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NDSU football: Bison 'not getting message'

Jose Mohler1 / 2
Shamen Washington2 / 2

Shamen Washington and Jose Mohler, two high-profile players for the North Dakota State football team, were each arrested for driving under the influence about a half hour apart early Sunday morning.

The two incidents further cloud an offseason of drug and alcohol offenses for Bison players, something that has Athletic Director Gene Taylor worried.

"Three in the last three months," said Taylor, referring to the recent string of DUI arrests within the football program. "That indicates to me the message is not being listened to. Somebody in that football team is not getting the message and we need to find out the root of the problem and deliver a different message."

Washington was arrested at 1:27 a.m. on the 200 block of 25th Avenue South in Fargo, according to Fargo police. Less than two miles away, Mohler was pulled over at 2:04 a.m. on the 900 block of Second Avenue North. They are the second and third Bison players to be charged with DUI since the end of last season.

Taylor said the situation is not out of control, but he did say he was "very concerned by individual athletes that, in my opinion, find other things more important to them than football and going to school."

Taylor said the offenses are out of character for the football program under his watch, which started when he was named the athletic director in 2001.

Mohler pleaded guilty to DUI and minor in possession in Fargo Municipal Court on Monday, according to city prosecutor Scott Diamond. He was fined $500 and had a 30-day jail sentence suspended.

Washington, 23, had yet to appear in court. He was also charged with driving without liability insurance. Both Mohler and Washington were booked into Cass County Jail and posted $500 bail.

"I can tell you, the initial calls I got were extremely disappointing and disturbing," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl, who was out of town Monday. "Why two young men made such poor choices ... when I get back, I'm going to gather as much information and make appropriate action."

Mohler, a quarterback who redshirted last year, was under consideration late in the year to play as a true freshman. One of the top recruits from the 2008 signing day class, Mohler is expected to battle senior Nick Mertens for the starting job when spring football resumes at the end of the month.

Washington is a wide receiver and considered one of the best special teams players in NDSU history as a kick returner.

The Bison now face the prospect of playing their season opener at Iowa State with Mertens and incoming freshman Brock Jensen from Waupaca, Wis., as the only available quarterbacks. In February, third-string quarterback Troy Jackson pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana in Cass County District Court and was suspended for two games.

Last month, Garrett Johnson, slated to start at defensive end next fall, was charged with DUI. Bohl said recently he won't take any disciplinary action until he receives more information.

"You've got athletes making really bad decisions about overconsuming and then compounding that getting behind the wheel of a car," Taylor said. "Luckily for them, and this is going to sound bad, but it's just a DUI. They need to understand there are much more serious consequences behind the wheel of a car."

It was the second alcohol-related offense for the 18-year-old Mohler. He was cited for minor in possession and fined $175 in Fargo Municipal Court last August and it's possible the university could impose further sanctions for being a repeat offender, said Taylor.

Nona Wood, the associate director of student rights and responsibilities at NDSU, the office which handles student discipline, said a lot depends on how a student conducts themselves. All students who violate the university's code of student behavior are sent a notice of the charges.

"It's not a cookbook-type fashion where offenses are assigned particular sanctions," Wood said. "It depends on several factors. It depends on how the student responds, whether the student is remorseful and addressing the issue in an appropriate way. It depends on how cooperative they are in the hearing process and their attitude."

NDSU players have had several minor in possession charges since Bohl was named head coach in 2003. The latest episodes are the first DUIs he's had to deal with. Bohl said he did not want to comment further until he returned to Fargo.

A DUI is typically a Class B misdemeanor.

"I want to sit down and look the guys across the eye and see what's going on," Bohl said. "Like I said, it was disappointing and disturbing."