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July 9, 2008
Legal troubles popping up around the nation
Maybe future preseason college football breakdowns will add a new category to illustrate what each team has coming back.
Starters returning. Starters lost. Starters arrested.
Admittedly, that comes off rather cynical, but consider these recent incidents:
• Kansas State projected starting tailback Leon Patton was arrested for driving with a suspended license and outstanding warrants. Patton was stopped Monday and issued a citation for driving with a suspended license. A background check showed outstanding warrants for a theft in 2007 and a failure-to-appear charge on an unpaid parking ticket.
That's just a few of literally dozens of incidents involving college football players. A quick Web search reveals that more than 20 programs have had players arrested in 2008.
Some transgressions were as minor as getting into scuffles; others are as serious as distributing narcotics. But each arrest perpetuates an unfair perception that college football is rife with thugs, punks and partiers who think they're above the law.
The NCAA tries to ensure that athletes aren't treated differently than ordinary college students. Yet ordinary college students often drink too much, smoke marijuana and get in fights.
"I don't mean to get on a high horse, but 82 percent of college freshmen get drunk once a week," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said. "I guarantee you 82 percent of athletes aren't getting drunk. Show me an era in history where young men don't fight.''
Hawkins is right: Demanding vastly different behavior from football players is a double standard. Some lament that, while others say it should be embraced.
"Without question, there is a double standard," said Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who last year dismissed four players. "One thing you better understand is that's the case. When you step into a role as a Division I college football player, you are a role model.
"Certainly, our kids are not going to be perfect, but those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. We look at situations across the country and discuss them with our players. We try to learn from each situation that comes up."
Some of those situations Brewster discussed might have involved Colorado, which has had players arrested for assault, underage drinking and criminal mischief this year. Like Brewster, Hawkins has a strong track record for being tough on players who get in trouble. He suspended linebacker Michael Sipili last year, and this year has suspended linebacker recruit Lynn Katoa. Tight end Riar Greer's season is also in jeopardy after he was accused of attacking two students at a party.
But Hawkins objects to the media scrutiny that athletes face and the perception that scrutiny might foster.
"There are 119 teams in Division I football and over 300 in Division II and lower. Then you have about 100 (players). If once a week one of those gets in trouble, everyone knows about that guy," he said. "There are way more kids that don't get in trouble than do. If you put every citizen that's arrested for DUI on ESPN.com, you could read that for 10 hours."
The difference is that every citizen isn't representing a university as a scholarship football player. Perhaps there was a time when athletes were all model citizens who rarely – if ever – got into trouble. More likely, there were times with fewer temptations – and transgressions weren't made public.
Should we expect men barely out of high school to behave differently from many of their peers just because they play football? Brewster says yes.
"The talk here is it's an honor and privilege to wear the maroon and gold," Brewster said. "It's not asking too much to ask young men to live their lives accordingly, try to make good and right decisions and understand for every decision there is a consequence.
"The first thing I discuss with incoming freshmen is to understand how different you are from Johnny down the hall. Don't be afraid of that and don't look at it as an issue or a problem. Right, wrong or indifferent, you are different."
Name the two quarterbacks with at least 30 touchdown passes in 2007 to throw fewer than seven interceptions. Hint: They're both returning in 2008. (Answer at the end of the column.)
The following major-league baseball players played college football – but where. (Answers at the end of the column.)
1. Kirk Gibson (Tigers, Dodgers)
2. Frank Thomas (White Sox, Blue Jays, A's)
3. Rick Leach (Tigers, Blue Jays, Rangers, Giants)
4. Todd Helton (Rockies)
5. Jackie Robinson (Dodgers)
6. Darrin Erstad (Angels, White Sox, Astros)
7. Ted Kluszewski (Reds, Pirates, White Sox, Angels)
8. Phil Bradley (Mariners, Phillies, Orioles, White Sox)
9. Brian Jordan (Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rangers)
10. Keith Moreland (Cubs, Phillies, Padres, Tigers, Orioles)
• Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said he regretted the delivery but not the message of his famous rant at an Oklahoma City columnist after last season's victory over Texas Tech. He was angry at how the column portrayed then-backup quarterback Bobby Reid. Gundy did not anticipate the rant would become one of the most watched clips on the Internet. "I had no idea that it would have a life of its own. I didn't know all about YouTube and all that stuff," Gundy told the Tulsa World.
OLD SCHOOL ANSWERS
1. Michigan State wide receiver
2. Auburn tight end
3. Michigan quarterback
4. Tennessee quarterback
5. UCLA running back
6. Nebraska punter
7. Indiana tight end
8. Missouri quarterback
9. Richmond defensive back
10. Texas safety
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.