Miller: More Bad Judgment

Iowa fans had hoped the off the field incidents from 2007 were a thing of the past. Kirk Ferentz had spent a considerable amount of time telling the media the message was being communicated to his team that a year like last year would not be tolerated in 2008. Then on Saturday, two Iowa players were arrested in possession of drugs/pills. What's going on here? Jon Miller talks about it...

Kirk Ferentz spoke to the media back on January 8th, his ‘season ending' press conference that normally came in late November. This year, he didn't have the bowl game press conference to use as his ‘state of the program' address, as the Hawkeyes did not qualify for a bowl game.

He hasn't referred to it as the ‘state of the program' address, but that late November press conference typically dealt with themes of the season.

One of last year's themes was Iowa's off-field troubles, with numerous arrests and matters of inappropriate conduct.

On January 8th, Ferentz said that a new year had begun, and that they were going to do all that they could to insure that Iowa would not have another year in the police blotter like they one they had in 2007.

"We have a lot of ideas on the board right now and I cannot give you a concrete plan and I don't know that I ever will, but I can assure you that I will have a plan in place here in the coming months and we will work on that and it will be continual." Ferentz said one month and a half ago.

He also said that a high number of the off the field incidents have involved younger players in the program.

"I think the conduct things that we have dealt with and will continue to deal with are kid mistakes. My wife and I are raising five kids and we have had our share of excitement too. They just haven't been in the paper. Kids make kid mistakes. That is part of the educational process and that is why we have to be more pro-active. Kids in our program are more visible than the average college student. That is part of the deal and the players know that coming in and we just have to do a better job."

Two more of Ferentz's ‘kids' made a mistake late Friday and into the early hours of Saturday morning.

Redshirt freshmen Arvell Nelson and James Cleveland were arrested on drugs charges, including one felony.

Nelson was arrested for possession of marijuana while Cleveland was arrested drug stamp tax violation and two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs. The Cedar Rapids Gazette has a comprehensive accounting of the situation, linked here.

According to police reports, Nelson admitted that the marijuana was his, and Cleveland admitted that the pills were his.

Ferentz, who is on the annual Hawkeye cruise, along with Athletics Director Gary Barta, released the following statement on Sunday:

"I was very disappointed to learn the news of the most recent incident involving two of our players. It's especially disheartening since we made it such a major point of emphasis with our players since the end of last season. Both players will be suspended, indefinitely, until I have a chance to examine all the facts involved in the case."

I don't like writing this, but it would appear that the start to the 2008 season, which in Ferentz's own words began in December of 2007, has gotten off to an embarrassing and alarming first step.

Nelson has shown lapses in judgment and maturity before; he was issued a citation for driving a vehicle without a license last summer and then failed to appear in court, resulting in a warrant for his arrest.

Both Nelson and Cleveland appeared in the now infamous ‘City Boys Inc' photos where Iowa football players were seen flashing considerable amounts of cash, and some of them were also holding bottles of alcohol. Former Hawkeye Dominique Douglas posted the pictures on his facebook page, and Nelson, Cleveland and Anthony Bowman were all pictured.

Those pictures did not implicate guilt of anything, but they certainly looked bad on the heels of Douglas and Bowman's arrests involving credit card fraud.

They were downright embarrassing to the program, at a minimum.

I tend to agree with Ferentz that when you have a group of 100 or more young men between the ages of 18 and 23, you are going to see some ‘kid' mistakes. You will have your occasional PAULA's and other infractions that a lot of young college students come across in their lives.

I also tend to look at such things through, well, my own eyes that are still not coated with a layer of hypocrisy just yet.

I drank when I was underage. I was around some pretty bad things that I should have known better than to be around. I put myself in numerous situations where my future could have been adversely altered, just by associating with some questionable characters at one point in time or another during my college years.

However, I was not a scholarship athlete in the Big Ten, which in my opinion creates at least some difference.

No, the law does not see a difference, so my immaturity and lack of judgment was every bit as on par with the immaturity and lack of judgment we see from college athletes today.

Yet, to whom much is given, much is also expected.

I don't have the facts and figures in front of me, but Nelson (Ohio) and Cleveland (Texas) are out of state students at Iowa. Their ‘full ride', in just tuition, is pretty steep. For a liberal arts student taking 12 or more credit hours, you are looking at paying nearly $11,000 per semester. So $22,000 per year, if I am reading things right at this link.

That doesn't count room and board, and that doesn't factor in course studies such as business, dentistry, medicine and others that cost a lot more per year.

So when it's all said and done, you are looking at nearly $100,000 per out of state scholarship athlete when it comes to the bill for education.

For that, I would hope that fans of the Iowa football program could expect more than admitted possession of marijuana and prescription pills in player's Hillcrest Dorm Rooms on the heels of what we had to go through last year, and what Ferentz has attempted to communicate to his players during the course of the last several months.

I can guarantee you that Kirk Ferentz is extremely upset about the transgressions over the past year, especially those from this weekend.

Because possessing marijuana and pills in your dorm room shows a total lack of respect for a number of authorities, including your football coach who gave you that $100,000 golden ticket and who has taken a public flogging for the actions of some members of the football program over the past nine months.

I honestly don't know what Kirk can do at this point, short of kicking kids off the team for such violations.

But a part of me wonders if that will even be enough, because there is a good chance that someone else will sweep in and provide an opportunity for players with talent, something that the kids know, too.

It comes down to personal accountability. Being responsible for your own actions. But it's becoming a little bit more than that due to the sheer number of off the field violations that have mounted over the past year.

While some might call those transgressions kid mistakes, and they may well be, others wonder if it isn't a lack of respect. If it's a lack of respect, how do you solve the problem?

The overwhelming majority of Iowa football players are doing things the right way. They are going to class, getting good grades, behaving like good citizens and representing the football program and the University in a fashion that makes fans proud.

As is always the case, the decisions and actions by a small number of people are making everyone look bad, including Kirk Ferentz.

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