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So About Those College Football Players Running Amok All Around You. . .

By now you've probably heard about the newly released report by CBS and Sports Illustrated which looked at the arrest records of college football players from last year's preseason Top 25. The Geraldo-esque details are here. Go ahead and read it. We'll wait.

Year2 also has an excellent broad view analysis of the thing over at Team Speed Kills which I would highly recommend as well. But I do have a few points I'd like to add.

  • The article points out that only 2 of the schools ranked in the top 25 do "background checks" on prospective football players, and none check for juvenile records. I don't find that hard to believe. I also don't find it hard to defend. Coaches usually talk to a lot of people during the recruiting process about any student athlete. They talk to coaches obviously, but also principals, teachers, ministers and a host of other folks to get a guage on what kind of kid they're dealing with. Do they run a fingerprint card through the federal criminal database? No. But schools don't do that for the general student population either. Imagine the cries of outrage if they did, however. The student privacy concerns would ultimately be dismissed (Vernonia v. Acton FTW) but nevertheless very real.  And that's before we get to the fact that juvenile adjudication records are, in many states, difficult to get (and even impossible without a court order authorizing the release). This point is therefore the equivalent of saying that if college football coaches worked for Ford, the Pinto would not have had side curtain airbags or all-wheel drive. To insert a tired meme:expensive and time-consuming investigation is expensive and time-consuming.
  • Assuming, ad arguendo, that schools could access relevant background information on potential student athletes, an even thornier question awaits. What do you do with that information? Some schools (like the University of Georgia) have conduct committees charged with vetting potential players. They turn players, even talented players like Michael Grant and Jamar Cheney, away. But coaches will always be tempted to take a chance on a kid whose speed and elusiveness could be put to uses other than running from the authorities.
  • And that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes teenagers get in schoolyard fights. Sometimes they spraypaint graffiti on buildings. Doing stupid stuff is the modus operandi of the American teenager, and has been for generations. Somehow or another the majority of those teenagers become functioning adults, and even go on to raise teenagers of their own. While I don't think I'd want a kid convicted of being an accessory to toilet plunger rape wearing the red and black, there are many shades of shades below that level of outrageous conduct that this type of broad study just can't catch. If 7% of the University of Georgia football team has been cited for a duke's mixture of traffic offenses, fake ID possessions and other diversified misdemeanoring, I think I can live with that. I'm not overjoyed, but I can live with it.
  • In the end, I don't know that this is really the bombshell the folks who did the legwork thought it would be. Perhaps the general population finds an arrest rate of 8.1% for scholarship athletes scandalous and outraging. Frankly it's about what I would have expected. I don't have the numbers at my disposal, but my guess is that it's probably a little higher than the general student population. But unless I hung out with a really bad crowd in college, it's not that much higher. If the headline had been "teenage males with testosterone to burn do stupid things, get arrested for them" it would have been just as accurate.

Though it was kind of nice to see a study of lawlessness in college football that did not focus on our Georgia Bulldogs for a change. I knew falling out of the national gridiron conversation would pay tangible benefits eventually. Until later . . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!