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"Usually these [incidents] have a story, how the young people get caught up in things," says UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel. "Certainly, people make mistakes, and most of us in the coaching industry understand that."
Not all gambles pay off. Before his senior year at Lincoln High in Des Moines, all-state running back Adam Robinson was arrested for third-degree burglary and later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor trespassing. Iowa decided to take a chance on him. After redshirting in 2008, Robinson spent two productive years with the Hawkeyes but couldn't escape trouble.
In 2009 he pleaded guilty to underage purchase and possession of alcohol. In December, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz suspended Robinson for "failing to comply with team expectations and policy" and on Dec. 27 Robinson was charged with possession of marijuana. (He later pleaded guilty.) On Jan. 3, Ferentz dismissed Robinson from the team.
It was a difficult season for the Hawkeyes, who had the second-most players with legal trouble (18) of the schools in the SI/CBS News investigation. A few weeks before Robinson's marijuana case, senior Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa's alltime leading receiver, was arrested on multiple drug charges including keeping a drug house. He later pleaded down to possession of marijuana.
An Iowa spokesman said the school would have no comment on the arrests of team members.
At first glance, it seems like an error or a statistical anomaly: TCU, the Rose Bowl champion and a top five team in each of the past two seasons, did not have a single player among the 204 in the SI/CBS News investigation who were found to have been in trouble with the law. Not one arrest for drunken driving or assault. Not even a citation for public intoxication or disturbing the peace.
"We are not perfect," says TCU coach Gary Patterson. "In the past we have had kids who've made mistakes. But we have tried to recruit the type of high-character kid who gets here and buys into what we are doing and doesn't want to do anything to embarrass himself or the school."
TCU and Patterson have learned the risks of signing recruits who fall short of that standard. In 2002, a player was suspended from the school shortly before he was charged with murdering his girlfriend's 16-month-old daughter. In 2006, another player was accused of sexual assault. In 2007, a player was arrested for domestic violence.
Last fall a lawsuit was filed against TCU by a former student, who accused one football player and two basketball players of raping her in that same 2006 case. The suit, which accuses the school of not knowing about athletes' criminal records, is scheduled to go to trial in May.
Doing background searches on recruits is one reason why TCU has been able to keep its current football players out of trouble. "I always say that I only have to find 20 to 25 [recruits] each year who want to do it the right way," Patterson says. "Sure, there have been times I've bypassed a very talented player because we learned about something he did, but there are always other kids out there. They may need more time to develop, but we know they will buy into what we are doing."