by Chris Bahn
Posted 5/15/2012 11:50 am
Updated 7 months ago
It was during the review of security camera footage that University of Arkansas police spotted three men checking for unlocked dorm rooms, entering and leaving with an assortment of goods that were not their property.
Best we can tell from the police report, not a single one of the culprits was football coach John L. Smith. He wasn’t the perpetrator making off with loot that included laptops.
Watching the video and talking with witnesses, more than 400 other Razorback athletes and tens of thousands of cash-strapped college students were ruled out as the alleged burglars. They weren’t looking for items that could be turned into cash.
Former football coach Bobby Petrino, who was guilty of plenty in his 4.5 years on campus, was not housing stolen textbooks, DVDs or laptops in his home. That was a different man.
None of the above parties were involved. Nor were they participants in the three other football-related arrests that occurred this spring.
Wide receiver Marquel Wade (one count of residential burglary) was named with receiver Mardrecus Humprhey and tight end Andrew Peterson (nine counts for both of them) as the ones stealing from other students.
Naturally, folks are looking for somebody or something to blame.
Perhaps Smith is too nice to the players, so they broke the law. Maybe it’s Petrino’s fault for recruiting a certain type of player or setting a bad example with his off-field behavior.
Could the culprit be the lack of spending money at the disposal of college football players?
There is an argument to be made that the multi-billion industry of college sports should do more to compensate its athletes. But let’s not use the stupidity of a few football players at Arkansas to make that point. It only weakens the argument when you consider that no other athletes were involved and they’re getting a lot less for their efforts than the football players.
Track and golf athletes are on partial scholarships. Somehow they manage to compete for national titles and prop up the grade point averages for the athletic department all while not stealing from students who are racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to attend college. And just to clear up a myth: football players can get jobs in the summer. Many of them do.
Arrests were happening before Petrino was fired. Let’s not forget that last year SI.com and CBS News teamed up to name Arkansas as the Top 25 program with the second most arrests in the country. Granted, some of those “criminal acts” included unpaid fines and speeding tickets, but let’s not act like bad behavior with football players begins or ends with the Petrino firing.
Smith might be goofy. He is a “players’ coach” but he isn’t encouraging the team to steal. Louisville saw a similar rash of arrests and bad behavior after Petrino left, but it's silly to suggest he is at fault.
This is a personal responsibility issue. And we’re talking about a group of guys who have shown none. Getting arrested is usually your own fault for breaking the law and doing it in a way that isn’t very bright.
Now that we have settled who is to blame, we can shift our attention to the other popular debate: Do these guys deserve second chances?
Forgetting for a moment that they preyed on fellow students as the semester was winding down — one of the more stressful times in anybody’s life — and forgetting that the University at large could have a say in their fates, it’s a topic briefly worth discussing.
However, it is crucial to note this very well could have been the second chance for these players.
Nobody outside the locker room knows for sure how hard Humphrey was working in the classroom after eligibility issues left him behind for the Cotton Bowl.
Likewise we don’t know what sort of effort Peterson had been putting into strength and conditioning so he could remain at tight end, rather than taking his athleticism and extra pounds to the offensive line.
Nor do any of us really know the efforts Wade went to keep himself out of trouble following the Vanderbilt ejection and suspensions he faced in 2011.
And if it was a second chance they blew? They have nobody to blame but themselves.