Game Misconducts

College Football's Real-Life Top 25

Bowl season is upon us again: Time to pull out the old school colors, the 'TV Guide,' and the phone number of your favorite bookie. But while you're glued to the tube or perusing the point spreads, be sure to remember what really matters in college football: arrest statistics, graduation rates, and coaches' salaries. That's the stuff of the Real-Life Top 25.

1. FLORIDA STATE (11-0)

"When our defense is out there," coach Bobby Bowden has said. "I am just standing around picking my nose." The same could be said for when his players are off the field. Known as F(ree) S(hoes) U since 1993, when several Seminoles went on an agent-sponsored shopping spree at a Tallahassee FootLocker, the school became F(ree) S(hirts) U this fall thanks to receivers Peter Warrick and Laveraneus Coles. With the assistance of a store employee, the duo paid only $21 for more than $400 worth of clothing. The act cost Warrick, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was suspended two games, the Heisman. It cost Coles, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, a spot on the team. A sampling of other player endeavors: Defensive tackle Bryne Malone was arrested for attempted murder in connection with a drive-by shooting last spring and dismissed from the team, while cornerback Tay Cody was busted for marijuana possession in Georgia and suspended for one game. (Graduation rate, all students: 64%; football players: 60%; black players: 56%)

illustration by Jeff Wong

2. VIRGINIA TECH (11-0)

Hokies coach Frank Beamer has transformed Tech into a big-time program. But with big-time football comes big-time problems. As Beamer's team rang up back-to-back 10-2 seasons in 1995 and 96, 19 of his players were arrested on charges ranging from abduction to rape. In 1997, however, Tech instituted a plan that called for the immediate suspension of a player charged with a felony until the matter is resolved. Since then, only two Hokies have run afoul of the law, both this year: Linebacker Lorenzo Ferguson was charged with forgery and breaking and entering after allegedly stealing a student's checkbook from her dorm room and writing checks to himself (his case is still under investigation but he has left school). And back-up quarterback Andre Kendrick was arrested for marijuana possession; he was subsequently suspended and reinstated to the team. Still, to keep the sought-after Beamer at Tech, the school added a reported $1 million to the end of his current 10-year contract. (Graduation rate, all students: 73%; football players: 49%; black players: 47%)

3. NEBRASKA (11-1)

It's tough following a legend, but Frank Solich, successor to retired Husker coach Tom Osborne, has continued the latter's laissez-faire disciplinary style (Lawrence Phillips, anyone?). Starting senior wingback Shevin Wiggins was suspended in August after he was charged with felony sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl (he plead not guilty). Two freshmen that joined the team this season arrived with plenty of legal experience to go with their football résumé. Defensive lineman "Junior" Tagoai was arrested for threatening a teacher at his Nebraska high school last spring (the charges were later dropped). And Josh Davis, son of former Nebraska running back Tony Davis, is on probation after pleading guilty last spring to felony burglary and misdemeanor theft. (Graduation rate, all students: 48%; football players: 63%; black players: 60%)

4. WISCONSIN (9-2)

You might say coach Barry Alvarez's skills as a disciplinarian are for the birds. His son Chad, a UW senior, was arrested earlier this fall for microwaving his fraternity brother's parrot (the creature died, spurring cheers of "Win one for the bird!" at opposing stadiums). Alvarez didn't do much better with his players. Freshman Badger fullback Jael Speights pleaded no contest in October to sexual assault and burglary charges after he raped and beat a female student in her apartment. He was suspended from the team indefinitely and dropped out of school. (Graduation rate, all students: 73%; football players: 60%; black players: 63%. Athletes make up 39% of all black male undergrads.)

5. ALABAMA (10-2)

It was the summer of discontent for Tide coach Mike DuBose, who had an affair with an athletic department employee, lied about it during an investigation, and was sued for sexual harassment. What was the worst of times became the best of times, however. In August, 'Bama's board of trustees decided to sanction the coach rather than firing him, reducing his salary $360,000, but agreeing to pay a $350,000 legal settlement for him. Even better, after his team's SEC championship season, the university decided to reward DuBose with a two-year contract extension. (Graduation rate, all students: 57%; football players: 45%; black players: 33%)

6. TENNESSEE (9-2)

Last year's champs might have fallen even harder had allegations raised in a September ESPN report been true. According to the report, a team tutor wrote papers and did homework for at least five players during the school's national championship run last year. The story sparked an internal investigation, which UT officials said failed to uncover any NCAA violations. Vol players and coaches accused ESPN of unfairly targeting the program. Still, at least three Vols have been arrested since the team triumphed in last year's Fiesta Bowl. Offensive guard Fred Weary and defensive end Shaun Ellis were both arrested last spring—Weary for driving on a suspended license, Ellis for assault. Senior cocaptain and defensive back Dwayne Goodrich was arrested earlier this fall for disorderly conduct. He was suspended for one game. (Graduation rate, all students: 55%; football players: 34%; black players: 24%)

7. KANSAS STATE (10-1)

Million-dollar coach Bill Snyder has resurrected football on the plains, and, some say, a university as well. Snyder's program has been fortunate in other respects. Last winter, the Wildcats escaped serious NCAA penalty in the case of a top junior college recruit who took money from a booster to buy a used car. KSU declared the player, Frank Murphy, ineligible for four games and disassociated itself from the booster. (Graduation rate, all students: 46 %; football players: 47%; black players: 26%)

8. MICHIGAN (9-2)

The Wolverines have money issues. Matthew Schembechler, son of Bo, the Wolverines coaching legend and AD, is suing his father and the university for $500,000 for lost business opportunities. Matthew is accusing UM of reneging on a contract that entitled him to remove old seats from Michigan Stadium and sell them to raise money for a cancer center in his mother's (and Bo's ex-wife's) name. Meanwhile, two Wolverines players—lineman Jason Brooks and fullback Ray Jackson—were suspended from the team last January in connection with an alleged burglary and altercation at a UM frat house. Another, cornerback Will Peterson, was suspended from the team after being charged with stealing money from a stripper's purse while she performed in a dorm room. Two other Wolverines—linemen Jonathan Goodwin and Maurice Williams—were charged in connection with an embezzlement scheme at a local Kmart. (Graduation rate, all students: 83%; football players: 52%; black players: 43%)

9. MICHIGAN STATE (9-2)

Warning, Baton Rouge: Nick Saban ain't exactly a strict disciplinarian. Saban, who left East Lansing for LSU earlier this month, took a lot of heat for repeatedly forgiving talented receiver Robert Newkirk despite his eight arrests in two-plus years with the team. Under Saban, Newkirk never missed a game until he left the program for personal reasons in 1998. After Newkirk pleaded guilty in the spring of 1998 to two counts of assault and battery for tossing a man into a dumpster and getting into a fight with a dorm worker, Saban announced that Newkirk had been placed "on probation" and was "one misstep away" from being suspended. The quote made national headlines. Under media scrutiny, Saban finally suspended tailback "Little" John Flowers last year after he was arrested for shooting craps in a Kalamazoo park. (Graduation rate, all students: 67%; football players: 40%; black players: 28%)

10. FLORIDA (9-3)

Sanctimonious coach Steve Spurrier, as judgmental of quarterbacks as he is of in-state rival Bowden, has remained relatively mum recently as school police investigate allegations that agents funneled money and gifts to players in order to get the inside track on representing them as pros. Former UF players Jevon Kearse (now with the NFL Titans), Johnny Rutledge, and Reggie McGrew all claim to have received gifts from renegade agent Tank Black. Two other former players—Dock Pollard and Tim Beauchamp—allegedly received similar benefits from agent Sean Alfortish. The investigation is ongoing. (Graduation rate, all students: 64%; football players: 52%; black players: 44%)

11. MARSHALL (12-0)

Thundering Herd coach Bob Pruett signed a new seven-year contract in November entitling him to a $132,000 annual salary through 2007. The deal was meant to end any speculation about the coach's future at Marshall, his alma mater. "We're just happy we worked this out and ended any speculation before there is anything to speculate about," Pruett said at the time. Less than a month later, however, the coach had reportedly agreed to a much more lucrative deal with the University of Houston before backing out less than 24 hours later. (Graduation rate, all students 35%; football players: 42%; black players: 44%)

12. MINNESOTA (8-3)

An investigation conducted by a Minneapolis law firm last spring found that athletic department officials ignored several complaints of sexual misconduct and assault involving star athletes (seven of them football players) over the past six years. The 110-page report will result in policy changes, school officials say. One employee cited in that report, Rufus Simmons, who coordinated sexual violence awareness training for the school's male athletes before retiring in July, was arrested in June for soliciting prostitution. It was his second such offense in the past eight years. (Graduation rate, all students: 50%; football players: 50%; black players: 29%. Athletes make up 52% of all black male undergrads.)

13. PENN STATE (9-3)

Million-dollar coach Joe Paterno couldn't control his All-America linebacker, LaVar Arrington, in a game against Pitt. Arrington repeatedly attacked Panther punter Greg DeBolt in an embarrassing display. (Graduation rate, all students: 79%; football players: 78%; black players: 82%)

 

14. TEXAS (9-4)

While coach Mack Brown's players have avoided any off-the-field incidents during his two years at the helm, Texas fans may not have to wait long. Several players he recruited at UNC—where he coached until he left for a 10-year, $10 million-plus contract with Texas in 1998—have had brushes with the law, making life difficult for his embattled successor, Carl Torbush. (Graduation rate, all students: 65%; football players: 57%; black players: 48%)

15. MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-2)

When it comes to team discipline, Bulldogs coach Jackie Sherrill isn't exactly taking the bull by the horns. The man who once had a bull castrated in front of his players to inspire them for a game against Texas has watched this fall as four of his players were arrested in connection with an on-campus fight (though only one was found guilty of any wrongdoing). (Graduation rate, all students: 48%; football players: 57%; black players: 50%)

 

16. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (8-3)

Head coach Jeff Bowers's up-and-coming program is not without problems. In 1997, then redshirt freshman running back Dawayne Woods was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of loitering in a "drug area." That case was dismissed, but Woods was arrested again in 1998 on battery charges and failed to appear for a court date. The school took no disciplinary action. (Graduation rate, all students: 43%; football players: 49%; black players: 41%)

 

17. GEORGIA TECH (8-3)

Fearing he would leave for another job, Tech officials signed coach George O'Leary to a six-year, $3.6 million contract extension last year—an astounding 41 percent raise. At least he shares the wealth. The NCAA forced O'Leary to coach from the press box during his team's season opener because of an improper loan he made to former Tech running back C.J. Williams in 1996. The loan for $200 to $400, O'Leary said, was to cover a fine for damage to Williams's dorm room. (Graduation rate, all students: 68%; football players: 46%; black players: 37%)

18. TEXAS A&M (8-3)

Tragedies aside, Texas A&M has had a lot to contend with legally as well. Million-dollar-a-year coach R.C. Slocum had to forfeit a win last season after it was discovered that one of his players—running back Tiki Hardeman—should have been academically ineligible. Another player—freshman fullback Ja'Mar Toombs—was arrested earlier this fall for marijuana possession (charges were later dropped). (Graduation rate, all students: 69%; football players: 32%; black players: 19%)

 

19. PURDUE (7-4)

QB Drew Brees had a refreshing attitude about his Heisman Trophy candidacy: He actually instructed Purdue's SID not to send any literature or gimmicks promoting him to the media. Not all of coach Joe Tiller's players are so pure, however. The coach suspended senior linebacker Willie Fells in the spring after an arrest for battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting law enforcement (Fells returned to the team this fall). (Graduation rate, all students: 67%; football players: 48%; black players: 30%)

 

20. EAST CAROLINA (9-2)

ECU was a football feel-good story this season, having been displaced by Hurricane Floyd and upsetting Miami in temporary digs in September. Their "Real-Life" track record was so-so, though. In the last two seasons, two players were dismissed from the program, for unspecified reasons. Head coach Steve Logan has become the coaching candidate du jour, however, and his departure, if and when it occurs, could leave an up-and-coming program in disarray as it enters the tougher Conference USA in 2001. (Graduation rate, all students: 49%; football players: 51%; black players: 60%

21. GEORGIA (7-4)

Scandal rocked Tuscaloosa in October when vandals drove into hallowed Sanford Stadium and dug deep donuts into the mid-field Georgia "G." Officials were so upset over the "dastardly act," as AD Vince Dooley put it, that they offered up a $10,000 reward for info leading to the arrest of the evildoers. They could take that money out of the $100,000 raise coach Jim Donnan got in the offseason, upping his package to $750,000 per. (Graduation rate, all students: 62%, football players: 44%; black players: 29%)

22. STANFORD (8-3)

Violence at "The Big Game," Stanford's annual matchup with Cal, is growing into a tradition. This year, cops decked out in riot gear ringed the field to limit the outbursts that have cropped up recently. Last season, three officers were injured when fans stormed the field in Berkeley, and in 1997 there were six arrests and 23 injuries in a post-game rukus. This year, there were 20 arrests when the cops were pelted with eggs and water balloons as they moved in to clear out unruly fans. (Graduation rate, all students: 93%; football players: 81%; black players: 86%)

23. MIAMI, FLA (8-4)

Coach Butch Davis has been busy turning Miami Vice into Miami Nice: No longer do the Hurricanes lead the nation in assaults, financial aid scandals, and on-field obnoxious behavior. Still, five players were suspended by the school this year for academic deficiencies. The players—LBs Chris Campbell and Sheven Marshall, and DBs Delvin Brown, Darell Arline, and Markese Fitzgerald—missed the first four games of the season, with Fitzgerald scratched for one additional contest for "disciplinary reasons." (Graduation rate, all students: 59%; football players: 58%; black players: 53%)

24. ARKANSAS (7-4)

Hawgs head Houston Nutt caught flak for the first time in his two years at Fayetteville after he lifted the suspension of his star defensive end, Carlos Hall, after only one game. Hall, a sophomore, was arrested last summer on felony forgery charges for cashing $220 worth of checks made out to the university—a surveillance camera caught him doctoring the documents. He plead guilty to misdemeanor theft, but that wasn't all. Hall also was involved in a hit and run while under the influence. That led to two more guilty pleas for the 20-year-old. (Graduation rate, all students: 42%; football players: 25%; black players: 16%)

25. BOSTON COLLEGE (8-3)

Three years, 13 player suspensions, and two 4-7 seasons after a headline-generating season complete with a point-shaving probe, the Eagles are back. Tom O'Brien, a Naval Academy grad, was brought on board in 1997 to right the BC ship, and it looks as if he's done the job—even if one of his squad's three losses came after blowing a 28-0 lead to Miami. (Graduation rate, all students: 86%; football players: 83%; black players: 83%. Athletes make up 26% of all black male undergrads.)

This poll combines the AP rankings with NCAA findings on institutional ethical conduct, graduation rates, and exploitation of African American athletes. Graduation rates and enrollment data cover entering freshman from '89-'90 through '92-'93, all given six years to get degrees.

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