Thursday, March 3, 2011

Campus Crimes and a Flawed System

Somewhat of a follow up to Tuesday’s post about crime, college athletics and the differences in media coverage. This Sports Illustrated article by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian is about as conclusive a read on the subject of crime and college football that you will find. On the surface you’ll find the ranking of the top ranked criminal teams/bottom dwellers in the nation.

But looking deeper into Benedict and Keteyian’s work, we find national programs with little regard to the safety of the other students on campus, at best. At the forefront is last season’s leader for rosters with criminals, Pittsburgh. To fully frame this, you'll recall that Dave Wannstedt’s team was a preseason favorite to win the Big East and was ranked in the top 20 back in August. They finished 8-5 and went to the BBVA Compass Bowl to play Kentucky.

Wannstedt had 4 players arrested for violent crimes in a little over two months to start the 2010 season. And just yesterday another (now former) player was arrested for being drunk and belligerent. Fernando Diaz was tasered multiple times after being warned by a fellow teammate, that Coach Wannstedt was not there any more and new coach Todd Graham would make an example of him.

Hasn't been a good year to be a Panther from Pittsburgh. But on a larger scale, here's some of the findings of the CBS/SI study:

• Seven percent of the players in the preseason Top 25 -- 204 in all (1 of every 14) -- had been charged with or cited for a crime, including dozens of players with multiple arrests.
• Of the 277 incidents uncovered, nearly 40 percent involved serious offenses, including 56 violent crimes such as assault and battery (25 cases), domestic violence (6), aggravated assault (4), robbery (4) and sex offenses (3). In addition there were 41 charges for property crimes, including burglary and theft and larceny.
• There were more than 105 drug and alcohol offenses, including DUI, drug possession and intent to distribute cocaine.
• Race was not a major factor. In the overall sample, 48 percent of the players were black and 44.5 percent were white. Sixty percent of the players with a criminal history were black and 38 percent were white.
• In cases in which the outcome was known, players were guilty or paid some penalty in nearly 60 percent of the 277 total incidents.

While the sport as a whole tries to cover the Cam Newton loopholes from this past season, now's a good time for individual programs to evaluate how they decide which athletes are worthy of their scholarships and what plans/procedures are in place to protect the collegiate well as the student-athletes' classmates and neighboring citizens as a whole. As Groo pointed out, how does a program like Georgia Tech not have a more definitive system in place to handle DUIs in today's society?

It seems simple, check your kids' backgrounds early in the recruiting process (in the study referenced above, only two teams of the 25 regularly do this) and install procedures to punish offenders fairly and swiftly. But privacy laws and juvenile records are potential hurdles for programs wanting to reform. Or is it just a way of prolonging inaction? For all of the castigation UGA receives publicly for stolen helmets and alley emergence, our beloved institution as a whole has a well defined and strict system in place in regards to punishment for infractions. At the very least it's time for other college presidents and athletic officials to follow suit.

It's always better to work from the proactive side of things, as opposed to getting tasered.

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