South Carolina and SEC Football -- Not Immune from Off Field Problems

by Paul Lyboult
(Syracuse, NY )

As other SEC football programs are preparing for spring practice, another is preparing to lose yet another player to off the field issues. Less than a week ago South Carolina offensive linemen Kevin Young was arrested for fighting and resisting arrest. This isn’t the first time that the South Carolina football team has seen one of its own players break the law.

Earlier last month wide receiver Dion Lecorn was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana. Lecorn was suspended from the team and Young should also be soon to follow. The suspensions of these players is for good reason, but it continues a troubling trend of athletes at the college level getting into situations that the football field usually keeps them out of.

The NFL has certainly seen its fair share of off-field problems over the past year with “Pac Man” Jones and most of the Cincinnati Bengals, to go along with others. With pro players being paid millions and yet still having a hard time playing nice off the field, it’s a poor example being set to these young college players who haven’t even fulfilled their eligibility yet. What will the college game look like in five years? One must really start to wonder.

The Miami Hurricanes in the past were so well known for their troubled players and even more recently with players such as former linebacker Willie Williams. In contrast to more than ten years ago, the conduct of NCAA football players is now at an absolute worst. Whether its arrests at Virginia or even uncommitted high school seniors running into trouble, the end of off field issues doesn’t appear to be in sight.

The NFL has really set the standard for giving second chances. Players who commit dishonorable acts off the field are often given second chances when their time comes to playing again. Most notably Rams defensive end Leonard Little, who was arrested in 1998 for drunk driving. Not only did Little break the law, but he took the life of another. Looking back almost ten years many have forgotten, and the only knock on Little now is that his skills on the field are diminishing now that he is at the tender age of 34. Do you think Mike Vick will get back onto the field once he is free from prison? Count on it. If there is a talented player available and can help a coach win games, he will more than likely have a job. Only in extreme circumstances will you see a law breaker not make it back to the pro game (see Rae Carruth).

Remember Lawrence Phillips? All his college drama was forgettable when he was a star running back at Nebraska in the mid-1990’s. His entry into the NFL, and the millions that soon followed, still didn’t stop Phillips from being arrested more times than a drug dealer on cops. It’s a sad thing when coaches take talent over character. Read about former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jeremy Stevens and all of his problems he got himself into while in college. Even still, that landed him a first round spot and millions soon followed. Talent over character, even in today’s world you would think coaches would have learned their lesson. Maybe not, as even Pac Man Jones still has teams that want his services.

The college game is following in the same footsteps as its pro big brother. College coaches are being paid millions. See the contracts of Steve Spurrier, Pete Carroll, Les Miles and others. The contracts of these coaches don’t just say dollars, they spell out wins and if it’s one troubled player or three that could enable these coaches to win then talent over character will once again win it. It is not only up to the players to act properly off the field, it should also be the responsibility of the coaches, the team as a whole, and the university to ensure the off-field issues are no longer ones.

These are growing young men, and while they do not need a baby sitter necessarily, what they do need is an enforcer and someone to look up to. Not just someone who is doing what is best in terms of how it will help them win the fastest. It is the year 2008 and eventually at some point a stand must be taken into making sure that everyone involved in college sports, not just football, make the right choices in terms of the players that they are involved with and put forth into college sports. Lord knows football doesn’t need another Pac Man Jones or two.

Read more Paul Lyboult blogs at SEC Football Blog.

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