Wait, why is Austin Seferian-Jenkins playing college football?

Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a tight end for the Washington Huskies, and a pretty darn good one. He was voted a preseason All-American, and in Washington’s only game thus far, against Boise State, Seferian-Jenkins had zero catches for zero yards because he was serving a one-game suspension for drunken driving.

You read that right. Seferian-Jenkins got drunk, drove, ran his car into something, blew twice the legal limit, which is an irrelevant figure because he’s only 20, served one day in jail, took the minimum fine of $625 and missed a single game of action.

The NCAA wasn’t even the organization that dropped the hammer on Seferian-Jenkins. Its inaction left the burden on Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, who was lauded for holding his player accountable after levying the token punishment.

The Seattle Times published an editorial before the suspension was handed down, asking Sarskian to suspend who many consider to be Washington’s most-heralded player for one game. Presumably this would send some sort of message to children buying his jersey — that this kind of behavior was unacceptable.

But we’re talking about one game — why is it OK to be this light about drunken driving?

Drunken driving is just about the only way you can kill yourself, your best friend and innocent people you’ve never met without trying and yet have it be totally your fault. Drunken driving can be harmless, but the punishment exists for what can potentially happen. Seferian-Jenkins put his life, and the life of every other driver on the road that night, at risk.

And don’t give me that crap about him being 20 years old and 20-year-olds making mistakes. That’s discriminating against young people. We should be held more accountable than that.

The Seattle Times editorial said by “most accounts,” Seferian-Jenkins is a good kid who made a big mistake. Why does it matter if he’s a good kid? It is no consolation to anyone if the person that is intoxicated hits their loved one with an automobile is nice under normal circumstances. Or if they are sorry. Or if they learn something from it that rest of us already know.

Sarkisian shouldn’t have to tell a player he recruited that he can’t play because of a drunken driving conviction. That player should know — like the rest of us do — the discipline he stands to face the moment he sees the flashing red and blue lights. This should be an NCAA policy. And Austin Seferian-Jenkins should not be playing this season.

Seferian-Jenkins says he’s ready to move on from the incident, and the team is ready to move on, and that he hopes the fans will be able to move on. What he’s ignoring, blatantly and borderline disrespectfully, is that for regular humans who get convicted of drunken driving in America, “moving on” usually means serving jail time, being hindered in finding future employment, and being denied the benefit of the doubt for any future arrests. Forget catching touchdowns.

My qualm isn’t personally with Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Alabama cornerback Geno Smith was arrested for a DUI, and got a similar one-game penalty from Nick Saban. Recently graduated Illinois safety Ashante Williams got busted for driving while intoxicated in his time here. Williams was suspended from the program for two months, a span that included three games.

My qualm is with drunken driving, and the tolerance of it by college football programs, and the NCAA’s ignorance to it. One game is not an effective message. If the penalty was a season on the bench, then college players would have a heavier risk to weigh when deciding whether they should chance getting behind the wheel.

This will become an issue eventually. We can chalk it up to a young person’s mistake, or we can address it now in hopes of preventing a tragedy from forcing our hand.

Eliot is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EliotTweet.