Report: Gator, ‘Nole athletes avoid legal charges more than other students, schools

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In a report that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, ESPN‘s investigative arm has found that a student’s status as an athlete — and the subsequent “extra” help involved — may help him wiggle out of some difficult legal circumstances — at least compared to the general student body, that is.

In a video expose along with a companion online written piece, the WWL program Outside the Lines reports that it “selected 10 schools in various conferences and geographies, leaning toward colleges in quintessential college towns and in states that had public records laws that seemed favorable to accessing police and court records” in examining how student-athletes were treated in the legal system. The 10 universities involved in the investigation, which takes into account records from 2009-14, were:

  • Auburn
  • Florida
  • Florida State
  • Michigan State
  • Missouri
  • Notre Dame
  • Oklahoma State
  • Oregon State
  • Texas A&M
  • Wisconsin

(The results obtained as it relates to Michigan State and Notre Dame are incomplete as the former heavily redacted the information it turned over to ESPN while the latter, citing its status as a private institution, did not turn over campus police records. ESPN has sued each of those universities, and both cases are still pending.)

From the report:

Overall, the Outside the Lines investigation found that what occurs between high-profile college athletes and law enforcement is not as simple as the commonly held perception that police and prosecutors simply show preferential treatment, though that does occur. Rather, the examination of more than 2,000 documents shows that athletes from the 10 schools mainly benefited from the confluence of factors that can be reality at major sports programs: the near-immediate access to high-profile attorneys, the intimidation that is felt by witnesses who accuse athletes, and the higher bar some criminal justice officials feel needs to be met in high-profile cases.

One of the more noteworthy statistics gleaned from the piece can be summed up by a tweet from Paula Lavigne, the author of the expansive report.

For the purpose of Lavigne’s report, “athletes” refers to football and men’s basketball players at each institution.

The report shines a particularly harsh light on former Florida running back Chris Rainey and current Florida State associate athletic director Monk Bonasorte.

During his time in Gainesville, Rainey was named as a suspect in five crimes; he was charged once, the report noted. Additionally, Rainey, who infamously sent the “time to die, b***h!” text to his girlfriend, has been accused of three additional crimes in Gainesville since leaving the Gators and hasn’t been charged in any of those cases.

The report also reveals that Bonasorte, a former Seminole football player, was arrested for cocaine distribution in the late eighties and served six months in jail. His name also appears in numerous police reports turned over to ESPN in his unofficial capacity as “liaison” between the football program and police departments.

“He is kind of the fixer for football,” an unnamed former staff member said about Bonasorte. “He knows where the skeletons are buried, but he also helps keep those football players, not out of trouble, but out of paying for the trouble they’ve gotten into.”

In Tallahassee, Outside the Lines found at least nine examples from 2009 to 2014 in which officers documented that Florida State coaches or athletic department officials tried to determine when and where city police would interview athletes or attempted other involvement.

“That would be a classic example of real poor police work,” said Willie Meggs, the state of Florida’s chief prosecuting attorney in the Tallahassee region. “You don’t do an interview of a suspect — football, non-football, athlete, non-athlete — in their own comfortable environment. That’s common sense.”

Meggs, of course, is the state’s attorney who, saying his investigation didn’t find enough evidence to prove it was not consensual, declined to charge FSU quarterback Jameis Winston with rape In December of 2013.

Of course, in this day and age, no report of this type would be complete without a link to the vast, schizophrenic wasteland of sports message boards (and comments sections, in all honesty).  And, suffice to say, this isn’t something that Missouri will be putting on its recruiting literature at any point in the near future.

Dorial Green-Beckham had been a productive but troublesome player since joining the Tigers in 2012 as the top-ranked player in the country in that class. Following three twos — arrests, suspensions and police investigations — in less than two years, Mizzou announced that it was cutting its losses and dismissing the talented receiver.

The last incident that triggered his dismissal was by far the most disturbing as an incident report stemming from the report of a first-degree burglary stated that Green-Beckham pushed one woman down a several steps during a domestic incident.  The victims, one of whom was quoted in the incident report as stating she was afraid of the media and community backlash, declined to press charges, forcing the police to drop the case.

At least as far as the community backlash was concerned, the victim’s visceral fears were warranted:

On TigerBoard.com, a popular online forum for Missouri fans, the name-calling and harassment had begun: “Which loser ass snitch called the cops over some drunk kids arguing?” “Snitches get stitches!” “No, just a jersey chaser looking for $.” “Jock sniffin for dark meat team.” “Is gold digging a sport?”

For the complete ESPN report, click HERE. For how the investigation was conducted, click HERE.

Rutgers hires search firm to help find new football coach

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Rutgers has officially been in the market for a new head football coach for over a week, and now the school is going to get some help from a search firm.

Rutgers announced a new partnership with Ventura Partners on Monday. The firm will help Rutgers in searching for a new head football coach and may assist in helping to hire other new leaders in the future as Rutgers looks to revitalize their entire athletics department.

“We are excited to be working with Ventura Partners,” Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs said in a released statement on Monday. “They provide a unique range of services, including talent acquisition and development. We will begin working together immediately to ensure excellent leadership for our football program. They will also be working with us throughout the engagement on strengthening our human resources and providing market data and intelligence.”

Rutgers fired Chris Ash as head coach on Sept. 29, which is a costly move thanks to a previous contract extension. The Scarlet Knights have since been dealing with a handful of players redshirting the remainder of the season and an abysmal performance on the road against Indiana in which the team gained just 75 yards of offense while giving up over 500 yards to the Hoosiers.

Mike Aresco expects to hear update on AAC championship game waiver “in the next month”

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With the upcoming departure of UConn from the American Athletic Conference, the staus of the AAC Championship Game is officially in question. Without 12 football-playing members, the AAC does not satisfy the NCAA requirement to play an official conference championship game without a waiver. Not wanting to give up the title game just a few short years after implementing it (and accepting the extra revenue generated in the TV contract), AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is hoping to get some positive word on a waiver request sometime soon.

How soon?

It looks like we may have an update on this situation within the month. The sooner, the better.

UConn is leaving the AAC after this current football season, and Aresco has made it clear the conference still wants to continue playing its conference title game. The current plan is for the AAC to scrap the two-division format entirely and pit the two best teams in a conference championship game at the end of the regular season (an idea that would work well in almost every conference, by the way). The AAC reportedly field a formal waiver to allow for the championship game to live on back in August.

The Big 12 currently only has 10 members and has been granted permission to field a conference championship game on top of the round-robin schedule played during the season. If the Big 12 can have a conference title game without 12 members, then the AAC should be getting confirmation their conference championship game will continue too. But waiting for the official word is needed before the conference can start making plans for 2020 and beyond.

At this point, there remains no sign the conference is looking to add a 12th member for football, which would negate the need for a waiver. But if the waiver is denied, for some reason, then expect the AAC expansion rumors to start flying once again.

Michigan Class of 2018 four-star TE Mustapha Muhammad enters NCAA transfer portal

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The NCAA transfer portal has been busy this Monday. Add Michigan tight end Mustapha Muhammad as one of the latest entrants into the transfer portal. Muhammad made the transfer portal news himself with an announcement on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.

Muhammad is a redshirt freshman. He will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS program, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning 2021. By entering the transfer portal, Muhammad is free to have contact with any other football program looking to recruit him out of Ann Arbor. The Texas native signed with Michigan over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson, among others. Unfortunately, the highly rated recruit hasn’t been able to establish a key role in the Michigan offense early on, even with the Wolverines offense looking for playmakers.

Michigan’s tight end position appears to be settled with Nick Eubanks and Sean McKeon reaching the midway point of the season as Michigan’s leading tight ends when it comes to receiving yards. Eubanks is fifth on the team overall with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown. McKeon has added 96 yards and two touchdowns. Both players are seniors, however, but Michigan also has redshirt freshman Luke Schoonmaker as an option at the tight end position moving forward.

Oregon DB Kahlef Halassie steps into transfer portal

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Oregon defensive back Kahlef Hailassie is now officially on the market. Hailassie announced on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon he has officially entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.

A sophomore and a member of Oregon’s Class of 2018, Hailassie is now eligible to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him to their program. when he committed to the Ducks out of high school, Hailassie chose Oregon over offers from Colorado and Washington State, among others. Hailassie had previously committed to Colorado during his recruiting process, only to de-commit shortly after an official visit to Boulder.

Hailassie played in just three games this season before being sidelined with an injury. Because he has played in fewer than four games, Hailassie can use the 2019 season as a redshirt year. Hailassie played in all 13 games for Oregon as a true freshman in 2018, recording one tackle as a reserve player and a special teams player. Hailassie will have to sit out the 2020 season if he ends up at another FBS program, which would make him eligible to return to the field with two full years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2021.