College Football: Crime and...Non-Punishment?

Ed JackoCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2008

Ohio State Defensive Back Charged with Assault

San Jose State Linebacker Sentenced for Misdemeanor Battery Charge

Tennessee Punter Pleads Guilty to Drunk Driving

Seven Georgia Players Arrested Since End of 2007 Season

Louisville Receiver Dismissed After Second Arrest

This is just a sampling of the headlines I noticed while perusing the online sports sites in search of my daily fix of college football news.  Did I say sports sites?  Looks more like the daily crime blotter of your local morning paper.

I’m not naïve. I understand that student athletes are just like usthey make mistakes, they succumb to peer pressure, and they occasionally do something so far out of the accepted behavior of society that it warrants arrest.

But there is still that one major difference that separates them from us—they are student athletes.  Apparently, that fact is enough to make some of them feel that they are entitled to privileges the rest of the student body—and the rest of the country, for that matter—are not.

Before anyone accuses me of unfairly targeting student athletes, let’s look at some statistics.  In a study which covered three years, and 107 colleges and universities participating at all levels of college athletics, one number stands out: 19.

Although male student athletes accounted for only three percent of the population at the included institutes, they were accused in 19 percent of the sexual assaults that took place on campus—and yes, I said accused, not convicted.

That leads us to the next interesting, if not repulsive, statistic.  In the general population, 80 percent of those accused of sexual assault are convicted.  Of the professional and college athletes put on trial for the same offense, the rate of conviction drops to 38 percent.

While the lion’s share of the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of those who commit the crimes, they are by no means the only responsible parties.

A system created on the belief that the ends justify the means has led to a breakdown in morality and blurred the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior at far too many campuses.

Just win, baby!  Just win.

There was a time when a number of improprieties committed by a potential college athlete during his high school career were enough to put an end to his/her recruitment.

Not any more.

Now coaches gladly accept such societal malcontents with open arms, stating, “I just want to give this fine young man a second chance.”

Problem is, it’s usually the third, or fourth, or fifth chance.  Of course, if you lean over far enough, and cup your hand around your ear just right, you may also hear, “I don’t give a crap how many convenience stores this kid knocked over, as long as I get my damned National Championship out of him.”

One of the most appalling cases of student athlete coddling involved a football player at Nebraska back in the nineties, Christian Peter.

His All-American Honorable Mention senior season ended with some pretty amazing statistics—124 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, eight arrests, and four convictions, the most serious for sexual assault.  Bravo!

But Peter’s stomach-churning behavior is perhaps not the most egregious part of this story.  Nebraska’s response to his antics is even better—a one-game suspension.

That game?  An exhibition prior to the 1993 season.

But I would be remiss if I did not add one more tidbit to the story.  Christian Peter was honored by Nebraska as a member of their 2006 Hall of Fame class.

Reaching for that barf bag yet?  Good.  You should be.

I know that coaches will continue to recruit athletes with questionable pasts.  I realize that winning teams bring an enormous amount of exposure to a University.

I also know this: High school athletes who dream that their talent will take them to a professional career loaded with cash and devoid of responsibility must also understand some stark truths.

One in 17 high school football players will go on to play in college.  One in 50 college players will get drafted by the pros.

That means that eight high school football players out of 10,000, less than one tenth of one percent, will eventually hear their name called on draft day.

Those players need to be told that that number, as ridiculously small as it is, drops to zero if their behavior is less than acceptable.