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.

Mizzou’s prized DT recruit cleared by NCAA

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All systems are a go for Missouri defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. Beckner Jr., one of the top recruits in Missouri’s Class of 2015, has been cleared by the NCAA to be eligible to play this fall.

Beckner Jr. committed to Missouri on signing day, but coaches admitted he still had some work to do in order to become eligible to be a part of the program by the fall. That typically means there are some academic concerns in need of addressing, but Gabe DeArmond of PowerMizzou.com reported Tuesday (via Twitter) Beckner has been cleared to play this fall. That is typically a positive sign with regard to academic concerns for any player or recruit.

As noted by The Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri is set to begin summer sessions on Monday, and Beckner is registered in the campus directory.

Beckner was a four-star recruit out of East St. Louis, Illinois. His 6.0 Rivals rating is the highest of any of Mizzou’s Class of 2015 members and is the highest since Dorial Green-Beckham was rated a 6.1 by Rivals in the Class of 2012.

Photo credit: Rivals.com

Florida transfer Gerald Willis seeking ‘run-off’ waiver for immediate eligibility at Miami

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Yeah, good luck with that.

A month after it was confirmed he he would be “transferring” from Florida, Miami announced in February that Gerald Willis would be transferring into the Hurricanes football program.  Normally a player in Willis’ situation would be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.

While that will very likely be the case with Willis, he’s giving immediate eligibility, Dorial Green-Beckham-style, the old college try.

In a conversation with CaneSport.com, Willis claims that he was actually dismissed by new UF head coach Jim McElwain.  The defensive lineman also confirmed that he has applied for a so-called “run-off” waiver with the NCAA.

From SBNation.com:

The “run-off” waiver is a little known provision of the NCAA handbook where a player can petition to be ruled immediately eligible if the NCAA finds that the player left their previous institution against their will, i.e. they were “run-off” from the program. Here are the requirements to apply for such a waiver, from athleticscholarships.net

  • Documentation demonstrating that the student-athlete would not have had the opportunity to return to the previous institution’s team for reasons outside the control of the student-athlete.
  • A written statement from the applicant institution that the student-athlete is in good academic standing and meets all progress-toward-degree requirements at applicant institution.
  • A written statement from the student-athlete’s previous institution indicating that the previous institution supports the request.

Willis’ self-proclaimed dismissal came after multiple physical run-ins with Gator teammates, so how he could argue that he could not return to the team for reasons outside of his control is head-scratching to say the least.  Additionally, as UF and The U are in-state rivals, it seems highly unlikely that the former would help the latter by writing a letter of support for Willis.

A decision on the waiver is expected at some point next month at the earliest.

Willis was a four-star member of the Gators’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 6 strongside defensive end in the country.  He played in five games as a true freshman last season.  Willis’ stay at UF was a brief one as, a couple of months after a verbal disagreement over a pair of cleats escalated into a physical altercation with a teammate, it was announced that Willis was leaving the program.

In addition to Miami, Willis told the Rivals.com website that Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M pursued him after he left UF.

Report: DGB would’ve returned to OU if Jay Norvell did, too

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Oklahoma’s collapse against Oklahoma State and Clemson may have cost the Sooners more than just a couple games. It probably cost co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell his job, which in turn cost OU a season of Dorial Green-Beckham.

At least, that’s how NFL Network’s Albert Breer tells it. In a story about what he calls the player with “more to lose – or gain” than any at this week’s NFL Combine, Breer details, through anonymous NFL sources who evaluated DGB, his demeanor during his silent 2014 season.

“According to the information gathered by a number of NFL evaluators, Green-Beckham walked the straight and narrow as, in essence, a very well-known practice-squader last fall,” he writes. “He was there for early-morning workouts, quickly established himself as a star on the practice field and planned to stay for the 2015 season. Those plans changed after the firing of co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, with whom Green-Beckham had built a strong relationship, but the gifted prospect was able to leave OU under much better circumstances than he did Mizzou.”

That type of report will endear him to the world’s most judgmental group – the aforementioned anonymous NFL talent evaluators – after one noteworthy season at Missouri followed by a hasty, ugly exit.

DGB could’ve erased all doubts about his game and his character by returning to Norman. Lincoln Riley‘s offense undoubtedly would have delivered him the ball as often as his hands could grasp it. But, risky as it is to jump into the NFL on a 13-month break from competitive football, returning to Oklahoma was not without risks, either. The Sooners’ quarterback situation is unsettled (at best) and the risk of injury is omnipresent.

But when you get one NFL scout to sing your praises like this, leaving early seems like the much smaller risk: “He’s one of the best receivers I’ve ever seen,” said the scout. “He’s special. He’s gigantic; he has tremendous body control, balance; he runs like a deer and can leap out of the gym and high-point the ball. He’s special. It’s impressive. If not for all that stuff, he’d be the best receiver to come out since Calvin Johnson.”

Dorial Green-Beckham to enter NFL draft

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A shakeup to his coaching staff wasn’t the only thing Bob Stoops was confirming Tuesday afternoon.

At a press conference wrapping up the turbulent 2014 campaign, the Oklahoma head coach confirmed that wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has decided to make himself available for the 2015 NFL draft.  The move means that Green-Beckham, who had his appeal for immediate eligibility denied in August of last year, will leave Norman without ever having played a down for the Sooners.

Green-Beckham had been a productive but troublesome player since joining Missouri 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 in April of 2014.

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.  Despite the off-field issues, OU signed Green-Beckham in early July.

In his two seasons with the Tigers, Green-Beckham totaled 87 receptions for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns.  His size (6-6, 225 pounds) and talent will certainly draw the attention of NFL scouts, but how he fares in the evaluations as it pertains to his character will ultimately determine where he’s drafted.