GRIZ GRIT: Athletes Under Scrutiny

By Beacon Staff

Can the professional and collegiate sports scene come under more scrutiny than it has in recent months due to a number of instances of questionable judgment displayed by athletes?

I once believed it was all about the money when there were transgressions involving athletes who suddenly had an abundance more pocket cash than the average person makes in a lifetime. But I’ve since decided it has more to do with the lack of foundation they received in their formative years.

All of us have made questionable decisions in our lives – some of which were publicized, while others weren’t – but the degree to which current athletes seem to continue to step over the line – even if not, in fact, violating the law – is more than concerning; it is worrisome.

For a coach like University of Florida’s Urban Meyer to say he doesn’t believe his football program is in turmoil and needs a change in direction after more than two-dozen players have been arrested during his six-year, two national-championship tenure in Gainesville is ludicrous.

But while I surely won’t go so far as to call the Gator program “dirty,” as some have asserted and Meyer has vehemently denied, I will say that whatever they are doing at Florida to assure even a degree of legal compliance just flat-out isn’t working. And every aspect of the program should be evaluated and restructured, and not by the Athletic Department but by the Institution.

I obviously don’t have the particulars of the 30 arrests that involved 27 different players, so there is no way here to draw a conclusion about the severity or the circumstances of the alleged instances.

Unfortunately, while a check of a potential player’s background is part of most recruiting processes, whether an athlete is offered a scholarship has more to do with his athletic ability than his personal or academic performance.

We, as fans, can say we want outstanding citizens representing our favorite teams in competition. And, in rare cases, fans wouldn’t want a player recruited who had been charged with two DUIs in his teen years transferring to the University of Montana.

But I can tell you from personal experience, if they’re good enough to help the program succeed – and this player was – and they make it past the NCAA Clearing House, they’ll be on the field. Because, in many cases, if you don’t take them someone else in your league might.

I surely believe in letting a player rectify their mistakes and, in many cases, I’ve seen that benefit the player, his teammates and the institution. There are indeed more successes than there are failures.

With the pressure to succeed – your job depends on it after all – coaching staffs are forced to take chances on players.

But can they be expected to monitor a player’s activity 24/7? Is a chemistry professor expected to ensure a student is completing his or her assignment instead of gambling at a local establishment?

And how are coaches expected to pass along a lifetime of values and structure in the 20 hours a week they are allowed by the NCAA to be in contact with their athletes?

I’m sincerely fortunate that coaching was never a part of my DNA.

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