An ESPN Outside the Lines investigation has revealed that athletes from 2009-14 at10 top Division I programs were more likely to have their charges reduced or dropped after they were arrested than students from the general population at their schools. At the University of Florida, where there were more than 80 arrests during this time, the investigation said that 56% of the charges were either dropped or reduced. Many of the Florida athletes, the report says, are represented by Huntley Johnson.
Okay, tell us something we don’t already know.
Some of the arrests are definitely worth noting such as Chris Rainey getting charged with stalking in 2010, Jessamen Dunker arrested for grand theft in 2012 or baseball player Bryson Smith getting a DUI back in 2011 but there are also arrests such for such heinous crimes as underage drinking for basketball player Cody Larson or football player Marcus Roberson or football player Antonio Morrison barking at a police dog. The bulk of the arrests had something to do with driving with suspended licenses or misdemeanor marijuana possession.
While 80 arrests is far too many, in no way does it signal an out of control program that has to hire an attorney like Huntley Johnson to keep the perps out of Raiford. That Johnson gets his clients reduced or suspended sentences or charges dropped completely has a lot to do with his years of knowing how to work the system from years in Gainesville as a criminal defense attorney. Around the Alachua County Courthouse, Huntley is known as a “fixer,” as in if you get in trouble and hire Huntley, there is a real chance he will fix your situation and minimize the amount of trouble you’re in. If Huntley were to provide the stats, you would discover that the bulk of his clients – both athletes and non-athletes – end up with the charges dropped completely or else a reduced sentence in which community service is involved. That is why he’s in high demand, particularly for first time offenders or those whose crimes are less than heinous.
If you were to take a tour of the 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference, you would find that there is a “fixer” in every city. Not every “fixer” has the high profile of Huntley Johnson and by the same token, very few of them are as successful at working the system.
Obviously, the University of Florida would be happy if no athlete ever got arrested but this is a campus with 60,000 students – it’s a city within a city – and stuff happens. There are two police departments (Gainesville PD and University PD) plus the county sheriff. If you go through the last 30 years, you will find times when very few arrests were reported and other times – like now – when it seems that every time an athlete jaywalks (yes, there have been citations for jaywalking that led to suspended licenses and arrests in the last six years) he or she gets a citation. There have been times when law enforcement seemed to take an aggressive stance against athletes. There were other times when athletes were dropped off at an assistant coach’s front door if the charge was minor. You will find similar stories in every SEC city.
The majority of the arrests over the last 30-40 years involve football players. This is not making an excuse for football players but it is an aggressive, violent, high testosterone sport. In an ideal situation, coaches are able to channel and confine all that aggression, violence and high testosterone levels to the football field. Sometimes they don’t because they run a loose ship, but more often it’s because their hands are tied by the NCAA, which it seems has spent the bulk of the last 30 years enacting legislation to limit things coaches can do to keep their athletes in line. Among the rules: athletic dorms were eliminated, training table meals were reduced to one per day and the amount of contact a coach could have with an athlete in the offseason was seriously curtailed. Although well intentioned, the rules take away a coach’s ability to control his athletes yet at the same time coaches are held responsible for the conduct of the kids.
Only now is the NCAA relaxing some of the rules but the only reason that’s happening is because the power 65 schools that make all the money have threatened to secede if not given autonomy to write their own rulebook.
Something else to consider: If there were a way to compare the admission records of all the players in Division I to the general population of the student bodies they represent, you might be shocked at how few football players could actually get in school on their own. The average freshman at the University of Florida arrives in Gainesville with a weighted GPA of 4.3 and a SAT score of 1918. Now, how many UF football players do you think could have gotten into school based on those averages? And if you go through Division I, even at schools with a less than prestigious academic reputation than UF, you’ll find the bulk of the football players needed reduced admission standards to get in school.
You will also find that the more successful the program, the more likely it is the roster is populated with players from high risk backgrounds. The percentage of kids on Division I rosters that come from a single parent home, a less than desirable neighborhood and a school system that has done whatever it takes to keep the kid eligible so he would have a chance to escape his circumstances is mind numbing.
But try to win without them, especially in college football. You do not win with Boy Scouts and cherub-faced altar boys. For every Tim Tebow – and by the way he couldn’t have gotten into UF without the reduced academic standards for athletes – there are 30, 40 or 50 kids we would qualify as at risk. Sure, it would be nice to have a roster full of Tebows, but there aren’t enough to go around. We would also love to have rosters full of kids like Michael Oher (The Blind Side), who rose from horrendous circumstances to become an All-American and academic success story at Ole Miss, who is proof that the system we have can take a kid who otherwise would have no chance and give him an opportunity of a lifetime.
Reality says that if we want a high level product on the field we have to live with a system that will always be dominated by kids from high risk backgrounds. The ESPN Outside the Lines story tells the truth about the number of kids who are arrested and who get a break when going through the criminal court system, but it doesn’t bother to tell the other side of the story about how few of these kids come to school prepared for anything like the environment in which they are placed and how the NCAA has handcuffed coaches in their efforts to keep kids disciplined so they have a fighting chance to actually succeed on campus.
With their 15-3 blowout of Miami Saturday night at the College World Series, the Gators (50-16) established themselves as the favorite to bring home the big trophy for the first time in school history. Of course, winning the NCAA title involves at least four more wins. The Gators can get the second one tonight when they send A.J. Puk (9-3, 3.96 ERA) to the mound to face Virginia (40-22) and lefty Brandon Waddell (3-5, 4.15 ERA). A win will put the Gators in the driver’s seat to make it out of their bracket into the best two-of-three championship series. A loss and they’ll have to face four consecutive elimination games to make it to the championship series. With a win someone will have to beat the Gators twice to get to the championship series.
The Gators come into this game winners of their last 10 games while Virginia has awakened since the beginning of NCAA play, winning all five tournament games after losing their final game of the regular season and both games at the ACC Tournament. The Cavaliers will go with Waddell, who will be making a UVa record 51st career start. Although it has been a disappointing season for Waddell, he gave the Cavaliers eight innings in their Super Regional clinching win over Maryland and seven innings of 4-hit ball in a regional win over San Diego State.
In his last six starts, Puk has a 3-0 record with a 1.83 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 34-1/3 innings.
The Gators have scored 10 or more runs in their last three games and in six of the ten wins during their streak. In the last 11 games, freshman J.J. Schwarz has hit .558 with four homers, five doubles and 19 RBI.
Neither the Florida men nor women will win the Capital One Cup this year but the Gators are assured of a second place finish on the women’s side and the men have a chance to finish second if the baseball team comes home with an NCAA championship from the College World Series. The Florida women came into the weekend with 122 points, trailing first place Stanford by 14.5 points. Florida finished eighth at the NCAA outdoor track and field championship which was good for nine more points while Stanford finished outside the top ten. Had the Gator women scored four more points they would have finished fifth at the track meet and claimed the Capital One Cup for the second straight year. The Florida men came into the weekend in 36th place (18 points) but they finished second, good for 36 points and a move all the way up to ninth place. If the Gators win the baseball championship, they’ll add 60 points and move ahead of current first place Ohio State (93.5). Oregon currently sits in first with 121 points thanks to its first place finish at the outdoor track championships, but the Ducks could be surpassed by Virginia (89.5 points) if Virginia finished third or higher at the College World Series.
The Gators added 120 points for the track and field finishes by the men and women to move up to fifth place with 1,093 points in the Learfield Director’s Cup standings. If the Gators were to win the College World Series, their 100 points would move them past second place North Carolina by a single point. Stanford, helped by NCAA championships in women’s golf and women’s water polo this spring, is comfortably in first place and will win its 21st straight Director’s Cup championship.
Would you prefer the NCAA to raise its academic standards, which would reduce the number of high risk kids playing football, or change the rules to give coaches a freer hand in discipline and keeping kids in line?
If you are looking for more bang for your concert buck, then you need to catch Billy Joel live. He gives a good show and plenty of music for singing along. Today’s music is a 2006 live performance in Tokyo.