Cougar football: The facts behind the infamous 31

YOU'VE NO DOUBT heard or read the statistic: Washington State has had more football players arrested in the last five years – 31 – than any other school, according to data compiled by the San Jose Mercury News. What you're not learning from that factoid is the nature of the offenses. Among them: snowball throwing, driving without a license, spinning donuts in a parking lot and minor in possession.

Cougfan.com researched each of the 31 arrests mentioned in the San Jose Mercury News report and found two striking facts:

1.       Nearly 50 percent (14 of 31) were for broken tail lights, snow balls and the like.
2.       None of the 31 resulted in a felony conviction.

Think about that second item for a minute. 

Given the tenor and tone of the police statements made publicly in most, if not all, of the 31 arrests, and how many times the word “felony” was uttered … and yet not a single one of the 31 arrests resulted in a felony conviction?!

Let us be clear: We are not trying to discount the seriousness of some of these charges.  At the end of the day, ONE arrest is simply one too many in our minds.

But if the narrative being written -- and the one that 95 percent of people remember -- is that 31 Cougar footballers have been arrested then let’s be clear about what we’re talking about here and add the proper context.

One of the arrests was for doing donuts in a parking lot, another was for driving without having headlights on. A third was for driving without a license, a fourth was for backing into a car and breaking its tail light, then leaving the scene. A fifth was for driving with a suspended license. 

And as long as we’re talking about college kids doing dumb things, actions that don’t rise to the level of stop-the-presses fodder, two of the arrests were for being underage at a bar. Two more arrests were for MIPs.  Another arrest occurred when two people, one of them a WSU footballer, were playing with air guns and pointing them at one another.

Another arrest was for throwing snowballs.  One arrest occurred when a scared Cougar player gave police, responding to a noise complaint, a false name.

Among the one-strike policies of Mike Leach: stealing.  If you’re wondering how strongly Leach feels about it, one of the arrests was for shoplifting a pair of ear buds.  And another was for shoplifting two bottles of tequila.  Both players, one a starter and one a walk on, were kicked off the team (the walk on who shoplifted the liquor was later reinstated).

So of those 31, there are 14 that some people, including this writer, would chalk up to mostly to being young and doing dumb and disappointing things, but perhaps not truly rising to the level of cringe-worthy offenses.

The more serious incidents, and even one of these over a 5-year period should serve as wholly unacceptable to a school, its alumni and its football program, include two DUIs. Another eight arrests were for varying degrees of assault.  One Cougar player was arrested for stealing a laptop, another for burglary, another for shoplifting $50 worth of food.  Two players were arrested for a grow operation.

One arrest was for a noise complaint that turned into a search warrant where, among other things, a stolen top sign was found, as were a small amount of marijuana and pills the police suspected was a controlled substance. And one player was arrested for a misdemeanor hit and run and arrested again for failure to show at a hearing on the incident.

Five years ago, in a March 29, 2011 article in the Spokesman-Review, Pullman Police Commander Chris Tennant was quoted as saying the police department had used a “broken windows theory” in approaching enforcement for the last decade: “If you deal with the little things, you don’t have to deal with the big things. We deal with alcohol. We deal with marijuana possession. We deal with parties, noise and party trash. By doing that, we deal with fewer assaults, rape and damage to property,” said Tennant.

In a March 30, 2011 article on Cougfan.com, we posed the following question:  “Because the people who go to parties, make noise, and don’t clean up their party trash are just rapists and assaulters waiting to happen?”

RELATED STORY: WSU prez Schultz, AD Moos to meet with Pullman police chief today

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