced to deal with the sudden, tragic death of his nephew last year. It's understandable that a person his age could be prone to making a bad decision.

But aggravated robbery charges are not all right, no matter the circumstance. And Bingham needed to send that message.

But the school didn't. The two-game suspension implemented on Friday simply throws Fauonuku under the bus further.

Peck and Bingham administrators could have sent a positive message, the right message, by suspending the star player for at least the first few games of the season. They could have termed it a violation of team rules, and imposed further discipline if Fauonuku was found guilty or agreed to a plea bargain.

But they didn't. And that failure to do so is the biggest tragedy of all.

tjones@sltrib.com Twitter: @tonyaggieville