Some athletics programs plagued by crime problem

IOWA CITY (College Press Exchange) — When former University of Iowa basketball player Jeff Walker was charged with eight felony counts of forgery for using a stolen ATM card on Oct. 11, he became another NCAA crime statistic.
Athletes are becoming participants in illicit activity at an alarming rate across the country, said S. Daniel Carter, regional vice president of Security on Campus, Inc.
Programs at the University of Miami, Florida State University and the University of Nebraska have received extensive negative publicity after incidents such as assault, Pell Grant fraud, domestic assault and, attempted second-degree murder.
Tom Crossett, a sports management professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, conducted a study over 18 months that looked at 30 Division I universities.
Compared to male nonathletes, male athletes were involved in a disproportionate number of sexual assaults.
His study concluded 3.3 percent of the student populations studied were male athletes, but that same group committed 19 percent of the reported sexual crimes.
Carter said athletes seemingly get in trouble more often than nonathletes for two reasons: attitude and publicity.
“Athletes are trained to be more aggressive,” he said. “Their popularity makes them feel that they are above the standards that are set for others, and that’s unfortunate.”
The Virginia Tech football team has had seven players charged with various crimes since November 1995, and at least 15 more have been accused of beating up a member of the school’s track team.
Of the seven Virginia Tech players who faced a combined total of 13 charges, ranging from shoplifting to malicious wounding, nine charges were dismissed, and the remaining charges were carried out as suspended sentences.
“The Virginia Tech football team has had a series of violent and nonviolent crimes over the past year,” Carter said. “The problem is that the athletes are getting away with it.
“They’re having charges dropped or given light sentences. It’s not always a nonbiased process.”
Carter said many athletic departments handle the charges internally in an attempt to keep publicity at a minimum. They conduct their own investigations to determine wrongdoing.
Ann Rhodes, vice president for University Relations at University of Iowa, said the school does as much as it can to prevent public controversy.
“Generally, we try to recruit people that we don’t think will have trouble obeying the law,” she said. “When we run into trouble, we take it on a case-by-case basis to decide what measures will be taken.”
Willis said the number of athletes who get in trouble is not much different than those in other sectors of society.
“It’s reflective on the rest of society,” she said. “Unfortunately, with the atmosphere of sport in our society, athletes get a lot more attention.”
Rhodes said it is hard to say if numbers were actually rising, but the public and the media are far more aware of these incidents than they used to be.
“Crime is an issue for athletes that runs from high school to the professional level,” she said.
“It’s hard to say if the numbers are rising, but public tolerance of these incidents is lower than it used to be.”