Plan to play? Sign here and don't screw up
What a loser I am. Nine years of college and all I have to show for it is a lousy undergrad degree and a string of lame-o pranks: dropping shaving cream-laced water balloons on frat rats, dropping just-thawed trout on frat rats, setting all the dorm room clocks and wristwatches ahead so my roommate thought he had overslept his mid-terms. In retrospect, nothing more than Kent Dorfman-quality delinquency.
If only I had known some of today's innovative student-athletes, who have taken their off-field conduct to wait for it The Next Level.
At Tennessee, 11 football players have been arrested in the past 16 months, including one for felony assault. Any more arrests and the Pride of the Southland Band is going to ditch "Rocky Top'' for a musical version of the Miranda Rights.
At South Carolina, Lou Holtz left Steve Spurrier with a roster that has reached double-digit arrests.
At Bob Marley U., otherwise known as Ohio State, a place-kicker was charged with trafficking marijuana and a running back was cited for smoking a joint outside a dorm. Another Buckeye was recently arrested for disorderly conduct.
Georgia has a defensive tackle serving 45 days for driver's license abuses, and a UGA linebacker was just dumped from the team after an arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence. Bad Dawgs. Washington State has a running back serving time for fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation. I don't know what that means, but I know it's a lot worse than dropping dead freshwater fish on people.
A current and former Murray State player were charged with drug trafficking. A Wisconsin running back was arrested on four misdemeanor counts, including battery. Five Connecticut players were recently charged for possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle. Two of the UConn players had their charges dismissed, but that's not exactly the winning percentage Huskies officials were looking for.
A USC cornerback, in whose apartment police found 136 Ecstasy pills, was arrested on suspicion of rape, though the charges were later dropped because of a lack of evidence. He recently withdrew from school. On and on it goes.
I think I've pinpointed part of the problem: The code of conduct agreements the players sign each season are more ridiculous than if Joe Pa wore compression shorts on the sideline. I have six different codes in front of me and you need U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to understand some of the terminology.
Florida State's "Athletics Code of Conduct" uses words and phrases such as "supersede,'' "propriety,'' "behavioral problems'' and "absent extraordinary circumstances.'' In short, FSU's code reads like an ARM loan.
Auburn's "Sportsmanship Statement and Code of Conduct" numbs the 18-year-old mind with mention of "academic diligence.'' If I had a nickel for every time I've heard a middle linebacker use the words "academic diligence"
Virginia Tech's "Comprehensive Action Plan to Address Student-Athlete Behavior" addresses the subject of felonies and "jurisdictional equivalent,'' while Washington's spellbinding Code of Conduct warns that student-athletes are, among other things, "specifically cautioned against illegal or unauthorized use of alcohol.'' So that means no more Jager Bombs, right?
North Carolina State's "Athletics Code of Conduct" includes a test pattern-dull passage that warns, "Your social interactions and personal deportment on and off campus will become public knowledge.'' All those who use the word "deportment" in everyday conversation, raise your hands.
And the Southeastern Conference loses everybody before page one. After all, who wants to read something entitled, "The Student-Athlete Institutional Covenant''?
Most football players need simplicity. They understand it. They're accustomed to it. Eyes glaze over when they see "jurisdictional equivalent," and not just because they're hanging out with Ohio State kickers.
A standardized, less formal conduct agreement is needed. Athletic department administrators ought to ditch the geeks from the Law Review and instead adopt a common sense code I call, "Here's What Happens If You Screw Up.'' It would read something like this:
You are so busted if you're caught boozing it up, tokin' on some doobage, chomping on space cakes, or getting faced or crunk. If some narc turns you in, you'll have the Five-O and the media on you faster than an H2 goes through a tank of unleaded.
And don't even think of laying a Benjamin on a game. Remember what happens to that guy with the chainsaw in "Scarface"? That's you if the feds find out.
Bars and frat parties are cool, just as long as you don't use your fists to do exploratory surgery on some wiseass Sigma Chi who keeps reminding you of the seven sacks you gave up against OU. And never, ever trust a hottie who carries a team photo in her purse.
Here's the deal on studying and GPAs: no effort to graduate, no Saturday football date.
I don't care if 50 Cent himself offers you something in the cash variety, don't take it. If Coach or the NCAA fuzz find out, you'll probably lose your free ride and be bagging groceries with the hippies at Whole Foods.
And don't forget, respect your teammates and your coaches, respect women, respect your teachers, respect your parents and, most of all, respect yourself.
Only one last thing to do:
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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