It seems like we’re constantly hearing about the trouble that college athletes manage to find themselves in, with athlete scandals and arrests as a hot topic in news and sports blogs. If you think that college athletes seem to get in trouble more than anyone else, you’re not imagining things: The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that arrests of college athletes are more than double that of professionals, an impressive number in all the wrong ways. We’ve found 15 of the most interesting and scandalous incidents to disgrace college athletics, from bar fights to real-life pimping.
In 2010, two Oklahoma State linemen got into a bar fight, but not just any fight: these two were going after each other, an incident that no doubt brings lots of pride and class to the OSU football organization. It sounds like it was quite the grisly battle, as lineman Anton Blatnik hit fellow lineman Stephen Denning in the face with a beer bottle before the cops stepped in. Denning was not deterred by the cops or his own bleeding face, however, as he tried to fight through police force to retaliate against Blatnik. There’s no word on what started the fight, but it ended with a taser shot for Denning, and a misdemeanor charge for Blatnik.
The Missouri Tigers dismissed their star running back, Derrick Washington, after he was charged with felony sexual assault against a former Missouri athletics tutor. The dismissal was a painful one, to be sure: in two seasons, Washington put up impressive numbers including 1,901 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. But the University of Missouri has a policy against allowing athletes charged with felonies to play until their cases are resolved. For Washington, that turned into a permanent suspension. Since his dismissal from Missouri, Washington has plead guilty to another assault charge, this time for allegations of third-degree assault against an ex-girlfriend.
Missouri isn’t the only school with a violent running back problem. The Duck’s star running back LaMichael James was charged with assaulting his former girlfriend, an incident that included attempted strangulation. But James’ punishment wasn’t nearly as harsh as the one received by Missouri’s Washington: he was clipped for a single misdemeanor harassment charge with just 10 days in jail, and he didn’t actually serve any time. Oregon gave James a slap on the wrist, suspending him for their opening game, but allowing him to continue to play on the team thereafter.
Bar fights seem to be a popular offense for otherwise defensive players: two linebackers for Ball State in Indiana ended up in a bar fight one Friday night. Travis Freeman and Kenneth Lee, Jr. were charged with Class B battery misdemeanors after getting into a scuffle at a bar and grill. According to reports, Lee grabbed a victim by his neck, and Freeman stepped in to back him up. While we don’t think this incident is anything to be proud of, at least Ball State can say more than OSU: these teammates were working together.
Reggie Bush is certainly not the first football player to be embroiled in an improper benefits scandal, but his does seem to be the most damaging to date. The NCAA slammed Bush when they found out that he received at least $200,000 from a sports agent for playing at USC, a major violation in college football, where pay-for-play situations are strictly prohibited. As a result, Bush was forced to return his Heisman Trophy. USC was hit pretty hard as well, getting put on probation for four years, and vacating several wins from the 2004 and 2005 seasons. They were also deemed ineligible to compete in 2010 and 2011 bowl games. Bush’s is certainly a damaging case of temptation and punishment.
While Reggie Bush’s damaging pay-for-play transaction was pretty straightforward and simple, the University of Michigan’s basketball team found itself in a complicated financial predicament. During a six-year investigation, it was revealed that basketball team booster Ed Martin was making payments to players in order to launder money from an illegal gambling operation. The investigation was huge, involving not just the NCAA and Big Ten, but the FBI, IRS, and Department of Justice, with former players called before a federal grand jury. It was discovered that players borrowed several hundreds of thousands of dollars from Martin. The NCAA came down hard on the team, revoking 1997 and 1998 tournament championships and Final Four appearances in both 1992 and 1993. The team was also placed on probation, and vacated from postseason eligibility for two seasons. Individual players, who had since gone on to become professional basketball players, were punished severely as well, revoking Chris Webber’s All-American Honors, Robert Traylor’s MVP awards, and Louis Bullock’s school records. Ed Martin himself was fined and suspended by the NBA after performing public service.
Two LSU football players, quarterback Jordan Jefferson and his teammate, Joshua Johns, were arrested on felony charges following a large bar fight in Baton Rouge that injured four people. They have both been suspended indefinitely from both LSU and the team, which is not at all surprising. What is surprising, however, is that their legal counsel seems to condone this behavior. Jefferson’s lawyer, Lewis Unglesby is quoted as saying, “Jordan needs to be back playing football. At the end of this, the evidence will be that Jordan Jefferson acted as a leader for his team, doing what he was taught to do, being a good teammate.” Jefferson is accused of kicking someone in the face during the fight. The team has moved on in their season without the help of their troubled leader.
Plenty of college football players glorify the image of men as “pimps,” but we’re of the understanding that for most, it’s just an image, not reality. Berkeley running back Tracy Slocum actually was a pimp, however, and he was arrested by the U.S. Marshal Service after it was discovered that he had been marketing prostitutes for several months. His charges include domestic violence, sexual assault, and of course, prostitution. Slocum’s career with Berkeley is over, and it looks like his future is in jail.
Colorado Mesa University redshirt freshman running back Shane Williams got into a fight with a lesbian couple at a Grand Junction bar. Williams apparently made comments about a girl looking like a boy, which led to a fight outside the bar. He was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault on the victim, who reported a fractured skull, black eye, and difficulty hearing after she was slammed onto the pavement. Things don’t look good for the young running back, who was also arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol and possession of a fake ID. Formal charges are pending.
In 1985, the SMU football program was put on probation for three years as a result of recruiting violations, but SMU pretty much ignored the entire thing and just kept on paying players. It was revealed that the payments had continued on a large scale into 1986, when an investigation discovered that 21 players were receiving monthly payments from a booster slush fund. Even the school’s board of governors got in on the act, ignoring the NCAA to honor their previous agreements with players and devising a plan to keep paying players until they graduated, slowly phasing out the slush fund. But the truth came out, and punishment came down hard. Both the 1987 and 1988 seasons were canceled, and the team was banned from bowl games and live TV until 1989. Support for the program was cut, and the team lost 55 scholarship positions, as well as four coaching positions. As a result, new players shied away from the scandal-ridden team, and SMU football is still suffering even now. The team did not get a bowl invitation until 2009, and since 1989, has only had three winning seasons.
The Colorado Buffaloes had serious sexual assault issues in the 90s. In 1997, it was revealed that Colorado football recruiting often involved underage drinking, sexual harassment, and even rape after a woman claimed she was sexually assaulted by CU recruits. Nothing came of that claim, but in 2004, sexual scandal broke out against the Buffs again. The team’s former kicker, a female player named Katie Hnida, revealed that during the 1999 season, she was the subject of sexually graphic comments, groping, and flashing by a variety of teammates. She was eventually raped by a teammate, but didn’t report the incident because she felt unwelcome among the players as well as by CU coach Gary Barnett. After the rape, Hnida dropped out of CU and fell into depression before returning to college to kick for the New Mexico Lobos in 2002.
In 2003, it was found that Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy had been murdered by his former teammate, Carlton Dotson, who shot him during an argument that broke out while the two were recreationally firing guns. Dotson was convicted, and sentenced to a 35-year prison term. That’s the sad, but simple part of this story. During the time Dennehy went missing, Baylor and the NCAA began to investigate several allegations of misconduct in the men’s basketball team, which uncovered an incredible list of penalties. These included drug use and pay-for-play player support, specifically for the murdered Dennehy. Baylor was severely punished for the scandal, with a probation that lasted until 2010, and the team suffered from defeat until 2008, winning a total of just 36 games from 2003 to 2007.
Although it seems players are terribly behaved these days, the truth is college sport scandal is nothing new. More than 60 years ago in 1951, it was revealed that University of Kentucky basketball players accepted bribes from gamblers for throwing the National Invitation Tournament game in the 1948-1949 season. This opened an NCAA investigation into the Kentucky team, in which it was found that basketball players were receiving inappropriate financial aid, and thus ineligible to play, but were allowed to play anyway. In light of the point-shaving scandal and impermissible financial aid, the NCAA enacted its first “death penalty,” effectively canceling the University of Kentucky’s 1952-1953 season with a boycott, and a ban on postseason play for the entire athletic program.
Arizona residents, look away! In a move that can only be described as terribly awesome, former Arizona State University cheerleader Courtney Simpson managed to link her cheerleading career with her new job as a porn star, wearing her old cheerleader uniform in a pornographic video. Not at all surprisingly, ASU was not pleased about making an appearance in Gina Lynn’s Double Dutch, and investigated the possibility of trademark and intellectual property infringement.
In February 2012, Fort Worth police busted 17 TCU students in an undercover drug sting, which included four TCU football players. According to reports, police uncovered widespread drug use on the football team, with at least four players acting as drug dealers for players and TCU students. Apparently, drug use on the TCU team was no secret, at least to everyone except coach Gary Patterson, who learned about the problem from a recruit who turned the team down due to the rampant drug situation. This prompted Patterson to order a surprise drug test, a test that 82 players failed. The situation is still developing, but we expect to see harsh punishment from Patterson, who shared in a statement that “drugs and drug use by TCU’s student-athletes will not be tolerated by me or any member of my coaching staff.”