Imagine a world where committing a crime was frowned upon but not necessarily considered a bad thing. Now, take that world and insert yourself into it and, just for kicks, go commit a crime.
It doesn’t have to be a big crime like, say, murder, but make it a significant enough offense that you land in the police blotter. Drawing a blank? That’s okay, most of us aren’t criminally minded.
So, I’ll help you out a little bit, go rob someone—only don’t use a real gun. Oh, and, even though the gun is fake, don’t tell the people you are going to rob that—see how that works out for you.
Okay, how about this, go to a department store and find a nice jersey or, maybe, something smaller—make sure you can tuck it someplace inconspicuous. Once you have it, I want you to walk out of the store and never look back.
See if you get caught.
By now, unless you are completely without a moral compass about what’s right and wrong, both of these things should sound ridiculous to you—neither crime is okay.
In the first instance, even though the gun isn’t real, think about the response the victim could have in simply believing that they are about to be assaulted. These days, it’s not uncommon to find an everyday citizen with a gun on their person.
What if they feel threatened enough to shoot you instead—would they be wrong?
Both of the above situations were recently perpetrated by college athletes. Athletes who are, to this day, playing football somewhere—some for the very team they represented when these crimes were committed.
Why wasn’t their eligibility revoked?
What gives them the right to be above the law and still command a scholarship and all the perks that grants you?
Is it because they have the talent to do what the everyday "Joe" cannot?
Are you okay with making excuses for an athlete’s behavior simply because he plays for your team?
As a fan, where do you draw the line? Is there one?
It’s high time we come out from behind the bushes and say what is clearly the case in many situations: Star athletes are given the license to do whatever they want as long as the result isn’t a life taken—that license, unfortunately, seems reserved for pro players.
What is the solution?
Should schools start being tougher on criminal offenses?
Do the governing bodies of the various conferences need to come up with a more uniform code of conduct?
As of now, much of the decision is left to the head coaches' discretion. Raise your hand if you think a coach doesn’t consider the importance of a player to his team before he doles out his suspension—anyone?
The truth is, the guidelines need to be clearer and the consequences more uniform.
I am not certain what the politics of the NCAA are where these types of situations are concerned, but, obviously they tend to leave as much of the decision to the individual institutions as possible—maybe they shouldn’t.
By and large, I would imagine that most coaches would be fine if they were stripped of that task. After all, in this culture of "win or be fired," there are few coaches who feel compelled to lay it on the line in the name of discipline. Sending a message will often come second to winning games, which is unfortunate but it’s reality.
However, if the NCAA were to lay forth some firmer ground rules, then, hypothetically, the actions of Chip Kelly at Oregon would not be any different than Mark Richt’s at Georgia.
For example, if a player is charged with a misdemeanor, he would automatically get a six-game suspension. A felony would cost him the season. Period.
Keep in mind, this would not apply if a player is arrested, they have to be charged first.
Will this seem harsh given the difference between a misdemeanor charge for underage drinking versus one for malicious mischief?
Sure, but that’s where the system causes problems to begin with, there’s too much room for justification. The Athletic Director’s (AD), the athletic associations, NCAA governing bodies, and conference commissioners all need to come to an agreement on punishments for players that break the law.
Make penalties the same and enforce them as they are written. If you do that, then, perhaps the athletes will think harder before they put their scholarships or playing time in jeopardy. Even more, maybe the coaches will think harder about recruiting a kid who has a known criminal background.
Does that mean they’ll miss out on a few outstanding talents, sure, but if that talent would spend more time on the bench than on the field, what would be the point in having it there in the first place?
The truth is, when you are given a six-figure scholarship to play football, you should be held to a higher standard than the regular college student.
You have a responsibility to represent the university you play for in an upstanding way and you should take that seriously. You do not have carte blanche to be “stupid” or “careless” with your actions. You are expected to grow up quick and be accountable.
If you don’t want that responsibility, don’t sign the "letter of intent."
Is that always fair?
Probably not but it’s what you sign up for when you place your name on a contract.
Some might feel that regardless of a contract, a person of 18, 19, or even 20-years-old is entitled to make a mistake. I don’t disagree.
However, how many among us have made mistakes that and us in jail? Result in a felony charge?
Sometimes, you have to learn early that having a special talent doesn’t make you special. And, truth be told, there are just as many upstanding athletes as there are troubled ones.
It’s time that we take off the kid gloves for the big ticket guys and say it’s not okay.
Will this stop the culture of entitlement from being fostered? Maybe not, but you have to start somewhere.