What do guns, drugs, domestic violence and battery all have in common? Engaging in any of these illicit activities is a surefire way to ruin (or at least compromise) any promising college athlete’s career. And let’s face it: crime among college players is not, by any stretch of the imagination, out of the ordinary.
Jeff Benedict, author of four books linking college athletes and crime, conducted an investigative report in 2010 for Sports Illustrated that showed the alarming occurrence of criminal records in college athletes’ corners. What may be even more alarming, however, is how few of them ever get convicted, and how loosely universities (in general) monitor or reprimand the criminal activities of their players, who often receive scholarships without any formal criminal background check. He found 125 cases of arrests in college football and basketball players in one eight-month span, which averages out to three or four per week.
In a 2011 follow-up report by CBS, investigative journalist Armen Keteyian found that out of a sample size of 2,387 criminal background checks of players on the Top 25 teams, 7% (or 1 in 14) had arrest records to their name. That means more than 200 players were arrested or cited by police 277 times in one season. Benedict’s research adds that about a fifth of all college sports-related crimes include domestic violence; other common crimes include robbery, inter-player assault and drug trafficking.
Here are five recent controversial crimes committed by 12 up-and-coming college athletes:
- The MTSU Choking Incident – July 2013: J.D. Jones, a defensive tackle for Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), was recently suspended from the Blue Raiders football team for the alleged crime of choking his ex-girlfriend while friends watched and videotaped. Two other Blue Raiders players, cornerback Rodney O’Neal and defensive tackle Marcus Robinson, were also suspended for aiding and abetting the crime. Jones was a rising star on the team, with 14 defensive tackles last season but it’s his name being dragged through the mud now.
- The Akron Drug Bust – June 2013: University of Akron point guard Alex Abreu was as busy slinging free throws as bags of marijuana during his time on the court, which incidentally did not last very long. This promising player was arrested for possessing a five-pound bag of marijuana. He was charged with and pleaded guilty to the felony of drug trafficking, and sentenced to two years in prison with a $5,000 fine. The Zips have suspended him indefinitely from the team.
- The Marshall Pizza Tackle – July 2010: With plenty of cash to look forward to as a professional sports star, it’s surprising that some feel the need to commit robbery and assault. Michael Fleurizard, about to be a defensive tackle for Marshall University’s football team, was arrested and dismissed from the team before even starting his freshman year. The crime? He allegedly assaulted a Z-brick pizza delivery man, forcefully holding him down and kicking him, while two others stole $290 in cash. His accomplices, running back Antwon Chrisholm and wide receiver Fred Pickett, were also removed from the team. Fleurizard pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and spent 20 months in jail, with drug rehabilitation. Since then, reports say he has been working to get back on track, but was arrested in July 2012 for falling asleep behind the wheel and then hitting two police cars as he sped away. He is now serving five years in prison.
- The Missouri Tigers’ Sexual Assault Case – August 2010: It never pays to commit a sex crime. Derrick Washington, star running back for the Missouri Tigers, learned this the hard way when he was convicted of sexual assault against a former tutor and promptly dismissed from the team. Even leading Missouri with 1,901 yards and 27 touchdowns over two seasons could not undo the heinous crime of pushing a sexual act on an unwilling woman. He was kicked out of school and sentenced to five years in prison, but only served four months under a “shock incarceration” program specifically for first-time offenders. After his release, the only college willing to accept him for a second chance was Tuskegee University, where he has been playing since, touting 15 touchdowns to help the team win the 2012 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Though he seems to have made a comeback, he will always have “registered sex offender” on his permanent arrest record.
- The Vanderbilt Rape Case – July 2013: Brandon Banks, Cory Batey, Jaborian “Tip” McKenzie and Brandon Vandenburg are the four Vanderbilt football players recently dismissed from the Commodores team for sex crimes currently under investigation. Though the full story has not yet been released, the four players are being investigated for an incident that took place in a dorm room on campus and supposedly involved six other students, at least one of them allegedly a victim of a sexual crime. Banks and Batey were defensive backs, McKenzie was a wide receiver and Vandenburg was a tight end, but all four have paid the price for their misconduct, no longer able to wear their jerseys while the investigation is ongoing. All four have pleaded not guilty.