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Teel Time: Should Virginia Tech reinstate Holmes to football team after assault conviction?

Even when upbeat, after a big win or lively practice, Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer often strikes a sober tone, urging players to avoid any situation that could breed trouble.

One misstep, Beamer cautions, can ruin a career and/or lives.

The Hokies’ spring practices in March and April were such a sanguine time. Personnel questions notwithstanding, Beamer genuinely believed “we got as much out of (the spring) as we possibly could.”

Imagine his disappointment, then, in sophomore tailback Michael Holmes.

The night of the spring game, at approximately 1:50 a.m., Blacksburg police were summoned to College Ave., where a fight had transpired outside a bar. They later charged Holmes with two counts of simple assault and one of malicious wounding, the latter a felony.

School policy mandates an indefinite team suspension for athletes charged with a felony, dismissal for a conviction.

Beamer’s take four days after Holmes’ arrest: “You certainly don’t get yourself put in those situations. I think we need to let it play out. I think there’s definitely two sides to the story on this one.”

Thursday the Holmes case played out in Montgomery County District Court, where Holmes was convicted on a reduced charge of misdemeanor assault and battery, with the two simple assault charges dismissed.

The ruling gives Beamer and athletic director Jim Weaver — both are vacationing this week — the option of reinstating Holmes.

I think that should and will happen. The question is timing. Should Holmes miss any playing time? If so, how much?

From all accounts, Holmes fought that night out of self-defense. But outside the courthouse Thursday, he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mike Barber that he went too far, an admission seconded by the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“I think I defended myself,” Holmes told Barber, “but I did it too much. I have to suffer the consequences. I have to pay for my actions.”

Holmes was convicted of assaulting a man, Antoine Barnes, whose relatives say sustained a broken cheek, black eye and bruised ribs. The court ordered Holmes to pay Barnes $13,403 in restitution.

All of which puts Beamer and Weaver in a gray area. Should Holmes’ conceded poor judgment cost him, say, the season-opener against Alabama? More? Less?

The answer likely hinges on Holmes’ first two years in the program — he redshirted in 2011. To my knowledge, Holmes hasn’t created any previous trouble, but Beamer, Weaver and the coaching staff are far more qualified to determine whether he deserves the “good kid who made a mistake” label that coaches often use.

No cases are identical, but last year Weaver waited two months after court proceedings before reinstating kicker Cody Journell to the team. Journell had been charged with felony breaking and entering — he and two companions were retrieving stolen marijuana — but pleaded down to a misdemeanor.

The only game Journell missed was the January 2012 Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan shortly after his arrest, that mandated by school policy.

Journell’s actions sound more disreputable than Holmes’, but again, Weaver and Beamer have access to more information than I do.

Holmes isn’t as vital to the Hokies as Journell, a clutch kicker who last season made game-winning field goals against Georgia Tech and Virginia, plus a field goal to force overtime at Boston College. Holmes rushed for a modest 280 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, averaging 4.0 yards per carry, and was competing with fellow sophomore J.C. Coleman and redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds atop the depth chart.

I’d have docked Journell — really, trying to fetch stolen pot? — for stupidity. But Holmes appears to have been drawn into a fight, a serious but understandable mistake, and absent additional revelations I expect him to be in uniform Aug. 31 against Alabama.  

I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP

Here’s a link to my Daily Press print columns.

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