UPDATE (3/5): As it was reported today, Jordan Johnson has been reinstated to the Grizzly football program. UM's Athletic Conduct Team heard Johnson's appeal and allowed the quarterback to return to full participation. University president Royce Engstrom approved the reinstatement.
I would like to make a clarification to a below paragraph in this blog entry. Johnson never made a blanket admission that he is "not a good person." That particular statement was pulled from a videotaped interview with Missoula Police Detectives Connie Brueckner and Dean Chrestenson, and was misquoted after it was played for the jury during the trial.
The actual quote (recorded during the interview) was in response to a question about how Johnson felt following his physical encounter with the accuser: "That we just had sex. Maybe I'm not a good person for not thinking the sex was that big of a deal, but I honestly just don't ... Nothing felt weird. Everything was fine."
To access the video excerpt, click here.
Whether it's too early to talk about or not, the question is on everyone's mind. We already know Jordan Johnson wants to return to the Griz football team. It’s just a matter of if he will.
Johnson, of course, was acquitted of a rape charge Friday in Missoula. The high-profile trial lasted 12 days, and the jury returned a not-guilty verdict after about two hours of deliberations.
As Missoulian sportswriter Fritz Neighbor wrote following the trial, Johnson must appeal to the university to return to the football team. When Johnson was officially charged last July, he was indefinitely suspended from the football team. That suspension must be reversed for him to return.
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If Johnson is reinstated -- provided he doesn't take any legal action of his own -- it will probably mean the university's controversial decision to expel him last spring will disappear in the wind.
After Johnson was initially accused of wrongdoing, he was voted expelled last May by a 7-0 university student-conduct court, which ruled Johnson guilty of misconduct based on a "preponderance of evidence." In turn, Johnson and his legal team tried to get that vote reversed during an attempted injunction last summer, but the request was denied because the vote had yet to be decided on by the Board of Regents.
As a result of those proceedings, a judge unsealed pages and pages of court documents detailing Johnson's expulsion. After months of speculation, we finally knew, despite university denials, that Johnson was indeed voted expelled. But what happens to that decision now that he's been found not guilty in a criminal court of law?
It seemed last spring that UM administrators -- especially president Royce Engstrom and dean of students Charles Couture -- were bent on kicking Johnson out of school. And that aim also probably had much to do with football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O'Day losing their jobs simply because they stood behind the quarterback.
One year later, Couture, who sent Johnson his expulsion letter, has retired and is out of the picture. But Engstrom is on record saying the the athletic conduct team will listen to Johnson's appeal and make a decision. "And we’ll attend to that as quickly as we can, if that’s what Jordan wishes,” Engstrom said.
It's a much different tune from last spring, isn't it?
During his trial, Johnson (oddly) testified, "I admit I'm not a good person." And you can take that statement any way you want. But he's always been considered a good quarterback. And the Grizzlies appear poised to get him back.