With the arrest of Florida’s Chris Rainey and Reggie Bush‘s decision to strip himself of the Heisman he won while at USC both in the news in the past week, the various off-field issues for both programs have once again seen the spotlight placed squarely on them.
The Gators, of course, have seen 27 players arrested a total of 30 times during Urban Meyer‘s time in Gainesville, while the Trojans were slammed with stiff NCAA sanctions for, in part, Bush and his family accepting illegal benefits during his time at the school.
In the grand scheme of things, which one is worse?
Bryant Gumbel seems to have a clear answer to that question as he expressed dismay on a recent edition of HBO’s Real Sports over the fact that USC is on probation — among other punitive sanctions that are much more damaging yet not mentioned — while schools such as Florida, with multiple player arrests, are “in full compliance… by NCAA standards.”
Here’s the full transcript of Gumbel’s closing remarks:
Finally tonight, a few words about crime and punishment. I’m no legal expert, not by a long shot, but I do believe that driving drunk, robbing a convenience store, and hitting your girlfriend are all worse offenses than dealing with an agent. Most people would agree with that I think except, it seems, the folks in charge of college football.
How else to explain the fact that the USC Trojans are currently on NCAA probation while the Florida Gators are not, even though Florida’s program has seen 27 different players arrested during the short tenure of Coach Urban Meyer. That’s right, by NCAA standards, 27 arrests merit not so much as an official reprimand. But dealing with a prospective agent prematurely, as former Trojan Reggie Bush did, gets your program punished for four years.
It’s not just about USC. NCAA investigations are ongoing at the Universities of Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina for the same kind of premature conversation with agents that Bush had. And it’s not just about Florida. Players at Pittsburgh, Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Southern Mississippi, UCLA and elsewhere have also been arrested this year. But all of those programs are, by NCAA standards, in full compliance.
Look, no one’s naïve enough to think football’s ever going to be played by a bunch of choirboys. It’s not. But you’d think that NCAA officials could, at the very least, give coaches and athletic directors a reason to be as diligent about illegality as they are about eligibility – and right now they don’t. Until and unless they do, the NCAA’s idea of institutional control is anything but.
Of course, off-field legal incidents don’t fall under the purview of the NCAA, although an argument could — and maybe should — be made that a uniform standard of punishment be utilized by all members of Div. 1-A for players who have been arrested.
Until then, and as much as I like to bash the governing body of collegiate athletics, it’s up to the individual schools to police and, if necessary, play judge, jury and executioner on their own players whenever they run afoul of the law.
Mr. Gumbel certainly has a point when it comes to the disconnect when comparing what’s occurring with “rogue” agents and the goings on in places like Florida, Georgia and Missouri, but it’s not as simple as he paints it. Then again, maybe it should be.