A little pocket money could help college problems

March 18, 2011 

It was sad for the ol' coach to read last week about four players on Auburn's national champion football team who were arrested for robberies and burglaries and dismissed from the team. One of the players arrested was a starting safety for the Tigers, two were freshmen, and one a junior. This is very distressing, because it seems crime has become too prevalent among college football players over the past 10 years.

The Auburn crime situation brought back an awful memory of 2005, shortly after Steve Spurrier became the head coach at South Carolina. At that time, several players were charged with the theft of $18,000 worth of computers and video making equipment. Two other players were arrested for burglarizing dorm rooms on campus. Another player failed drug tests, and he was considered a drug salesman. After that occurred, I felt that coach Spurrier was doing a good job of rebuilding the character of the Gamecocks.

Shortly after the awful Gamecock news, I discovered an organization that highlights college athletic sex crimes. A young lady, Kathy Redmond, founded the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes in 1997 after she was raped by an athlete at the University of Nebraska. The NCAVA has a website providing a great deal of stats about college sex crimes by athletes.

Trying to find out more about college athletes involved with crime, I Googled a term, and I had no idea what would pop up. The term was "NCAA criminals," and astonishingly, it brought up many websites about college athletes involved in crimes.

I opened a website that featured Sports Illustrated and CBS News and provided information about these horrible crimes. The data disclosed 41 charges of burglary, 6 aggravated assaults, 3 sex offenses, and 105 alcohol offenses and drug possessions with the intent to sell the drugs. SI and CBS added information about colleges that have a number of athletes with police records before coming to college.

For instance, Pittsburgh has 22, Iowa and Arkansas have 18, Virginia Tech has 13, and Penn State, one of my all-time favorite colleges because of coach Joe Paterno, has 13.

The last one is surprising knowing Coach Paterno's coaching philosophy; he feels that character is as important as athleticism. I learned his thoughts when my son played at Penn State in the late 1980s. I believe he is sincerely involved in trying to help these young men build their character so they can develop a positive future.

As a junior football player at Wichita State in 1962, I had a shocking experience. Two of my teammates were arrested for stealing text books from students as they ate in the cafeteria, and they tried to resell the books to the school's book store. Prior to that, I felt they were both good friends and good teammates. It still hurts my feelings.

I believe players involved in robberies, burglaries and drug sales are young men who do not have financial aid from low-income parents or split-up parents. The lack of money for social activities -- dates, parties, clothes, and other things -- leads to thefts.

With that thought in mind, I have long felt the NCAA should pass a rule to provide NCAA Division 1-A football and basketball players $100 a month because of their efforts, which create enormous amounts of money to help support the school's other sports that don't make a great deal of money. The $100 a month should be due to them while they are involved in their sport's pre-season workouts, practices, and games.

To help the players get $100 a month, I wish the head coaches making more than $1 million and the highly paid assistants would be willing to take a 10 percent pay cut and the school would make a 10 percent cut in recruiting funds to help the young men financially.

I feel this plan would help build quality character and eliminate crimes, which would be important to each young man trying to build a foundation for his future.

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