Sports Illustrated cover story on criminal records in College Football

How many arrests did the last all-white national champion team, the Texas Longhorns (1969), have?

We write about college football a lot here. It is the opiate of America. Without college football, Black people in the southern states would never have had the opportunity to provide positive images to rabid alumni and fans of the majority-white marquee institutions there.

Even providing those positive images isn’t enough as white people with means move away from diversifying areas (read Black) and create Whitopias that surround Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, and other major cities. These white people will cheer on the sons of the same Black people they will never live anywhere near.

Search the archives of this Web site and you’ll find some hard-hitting essays on college football and race, but read the cover story of the latest Sports Illustrated and you’ll find this essay:

Few football programs had a more difficult season in 2010 than the University of Pittsburgh. Led by running back Dion Lewis, a Doak Walker candidate, the Panthers were the preseason pick to win the Big East and go to a BCS bowl. But things quickly began unraveling — on and off the field. 

In a span between mid-July and late September, four players were arrested for four separate, violent crimes. 

First, senior defensive end Jabaal Sheard was charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest after allegedly throwing a man through the glass door of an art gallery. Authorities told SI that even after an officer arrived on the scene, Sheard continued to punch the victim in the face as he lay on his back, bleeding. Sheard was suspended from the team. But after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct on Aug. 4, 2010, he was reinstated for the 2010 season. 

In an interview last month, former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who resigned after his team finished a disappointing 8-5, defended Sheard, saying he was just trying to come to the aid of another player and break up a fight. 

On Sept. 12, redshirt freshman running back Jason Douglas was charged with aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence. According to court records, Douglas hit a male pedestrian, whom police found lying in the street, bleeding from open wounds to his head and throat. As Douglas was handcuffed he said: “Hey I play for Pitt football … please don’t arrest me.” He was suspended from the team and has pleaded not guilty. 

On Sept. 18, sophomore offensive lineman Keith Coleman was charged with aggravated assault and harassment. Police records indicate that in an incident on the street near the Pitt campus he beat up one man and body slammed another who attempted to intervene. One of the victims was treated for a broken shoulder. Coleman was suspended indefinitely. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is awaiting trial. 

Finally on Sept. 22, police responded to a 911 call reporting that a man was choking a woman at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Officers found Donna Turner bent over on a porch, crying and vomiting. She identified her attacker as Jeffrey Knox, a freshman defensive back at Pitt. 

“Knox … open handed slapped Turner in the head with such force that she was thrown to the ground,” the police report states. “Knox then jumped on her, grabbed her by the throat, picked her up by her throat and slammed her head into the wall. He held her against the wall, continuing to choke her.” 

When two female witnesses tried pulling Knox off Turner, he allegedly threw punches at them and knocked them down. He then left the scene before authorities arrived. A day later, Knox was dismissed from the team after being charged with assault and reckless endangerment. 

“The charges are garbage,” Knox’s attorney, Martin Scoratow, told SI. “They don’t reflect the incident. There was something between the two of them. But it was like a teenage spat.” 

When asked about Knox, Wannstedt said, “He did things he never should have done and was dismissed from the team.” 

Knox will be formally arraigned on March 3 and could stand trial later in the spring.Before this rash of arrests, Pitt had no procedure for screening football recruits for past trouble with the law. But after Knox’s arrest Pitt’s athletic department implemented a new policy requiring coaches to seek more detailed background information on potential recruits. 

“This evaluation is not a legal criminal background check,” the school said in a statement. “Rather, it is a checklist of questions that attempts to gain greater knowledge of the behavior and citizenship of an individual prospect from a variety of people.” 

It’s a good first step, but doesn’t go far enough. An unprecedented six-month investigation by Sports Illustrated and CBS News found that Pittsburgh had more players in trouble with the law (22) than any other school among SI’s 2010 preseason Top 25. The joint investigation involved conducting criminal background checks on every player — 2,837 in all — on the preseason rosters of those 25 teams. Players’ names, dates of birth and other vital information were checked at 31 courthouses and through 25 law enforcement agencies in 17 states. Players were also checked through one or more online databases that track criminal records. In all, 7,030 individual record checks were performed. 

Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg and athletic director Steve Pederson declined requests for comment, but the school issued another statement, which said, “We have publicly acknowledged the unacceptable number of off-the-field incidents involving members of our football program during the past season. We have addressed these with the appropriate sanctions and spoke out against such behavior.”*****Pitt was far from the only school with players who had criminal records. The results of the investigation include some striking revelations. Among them:• Seven percent of the players in the preseason Top 25 — 204 in all (1 of every 14) — had been charged with or cited for a crime, including dozens of players with multiple arrests. 

• Of the 277 incidents uncovered, nearly 40 percent involved serious offenses, including 56 violent crimes such as assault and battery (25 cases), domestic violence (6), aggravated assault (4), robbery (4) and sex offenses (3). In addition there were 41 charges for property crimes, including burglary and theft and larceny. 

• There were more than 105 drug and alcohol offenses, including DUI, drug possession and intent to distribute cocaine. 

• Race was not a major factor. In the overall sample, 48 percent of the players were black and 44.5 percent were white. Sixty percent of the players with a criminal history were black and 38 percent were white. 

• In cases in which the outcome was known, players were guilty or paid some penalty in nearly 60 percent of the 277 total incidents.

The majority of Black college football at major universities wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near them were it not for their athletic ability. The Black-white graduation rate gap for major college teams is abysmal and shows no signs of improving. It would be interesting to see Sports Illustrated do a racial breakdown of those arrests. We at SBPDL wager the majority of DUI arrests were white guys. 

College football at major colleges is composed of almost 50 percent Black participants, while those same institutions barely have a Black overall enrollment of 4-6 percent of the student body. Race, though Sports Illustrated claims it is not, is a factor if 60 percent of the players with a criminal history are Black. 

Who cares about the character, intelligence and overall moral quality (hey, it works at Brigham Young University) of the player recruited, right? As long as Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Auburn, Florida State or the other southern schools win games, it doesn’t matter how these players act. 

Scoreboard, baby is the only thing that matters (that is title of a book documenting abuses and criminal acts by Black football players at the University of Washington — Highly recommended). 

Winning is all that matters. Who cares about the morality of the players recruited to represent the school. Sports is the main reason Black Run America (BRA) continues to exist. Once a sport that actual student-athletes played, it [college football] has become the breeding grounds for athlete-students with the character of Michael Vick.

Michael Vick, loathed in the white community, is a hero in the Black community. Whereas white fans of college football will excuse the poor behavior of Black players as long as they play for THEIR alma mater — calling Black players for other teams thugs when they misbehave — Black sports fans will ALWAYS cheer for Black players, regardless of how disreputable their behavior is off the field.

Jeff Benedict, the author of the study, wrote a book called Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL which shows that the racial element of crime in professional football is even worse.

The point is simply this: College Football players are looked upon as heroes, Gods even, by students, alumni, sportswriters and young people. When the players are disproportionately Black (largely because Black males mature faster than potential white recruits) the heroes will be Black, though they might be the only Black people on campus.

And these fans will excuse poor Black behavior as long as the scoreboard says their team is winning.



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