Alarming number of college athletes charged with serious crime (cont.)
A few days earlier in Philadelphia, two Drexel University basketball players were charged with armed robbery. Jamie Harris, the team's starting point guard and leading scorer, and Kevin Phillip, a backup forward, surrendered to authorities a day after allegedly entering a woman's apartment and pointing handguns while searching for money. The charges are pending and Harris' lawyer says his client has been falsely accused.
A few cases like this a year is one thing, but 10 in one week is out of control.
It's particularly troubling to see more and more college athletes carrying guns. Twelve of the 16 weapons-related arrests I looked at involved student-athletes, such as Kansas football players Jamal Greene and Vernon Brooks, both of whom were charged with attempted aggravated robbery. Police say the two players entered a Lawrence apartment armed with a handgun and forced several people to the floor.
The only thing more disturbing than athletes carrying guns is athletes abusing women. It's debatable whether pro athletes are more prone than non-athletes to abuse women. But I led a national study in 1995 that examined the campus police records and internal judicial affairs records at 20 Division I institutions, most of which had top basketball or football programs. Among other things, we found that male student-athletes comprised 3.3 percent of the total male population, yet represented 19 percent of the perpetrators reported for sexual assault.
Things don't appear to have changed much since then. Women were the alleged victims in at least 22 of the 125 arrests involving basketball and football players so far this year. That's almost 20 percent. Most of these -- 14 -- involved domestic violence.
Of course what I've done here is not a scientific study. Nor do arrests equal convictions. No doubt some of the 125 cases against athletes that I have found so far this year will result in dropped charges. But let's not bury our heads in the sand here. If on average a football or basketball player is charged with a serious crime every other day, there's an undeniable problem. It starts with the type of players that some college coaches are willing to recruit. Until colleges and universities demand a higher standard, the problem will continue to get worse.
Missouri officials applied such a standard when they dismissed star running back Derrick Washington after he was charged with felony sexual assault in August (he was the fourth Tigers football player arrested in the month). Despite leading Missouri in rushing with 1,901 yards and 27 touchdowns over the past two seasons, Washington was permanently suspended under a University of Missouri policy that prohibits athletes charged with a felony from playing until the case is resolved. That's a policy that all schools should adopt.
Jeff Benedict is a distinguished Professor of English at Southern Virginia University and the author of several books on athletes and violence, including Out of Bounds and Pros and Cons. Check out his website at jeffbenedict.com.
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