December 4th, 2013

Billy Reed: There's a lot wrong with college sports


Billy Reed

Executive Editor

Billy Reed: There's a lot wrong with college sports
Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston is accused of rape / photos from

The aftermath of college football’s most exciting day has left us in a state of confusion, frustration and astonishment. It has forced each of us to search our souls and question our values. Mostly, it has again raised unsettling questions about our national obsession with winning and about how money has corrupted the college sports world to its very core.

Let’s begin in the Big Ten Conference, where Ohio State was able to sustain its unbeaten season — and national championship aspirations   when Michigan failed to convert a two-point conversion attempt in the final seconds. It was everything a big rivalry game should be — except for a brawl that led to the ejection of Ohio State guard Marcus Hall and Michigan linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone.

Hall left the Buckeyes’ bench to jump into the fray. After being ejected, he threw his helmet to the ground and kicked the team bench. Then he made an obscene gesture with both hands to taunting Michigan fans as he left the stadium.

It was poor sportsmanship of the worst kind. Had it been a basketball game, it probably would have incited a riot. But what made it even worse was that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney only slapped the wrists of Hall and the Ohio State coaching staff. He declined to suspend Hall from Saturday’s conference championship game against Michigan State.

How gutless can you get? Why even have a commissioner if he’s not going to take action in such a flagrant case of unacceptable behavior? This sets a precedent that Delaney will come to regret. If Hall’s behavior doesn’t merit sanctions, then what does?

And what about sainted Ohio State coach Urban Meyer? He can now hide behind the commissioner’s sorry lack of action. Never mind that if he were the upright person he purports to be, he would suspend Hall regardless for conduct unbecoming an Ohio State player.

No doubt both Delaney and Meyer would deny that their despicable lack of character and leadership has anything to do with the national championship. But it does. The most coveted trophy of all hasn’t resided in the Big Ten since 2002. The league is desperate for a title and the money that comes with it.

Now let’s move to the Heisman Trophy race.

While Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron’s chances were compromised by his team’s stunning loss to Auburn, Florida State freshman Jameis Winston strengthened his claim with another gaudy performance against hapless Florida. As he has led the Seminoles to an unbeaten record and the No. 1 ranking, Winston has emerged as this year’s version of RGIII, Cam Newton and Johnny Football.

A quarterback, in other words, who has single-handedly turned a program around and captured the nation’s imagination with his brilliant playmaking and leadership. But there’s a rather glaring problem with Winston: an allegation that he raped a fellow student at an apartment house on Dec. 7, 2012.

When the incident came under the jurisdiction of the Tallahassee Police Department, things began to get confusing. According to one report, an officer ominously told the alleged victim that she needed to be aware of football’s importance in Tallahassee. Another source reported a bomb threat to the woman’s sorority house. For whatever reasons, police dropped the investigation in February of this year, only to have it resurface in mid-November, long after Winston had become one of the Heisman front-runners.

Earlier this week, authorities in Tallahassee said the revived investigation would last at least two more weeks, meaning that Heisman voters won’t know if Winston we will be charged when the deadline for voting arrives on Dec. 9. That has put voters in an unprecedented quandary: Can they vote for Winston knowing he might be indicted for rape even before the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 14?

One school of thought — and the one that I believe will prevail — insists that he be accorded the presumption of innocence and should be judged strictly by his accomplishments on the field. But the problem here is the Heisman Trust mandate that the trophy should go to the player who “best pursues excellence with integrity.”

The words “with integrity” were added after 2005 Heisman winner Reggie Bush was found by the NCAA to be guilty of receiving improper benefits while he was playing for Southern Cal. Bush returned the trophy “voluntarily,” although he was under pressure from Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden.

So there’s also a group that believes the Heisman Trust wishes should be honored. In other words, if a player has possible felony charges hanging over him during the voting period, he should be unofficially disqualified from consideration. I believe that’s the proper choice. The integrity of the sport and the award should be preserved, even at the cost of a player’s chances.

Finally, there’s the saddest story of all.

The Alabama-Auburn game was an instant classic, full of twists and turns that will be hotly debated for years to come. In the end, defending two-time national champion Alabama snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by missing an ill-advised 56-year field-goal attempt and then watching Auburn speedster Chris Davis catch the miss 8 yards in the end zone and proceed to race through the Tide’s plodding kick team for a 108-yard TD run and a 34-28 Auburn win.

On Monday, Adrian Laroze Briskey, 28, was arrested and charged with shooting Michelle Shepherd, 36, to death sometime after the conclusion of the Auburn-Alabama game. Both the shooter and the victim were Alabama fans. But according to the victim’s sister, Briskey didn’t think Shepherd was upset enough about the loss. So she killed her.



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