It was a source of
pride for local sports fans, but for Dave Wiens the state football title that
Grossmont College, a junior college in El Cajon, Calif., won in 2005 was
nothing to savor. In September '04, Wiens, then a 20-year-old junior business
management student at nearby San Diego State, was confronted by several
Griffins players at a party near campus. In an incident caught on videotape,
they beat the 5'7", 145-pound Wiens so severely that he was hospitalized
with a broken jaw.
Eight months later
Grossmont linebacker Gary McLaurin, defensive back Kenneth Tullis and
quarterback Carter Hallock pleaded guilty to felony assault. But they weren't
sentenced until late October 2005--each received 270 days in jail and three
years' probation--and McLaurin and Hallock contributed to the Griffins'
championship season. Says Wiens's mother, Melodye Shore, "If someone is
carried away in handcuffs and then convicted, that person shouldn't be
A new California
law may prevent such scenarios. The bill, introduced at Shore's urging by
Republican assemblyman Jay La Suer and signed last month by Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger, prohibits athletes who have been convicted of violent felonies
and haven't completed their sentences from playing sports at state colleges.
The ban is novel: Most schools and governing bodies, including the NCAA, allow
felons with pending sentences to take the field. "[The NCAA] has this huge
manual of eligibility," Shore says. "You could be suspended for taking
a cheeseburger from a booster, but for any of the crimes listed in this bill
you could still play."
The University of
California system already has a similar provision, so the law will primarily
affect the California State University system and the state's junior colleges,
which are often magnets for athletes with troubled legal histories. The bill
passed easily, but it has less support among those who must enforce it. The law
requires only that student-athletes sign a "declaration" about their
criminal histories; schools aren't required to conduct background checks.
"It's not going to work," says Phil Mullendore, executive director of
the California College and University Police Chief Association. "There's no
incentive for [athletes] to tell the truth."
philosophical opposition as well. Nonathletes at California colleges don't have
to disclose criminal backgrounds, and critics of the new law say athletes are
being treated unfairly. "We're placing this burden on them when we're not
doing it to the other groups," says Mullendore. "If we don't want them
on the field, why do we want them in [campus] housing?" For Wiens, who
graduated from San Diego State this year, the bill is long overdue: "This
will ensure that no other person has to watch as his assailants continue to