Brandon Austin’s latest mistake: using the media to try and garner sympathy

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Northwest Florida College athletics

The future of Brandon Austin, a former Providence Friar and Oregon Duck that played at a JuCo in Florida last season, will forever be clouded thanks to the way that the former top 50 recruit flamed out at his first two programs.

As a freshman, Austin was accused of sexual assault by a woman on the Providence campus, an accusation that did not lead to a criminal charge but did get him suspended for a year. A couple of months later, after Austin had arrived on the Oregon campus, he was again accused of sexual assault by a female student. This time, there was a graphic police report, one where Austin, along with then-teammates Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, didn’t deny what happened as much as they said the acts that the accuser described were consensual.

None of the three players were convicted, and Austin has still not been charged in either case.

(The Oregon accuser did file a lawsuit against the university and head coach Dana Altman, however.)

Artis and Dotson both sat out the 2014-15 season but have since found a place to continue their Division I careers. Artis will suit up for UTEP next season, while Dotson is headed to Houston.

The question deserves to be asked: Should Austin get another shot at a once-promising basketball career? Sexual assaults — particularly those on college campuses — are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Austin was not charged with a crime in either instance. Is that enough to prevent him from receiving a scholarship, continuing his basketball career and furthering his education?

It’s a touchy subject, to say the least, one that even Austin’s supporters will tell you is an uphill battle for him. The most difficult part will be playing the public relations game, trying to convince another campus that he’s not a risk to the female student body. That’s part of the reason that Austin and his advisors back in Philly gave Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports interview access last week, and boy, did that back fire.

Here are some of the things that Austin had to say in that story:

“The media painted a picture of me that I was this bad guy and I wasn’t,” Austin told CBSSports.com recently. “I’m just trying to stay strong through all of this, but it’s not easy. I’d be lying if I said it was easy.”

[…]

“I didn’t commit any crime,” Austin said of the sexual assault accusation at Providence. “I just wanted to leave and try to get a new start. I needed a change of scenery.”

[…]

“It was different than other places,” Austin said of this past year at Northwest Florida State. “It got me stronger. I think it humbled me. I know I’m better than that level. It’s just been really a humbling experience.”

What is he trying to say here? It’s the media’s fault that everyone found out about the two sexual assault allegations? That he’s the one that’s a victim here? That being “humbled” by having to play a year at a Junior College powerhouse is reason enough for us to overlook the fact that twice, within the span of five months, a woman accused Austin and a teammate of sexually assaulting her?

And it made matters worse that the author of this story decided to paint Austin as a sympathetic figure. He’s not.

If he wanted to salvage what’s left of his basketball future, Austin’s best move after the year that he had at Northwest Florida would have been to lay low, keeping his name out of the headlines for long enough that a coach at a low- or mid-major program would have been willing to roll the dice. He needs a low profile. He needs people to forget his name. He needs any coach that is recruiting him to be able to say that he’s a changed man, that he’s paid a massive price for his mistakes and that he’s only looking for a chance to move with his life outside of the public’s eye.

He’s never going to shed the label that these two accusations have put on him — I’m not sure he ever should — and fighting back against them, trying to clear his name, is only going to make him look worse.

He doesn’t need to be the focus of feature stories on national sports websites doing exactly that.

Look at the reaction to this story. Read the comments here. Read through the responses to the tweets that Rothstein sent about Austin. People haven’t forgotten.

And if this is the reaction to Austin simply saying that he wants another chance, imagine what will happen if a coach actually gives it to him?