RMU Proclamation: Is breaking the law the new self-inflicted truth of college sports?

Cortny Yoxheimer

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It starts with a thought that travels throughout the synapses of the brain. The subconscious debates whether to put forth the action, or neglect the mishandling of the current moment. Time stands still only for a few seconds as the human puts that thought into a process, thus creating an instance.

An epidemic has surfaced in collegiate athletics, primarily football and basketball, that speaks volumes throughout the sport community. A multitude of arrests, charges and citations are being dealt to college athletes within the NCAA.

Actions need to be taken to stymie the rate at which young men get themselves into trouble. It never used to be this way, but perhaps they just didn’t get caught. Like the old adage says, “It’s not illegal unless you get caught.” Perhaps it is harder to get away with it now, than it was in the 80’s.

Want proof? Watch the 30 for 30 special on the University of Miami football team called, “The U” and see for yourselves.

According to ArrestNation.com, officials from all over the country arrested, issued a citation or charged 405 athletes in the year 2013. Here are the top five categories of sports with the most incidents last year:

  1. College football — 174
  2. Pro football — 71
  3. Former athletes — 50
  4. College basketball — 49
  5. Pro basketball — 19

College football and basketball accounted for 223 incidents last calendar year. That total is 55% of the arrests, citations or charges given out to men or women. A trend seems to be occurring that is not what the fathers of intercollegiate athletics intended.

405 incidents in 365 days; that is over one a day to athletes alone.

The problem still remains and is not being addressed. It seems that if a suspension, which could be called a slap on the wrist depending on the severity, is just like a public timeout to the accused.

For professional players specifically, they lose money, but can make it back in a few days.

However, for college athletes, that’s a different argument.

The university or college has the right to pull a scholarship from an athlete if they get injured for an extended period of time and a suspension is given to the young man or woman. It is the school system that is in charge and responsible for the scholarship. Each player is responsible for keeping it or not.

Addressing the issue of crime and punishment in college athletics can remain as taboo. Remember, the players aren’t professional athletes. It is still a college-setting and should be treated like one. Privacy laws are near a premium in the NCAA, and especially smaller programs like Robert Morris University or Duquesne University.

Looking more into the local scene, reckless behavior as a whole isn’t where the stereotype suggests with basketball and football.

  • Penn State — There has been no records of arrest since the 2013-14 school year started in August.
  • Duquesne — Duquesne also, has not dealt with problems in the same time period.
  • Pitt — According to reports, two Pitt football players were suspended for the entire 2013 season for taking part in a drug raid.
  • West Virginia — A defensive lineman was charged with first-degree robbery and is no longer with the Mountaineer football program.
  • Robert Morris — Four RMU basketball players were suspended indefinitely for a violation of university policy. Two football players have been suspended for a year due to disorderly conduct charges stemming from an on-campus incident.

What exactly is going on in Western Pennsylvania and the surrounding area? What happened to class, respect and the grandeur that included playing a collegiate sport?

Clearly, that is going by the wayside in order to secure championships and accolades that can only be reminisced upon by former athletes that make it to the pros. If a player isn’t good enough for the professional level and they get suspended; where do they go? The education is at risk if trouble ensues. When an education is gone, what next?

That is a question that doesn’t seem to go into the minds of young men that get in trouble without a thought. The topic is very controversial, but this is something that needs to be pondered by the leaders of the NCAA, each university in the country and the players themselves.

Now, Robert Morris University football is taking actions with a new head coach in John Banaszak that can now prevent an incident from even occurring.

An anonymous source told me of two programs the RMU football team has instilled.

  1. CAT Crimes — Called “Crimes Against the Team”, these punish a player if he misses class, gets low grades or commits an offense in any way. For example, one CAT crime will result in a lot of running in the morning, or at practice. The more the player commits, the worse the penalty that could lead to suspension.
  2. Athletic Advisers — This program is very helpful and more than just the football team practice it. To save the identity of my source, I’ll use John Doe. Doe has an adviser, that checks with him every week. He will bring the syllabi for each class and discuss his schooling. Also, at any point, the adviser can check into the athlete’s class and see if he is attending his courses. If he doesn’t, that would be an example of a CAT crime.
  3. Study Table — Another initiative that is used school-wide at RMU. Athletes must go to a certain number of study table hours per day if they are not performing well in the classroom.

This type of responsibility the coaches have for his players doesn’t stop at just football. Andy Toole has always said to his players that you have to be a star on the court and in the classroom more importantly. To Toole, education is extremely important, but not every coach in the NCAA believes what he and Banaszak do.

Ethics are almost non-existent in 2014.

It’s only getting worse as recruitment is turning into a circus of questions that only discuss the unimportant. Examples include:

  1. Can you win me a championship?
  2. How much do you bench?
  3. What’s your 40-time?

Rarely does the athlete get questioned about his grades and extra-curricular activities.

Score sheets and accolades are great and all, but isn’t a diploma more important?

A better screening process during recruitment and a better look at the players during the year can certainly do the epidemic at hand. Whether that includes new curfews, regulations or programs, something needs to change. Robert Morris got the hint laid out by the forefathers of collegiate sport and are acting, not just watching and adhering to the incessant requests of the NCAA.

What the past can do for a person is teach them not to repeat history. While the NCAA continues to be corrupt, learn from Robert Morris who is taking initiatives to change the recent trend of young men. That is fact.

A degree is greater than a championship. That will always be a fact.

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