Ok, so now that the four letter word network has gotten into the act, everyone is accusing Florida of running a dirty program. You know the four letters I am talking about, don’t you? Yeah, the self-proclaimed, we are never wrong, we don’t show sports we create it, and we don’t care how many people have heat exhaustion just play the game when we want it network guys are now jumping on Florida for the arrest record under Coach Meyer. To me there is a difference in running a dirty program and having players who can’t keep off the mug shot website. I’ll touch on that in a minute, but let’s start with ESPN who recently had one of their own charged with a number of felonies. He’s not the first one either. Oh, they are no where near Florida’s 30 arrests in the last 6 years, but we also don’t have access to all their records and their “faces” are much less in number than just the 120 or so football players at UF. So we would expect their numbers to be less, but let’s not kid ourselves as to the number of guys who have gotten in trouble and maybe even been arrested and later had the charges dropped for various reasons. The only reason most of the stories about the guys at UF were because they were UF athletes, not because of the heinous crimes they were committing. I’m not excusing any crimes, just saying that most of what makes headlines concerning athletes might show up on page 6 of the local section in the daily paper if it made it all all.
Just take a look any day at the mug shots listed on the link on www.gainesville.com. You will see all kinds of people, both young and old. A few of their crimes make the headlines or the main section of the paper and maybe a one minute segment on the late news, then that’s the last you hear of it until it goes to trial. Many of their cases will be dropped or reduced without a bit of ink being wasted because it just doesn’t matter that the battery charge was dropped to something else and so and so had to do 200 hours of community service and keep his record clean for 6 months until the charges disappear completely from his or her record. But in the case of athletes, we somehow think that the coaches and administrators have the local DA in their back pocket because a kid who has a first offense doesn’t end up doing jail time. We need to let the justice system do it’s job and decide which criminals should be behind bars and which ones can do with a slap on the wrist that hopefully serves as a wake up call to behave better in society.
But why are athletes at UF getting in trouble so much these last few years. Do the coaches not talk about it? The answer is definitely “yes, they do”! The athletic department even has the equivalent of life coaches to help these young men and women develop into strong, productive citizens. And the vast majority does just that. Sure 30 arrests is too many, but even that is about 25% of the athletes on the football team. If you take a look at the background of most of the top tier athletes in this country you will find that many of them come from less than ideal situations. The majority of them are African-American and reared in single mom homes. That’s not a racial slur and not true of every athlete for sure. An interesting study would be to compare the arrest records of those who leave those environments to play sports and those who remain in those environments. We might have a better understanding of why these athletes get into trouble and my guess is that we would be amazed that so many of them stay out of trouble while they are in college.
Coaches and administrators cannot babysit every athlete at a university. Thanks to the NCAA, there is no longer an athletic dorm as there used to be. This might be something that needs to come back. At least when every athlete was in one dorm or two with a female athlete dorm, the staff could keep tabs on the comings and goings of players. They could control access by outside people and log who was visiting players during the week. It would be hard to get a runner for an agent by a diligent staff, hard but not impossible, right SMU? There will always be problems but at least the coaching staff would have a fighting chance to monitor the players if there was an athletic dorm. I know that sounds a little like a prison, but with a few more arrests, UF might have to hire the probation office who used to work at FSU and Miami anyway!
The problem is not a fun one to have at your University. It makes everyone look bad and not everyone is having these problems. But it seems unfair to blame the coach or call the program dirty when college guys are making dumb mistakes. I didn’t hear the numbers for the last home game but usually there are 40 plus arrests every home game in the swamp. And none of these are athletes, just regular “joes” and “janes” who do stupid stuff. And should we have access to the arrest records of a similar sample of students in Frats the numbers might be higher or lower depending on the recruitment standards of that particular Greek group. Athletes are not the only students getting arrested, but they certainly are the ones being talked about the most. So they have to stop the madness. The coaches can’t do it for them, the university can’t do it for them, and neither can the national media, or even the four letter network. The only thing that will change the culture is the changing of moral values from the inside of every individual and that change is brought about only through the forgiveness and changing of the heart found in a right relationship with God through Jesus. Anything less will only lead to temporary change!