Sports Illustrated and CBS News have just wrapped a six-month investigation into college football. The two parties took SI’s 2010 preseason Top 25 and did criminal background checks on all 2,837 players on those teams’ rosters. Some of their findings included:
* 7% of players (one out of every 14) in last year’s preseason Top 25 poll “had been charged or cited for a crime, including dozens of players with multiple arrests.”
* Of the 277 incidents uncovered, nearly 40% “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).” The report also states that there were 41 charges of property crimes such as burglary and theft.
In case you didn’t know it by now, college coaches tend to give a lot of guys second- and third- and fourth-chances. Some — like Houston Nutt — will tell you they’re in the business helping people, but in reality, coaches are in the business of winning and they’ll sign just about anybody with talent regardless of their criminal history.
But let’s focus in on the SEC here. Last year, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and LSU were in SI’s preseason Top 25. Of those four squads, Arkansas led (?) the way with 18 players on its roster who had been arrested/charged with a crime at one time or another. The Razorbacks’ total tied with Iowa for second place on the “most arrests” list behind only Pittsburgh (22 players who had been charged).
Florida’s roster featured seven lawbreakers, Alabama’s five and LSU’s three. Of the 25 teams in the poll, only TCU had a squeaky clean roster with nary a jailbird on the squad.
The piece is worth a read as it raises an all too familiar question: Does college football really have anything to do with a university’s true mission?
Of course it doesn’t. College football is a breadwinner, a donation-getter, and a huge advertising vehicle for schools. But there’s not a school in the country that would go out and actively seek regular students who’ve been charged with violent crimes. A and B just don’t jive.
At MrSEC.com, we love us some college football. But that doesn’t mean the sport isn’t overdue for a good bath.
An 85-man roster featuring 18 players who’ve been arrested or charged with a crime? It’s hard to defend that. (Though we know folks will.)