To have an emotional reaction to the news surrounding Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura makes one human.
To be sure of what Arizona should do with de Laura, one way or another, makes one wrong.
Ever since the story broke late Wednesday regarding a sexual assault case from 2018 that involved de Laura and a high school teammate the hot takes have been flying all over the place, but what’s lacking from the majority of them is one, crucial thing:
The facts. Or, at least, all of them.
Here’s what we know: de Laura is accused of, along with a high school teammate who is now at Wisconsin, doing something absolutely heinous. The civil suit, which was settled, tells a horrific story and, if that’s exactly what happened, would seem to make Arizona’s decision clear.
Arizona cannot be a place where people who committed violent acts of sexual assault can find a home.
With that said, here’s what we don’t know: Any other side of the story, along with much in the way of details regarding the alleged guilty plea or settlement. The civil complaint says de Laura and Kamo’i Latu were required to write a letter of apology to the accuser, for whatever that’s worth, and it appears neither served any time in jail.
On Friday, Arizona released a statement:
“In the fall of 2022 after a civil complaint was filed against football student-athlete Jayden de Laura, the University of Arizona first became aware of a 2018 incident involving de Laura which occurred while he was in high school in Hawaii. After reviewing the matter, the determination was made to allow de Laura to continue as a student-athlete and his status remains unchanged.”
So that settles it.
Or does it?
It’s highly likely Arizona does not have enough information to do anything else and, rather than make a life-altering decision due to public pressure, is standing with its student athlete.
That could be seen as commendable, but one must wonder if the same statement would have been released on behalf of, say, a fifth-string safety as opposed to QB1.
Or, framed another way, if de Laura was not a team captain and key reason for why the program is expected to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2017, do you think he’d still be on the roster?
Unfortunately and disturbingly, we all probably know the answer to that question.
Regardless, Arizona’s statement will surely not be the end of the story. Absent some exculpatory evidence being released on behalf of de Laura, there are many who will see him not as an electrifying quarterback leading a high-powered offense, but instead as someone who is accused of a sex crime.
The questions will be asked by reporters and the taunts will be shouted by fans. Head coach Jedd Fisch and the athletic department will have to answer for why they did not move on last year when they learned of the allegations.
Will de Laura taking the field each week, and receiving every snap, dampen the positivity and optimism that has been building over the last couple years? Will it take some of the luster off of what Fisch has done, him entrusting his program to a player who was accused of such a thing?
Will a player whose emotions have gotten the best of him at times be able to play well with this cloud hanging over him?
These are all questions that will be asked, but in truth football should be the last thing thought about here, if it is even considered at all.
Because while Arizona is a better team with de Laura at the helm and is poised for a great season, some things are bigger than the sport. At least, they should be.
But Arizona’s decision is not about that. Or, maybe it is. Perhaps, at least, in part. Probably at least.
We just don’t know, at least not with any degree of certainty.
If you are confident Arizona’s decision has been made for all the wrong reasons and that de Laura is absolutely guilty of the crime in question, you are more than welcome to let the school know about it. You can avoid the games, refuse to spend money and effectively boycott. It would be well within your rights, and it would be difficult to argue against the position.
At the same time, you should do so knowing that there is a possibility you could be wrong about de Laura.
That’s the hazy area the school seems to be living in. Either they know enough to deem him worthy of still being a student-athlete at the University of Arizona or they don’t know enough to make the weighty decision that would lead to him no longer being one.
The result would be the same either way, which leads us to where we are now.
Jayden de Laura is still with the Arizona Wildcats, and absent something dramatic or unforeseen over the next few months he will be the team’s starting quarterback when it takes the field Sept. 2 against NAU.
Right or wrong, it’s something we can be certain of.