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.

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

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Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

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Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”