For my four years here at the University, I've defended college athletes. "College athletics
are a positive institution at colleges across the United States," I used to say. "Athletes deserve to be at this University," I've repeated, over and over.
I cited examples of great scholar-athletes like Tiki Barber, Thomas Jones, Trajan Langdon and Shane Battier. To me, they represented the best that a college athletics program had to offer - students who participate in sports, but graduate with a degree and contribute to the community. But I realized something last week after Florida State's Peter Warrick was arrested: There aren't enough Barbers or Langdons out there.
The majority of athletes don't cause problems at colleges across the country. Compared with pro sports, college athletes look like Boy Scouts. But I have a very hard time understanding why some of these athletes who are given so many opportunities while they are at school are willing to risk everything to commit mindless crimes that jeopardize their future.
Look at Warrick, for example. The senior wide receiver is a Heisman Trophy candidate and, coming into this weekend's action, the favorite to win the award. He's going to go pro next year and make millions of dollars. Undoubtedly, he's treated wonderfully at Florida State. But that same person was accused of stealing $400 worth of clothes last week and is suspended indefinitely from the team.
I don't understand it.
During ABC's telecast of the Florida State-Miami game Saturday Warrick said he was sorry for disappointing his family and fans. He was confident that everything would work out and hopeful that he could rejoin the team.
That's great for him. But to me, Warrick's alleged crime symbolized everything that is wrong with college athletics.
Too often, college athletes are treated like kings by the school, by professors, by friends and by women. And anything that athlete does on and off the field is okay just because he can throw a football well or make a shot from anywhere on the basketball court. That might be true in the professional sports world. But it shouldn't be that way in college.
More and more, though, the same attitude is creeping into the collegiate realm. Yes, Warrick said he was sorry and that he guesses he will stay off the team until his legal proceedings are complete. It sounds admirable. But then his lawyer said he hopes the proceedings, which should take six weeks, will be completed sooner since Warrick can't afford to be out of action that long.
Let me get this straight - Warrick allegedly steals, admits he was wrong, says that he's sorry, but then says, "Hurry up - I need to play again."
Are we all supposed to smile and speed up his trial because he's a college athlete and nothing is more important than getting him back on the field?
That's wrong. Just because he may win the Heisman is no reason that he shouldn't wait for his day in court like everyone else accused of a crime.
Warrick's theft doesn't represent all college athletes, but it does point out that a problem exists. If colleges are going to say that their athletes are students first, then they need to be treated like normal students. They need to find themselves under the same regulations, and colleges need to stop bending the rules.
Will this improve the quality of play? Maybe not. Will it cause more people to watch? Probably not.
But I think what it will do is make college sports a little more pure. The way I see it, college athletes will encounter more than enough immoral behavior when they hit the pros. Let's keep their college years as idealistic as we can.