The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

 

I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

College football coaches are always on the lookout for the next possible gridiron superstar.

Each coach’s wish list is different, but the criteria is almost always the same – speed, smarts, and size usually rule the day.

So where does an intangible like character come into play?

Every program would love to have a guy like Tim Tebow in their locker room. He was a good player with a solid moral foundation to back it up. He was a leader on the field and off, and became the poster child for the ‘good guy’ in college football.

But while Tebow was hoisted up as the pristine face of the Florida Gators, the rest of their football program were certainly no Eagle Scouts. Since 2005, 25 different players from the Gators have been arrested, including 12 charges of felonies or violent misdemeanors.

Florida is not the only program to deal with criminal activity from its players, either.

Every year we hear more reports about college athletes who find themselves involved in illegal matters that can make Ohio State’s tattoos and Brigham Young’s honor code violations sound like a church bake sale.

As further evidence of this growing problem in college sports, a recent study has uncovered that there is an alarming number of student athletes with criminal records, specifically among the ranks of the top programs.

Because these athletes become high profile representatives of high profile schools, does it make sense for those universities to dig even further into the respective pasts of their prospective recruits?

Should Universities in the NCAA examine the juvenile records of those students they intend to recruit?

Our resident Loyal Homer believes that universities absolutely should begin examining those juvenile records, while Sports Geek feels that they should not.

Is this a viable way to clean up the game and its programs? We are about to find out…

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate… Eliminate The Bad Seeds Early

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

It’s really unfortunate that we even have to have this type of debate. But it is 2011, and it’s sad to say that many of today’s student athletes have a checkered past – to say the least. It’s becoming very disturbing to turn on the local sportscast and see that “______ of _______ University has been arrested for _______ crime.”

A deeper investigation, spearheaded by Sports Illustrated and CBS News, uncovers the cold hard facts about the criminals that played for members of the SI’s pre-season top 25 in college football. I’m one who wants to see the best overall product on the field, but I also get tired of reading about the off the field sketchiness going on at nearly every major collegiate program. There’s no realistic way to totally eliminate those problems, but I believe there is a way to somewhat clean it up. Why not allow the programs to start looking into the juvenile records of the recruits?

I understand that we are all guilty of doing some stupid things as juveniles, and some of us may have skeletons that we wouldn’t want schools like Auburn, USC, and Ohio State to find. Maybe you stole a pack of baseball cards from the local Wal-Mart as a 14-year-old boy and got busted and put in county lockup. Maybe you got in a fight one Saturday night in town and you got escorted to the county jail in the local patrol car. Or maybe something bigger happened. Unfortunately, these are patterns of behavior that have to be looked at and evaluated. During the recruiting process, of course the recruit can explain what happened and hopefully clear up any questions and misgivings the coaching staff has regarding the recruit.

To me, this is no different than having to go through a background check when interviewing for a job. In fact, it is the EXACT same thing. In essence, you are applying for a job at said university. Your past is part of who you are and the university that you may be representing every fall for the next four falls has every right to check you out full TSA style!

Now, let’s say that Player A has something on his juvenile record that concerns a coach of the school that is recruiting him. It would be up to the coach to make a judgment call on whether to offer that particular young man a scholarship after reviewing each individual situation on a case-by-case basis. Maybe the guy has changed and deserves a second chance. But if that same guy has run-ins with the law while in college, it falls at the hands of the head coach. Hopefully, this would extremely lessen the chances of reading stories like the one Bleacher Fan wrote about in the intro, where the Florida Gators had a plethora of arrests in the past five years. The goal would be to rid the programs of the multiple offenders.

I know the ultimate goal is to win the game. But in the process, the goal should be to clean the game up. I for one am tired of getting up every morning and reading about another college football player having a run in with the law. A simple way to eliminate of lot of these issues is to allow coaches access to juvenile records of the players they are recruiting. It’s a simple solution.

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