Saul Smith, son of head coach Tubby Smith, will not be fired as an assistant coach following a drunken-driving arrest earlier this week and will return to the Golden Gopher sideline Nov. 13.
Smith spent the last five days on unpaid leave. Since then, he has been put back on the payroll by the university according to Athletic Director Norwood Teague, but will remain on administrative leave until mid-November, which means the Minnesota assistant coach will miss two exhibition and two regular season games, before rejoining the team.
According to a report from the Associated Press, Teague didn’t consider firing Smith and felt the punishment was suitable for a first time offender.
“Certainly we don’t always want to copy what other people do, but rarely have I seen a coach fired for something like this,” Teague said.
“We don’t take this lightly,” Teague later stated.
Smith was pulled over on a highway after leaving downtown when a state trooper saw his vehicle driving on the shoulder between 70 mph and 80 mph in a 55 mph zone. Smith’s breath test registered a 0.18 blood-alcohol concentration, more than twice the state limit of 0.08.
Teague said Smith’s behavior was embarrassing and intolerable for the university and that a repeat could result in termination of his employment. Smith also agreed to participate in alcohol counseling and education and to apologize to the team and share with the players what he’s learned.
This has been a difficult few months with the Golden Gophers program. In early September, Trevor Mbakwe pleaded guilty to a summer DWI.
The sixth-year senior’s recent trouble with the law was still not enough for Minnesota to dismiss him from the program.
Minnesota has been criticized for the way they have handled the cases with Smith and Mbakwe, but Teague – quoted in a piece by Ameila Rayno of the Star Tribune – feels the university has handled each one correctly:
“If we do our due diligent and make good decisions … I have a peace about what we’re doing, even if it gets criticized. Because there are so many layers and paths that you have to take when you think about something like this.
“We looked around the country at what others have done and their practices, and we are at least in line with them or have done even more … so I feel good about how firm we’re being … I’m sure it will get criticized, but we’ve done the right thing.”
Smith’s court date has been moved up from Dec. 3 to Nov.9. He will join the game for the game against Tennessee State on Nov. 15