Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Players Stain Police Blotter, NCAA’s Rep

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If another player gets arrested in big time college football, does anyone care?

As another offseason comes to a close, it is time that college football fans ponder these existential questions, and it is time the NCAA starts to examine the crime epidemic that has gripped the sport.

For years, college football players – any big time college athlete for that matter, but more so football players – have stretched the limits of the law; but in recent years, these “student-athletes” have moved past stretching the law to breaking it in the most blatant ways.

It has become so common for football players to have run-ins with police that, in 2006, the popular college football web site started the Fulmer Cup. Named after Tennessee Head Coach Philip Fulmer and his Jerry Tarkanian-esque discipline, the Fulmer Cup is a competition which gives points to teams for different crimes committed by players. Five points are allotted for murder, four for rape or grand larceny, three points for driving under the influence and so on.

Since the Cup was started, Alabama, one of the most delinquent programs in the nation, has led the way with 36 points – including an astounding 20 points this year from cocaine-trafficking linebacker Jimmy Johns.

“This type of behavior obviously will not be tolerated, and he is no longer a part of our program,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban said in a statement, admitting that this problem at least was once a part of his program.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like this type of behavior is leaving many other programs any time soon.

This offseason, 44 teams have fell victim to the criminal bug. At Penn State, just a year removed from the suspension of two players – including starting safety Anthony Scirrotto for a break-in and assault at a party last year (because it’s so hard for Penn State football players to find parties to go to) – two players have been dismissed from the team and a media mess worse than the Monica Lewinsky scandal has since ensued. The Nittany Lions have followed up last year’s multiple arrest performance with two DUIs, a disorderly conduct and a terroristic knife threat. This string of arrests was followed by an Outside the Lines report on the program which featured Joe Paterno ranting that it was a “witch hunt” against his program.

But the statements of Joe Paterno, who was alive during the Salem witch trials, could not be further from the truth. There isn’t a witch hunt going on, but there should be.

The NCAA – the institution responsible for ensuring that coaches cannot send text messages to recruits – does not have any jurisdiction when it comes to criminal conduct of players. Therefore, programs that knowingly recruit problem players are not punished when those players break the law.

In 2004, when Miami recruited high-risk prospect Willie Williams, who was arrested a whopping 11 times in a four-year span during high school, the ‘Canes could not be punished when he proved all his skeptics right and was arrested for the 12th time. Louisville also got off when it gave Willie a chance last year, when he made it to September before being arrested for possession of marijuana and physically tampering with evidence.

If a player is receiving gifts from sports agents, teams can be stripped of titles and scholarships, but if a star player is dealing cocaine – or, in the case of the recent Miami teams, owning illegal guns – there will be no repercussions.

The NCAA has two options. The first is to make the season run 12 months a year to keep the players occupied. Remember when your parents forced you to play soccer in third grade to “keep you out of trouble?” Well, a marathon season could keep these athletes occupied and out of holding cells.

The other option is to hold teams accountable when their players step outside of the law. The NCAA should start reducing scholarships for teams that consistently recruit – for lack of a better word – criminals. If it is going to punish schools when the offensive line coach takes the hogs out to dinner then it should start punishing the same schools if that offensive line coach is constantly signing his players’ release forms at the local sheriff’s office.

It is probably a stretch to think that anything will be done in the near future to curb the number of arrests. Players will continue to be bored during the offseason and get into trouble. Thankfully, another season is starting. Just in time to turn college football fans away from the police blotter and back to the sports section.

Ryan Travers is a junior in the College. He can be reached at Illegal Procedure appears in every other Friday issue of HOYA SPORTS.

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