The Real Top 25

The Worst of the Best in College Football

We're always bombarded with too much crapola about 'student athletes' and not enough hard info about the childish, boorish—or often criminal—behavior of college football players and their coaches. george o'leary's lies put him in a class by himself, but neither georgia tech nor notre dame made the a.p. top 25. curious george aside, here's our annual look at the worst of the best.


1. MIAMI (11-0)
Before you call the current crop of 'Canes classy compared to their 1980s counterparts, talk to the groundskeepers at Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium. During a pre-game walk-through the night before the two schools' annual grudge match in October, several Hurricane players reportedly used their cleats to scrawl "UM" in the turf around the FSU Seminole logo at the center of the field. Groundskeepers were able to fix it by kickoff the next day, but not before UM's reputation was sullied once again. (Graduation rate, all students: 60 percent; football players: 41 percent)

Illustration by Stan Shaw

2. OREGON (10-1)
Joey who? As the Voice reported last summer, folks in Eugene are still wondering who paid the $250,000 price tag for the 12-story-high banner touting Duck QB Joey Harrington as a Heisman candidate. Given the high profile of the Nike swoosh in the ad, many assume it was the work of Nike founder and U of O super-alum Phil Knight. The university, however, told the Voice that the banner was funded by a group of "confidential donors." Students in Eugene have been concerned about Knight's influence in university affairs ever since the school opted to stop paying dues to the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), an anti-sweatshop group. Knight had reneged on a promised $30 million donation to expand the Ducks' football stadium when UO joined the WRC the previous spring. (Graduation rate, all students: 58 percent; football players: 61 percent)

3. COLORADO (10-2)
Memo to the Buffs: Do what your coaches say, not what they do. Former CU star and current running-backs coach Eric Bieniemy was arrested for DUI last spring. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving with ability impaired and was sentenced to $400 in fines, 48 hours of community service, and two years' probation for alcohol evaluation. CU also docked Bieniemy one month's pay (roughly $5500). Three months later, defensive end Sam Wilder was charged with DUI. He also pleaded guilty to driving with ability impaired and was fined $400 and placed on 18 months' probation. (Graduation rate, all students: 63 percent; football players: 45 percent)

4. NEBRASKA (11-1)
Big Red has always meant big trouble, on and off the field. In September, kicker Josh Brown was convicted of assault for fighting with a man on a date with Brown's ex-girlfriend. In August, Husker running back Dahrran Diedrick was fined $100 for failing to disperse after a disturbance outside a Lincoln bar. Finally, Diedrick's backup, Thunder Collins, was arrested and charged in June with assaulting his live-in girlfriend, Nebraska basketball player Shannon Howell. Collins's charges were dropped in September when he agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program. Cornhusker coach Frank Solich suspended all three for one game each and ordered both Brown and Collins to undergo counseling for anger management. (Graduation rate, all students: 48 percent; football players: 53 percent)

5. FLORIDA (9-2)
After his team's 37-13 thrashing of arch rival Florida State last month, Gators coach Steve Spurrier initiated yet another war of words with Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, accusing the latter of "instructing" his players to intentionally injure opponents during games (he leveled the same charge against the FSU headman in the mid 1990s). In this case, though, he's not alone. Tailback Earnest Graham, out three to five weeks with an injured knee, has threatened a lawsuit, claiming FSU tackle Darnell Dockett intentionally twisted his leg in a pileup during the game. (Graduation rate, all students: 67 percent; football players: 46 percent)

6. MARYLAND (10-1)
First-year head coach Ralph Friedgen's tenure got off to a rough start in September when linebacker Marlon Moye-Moore was convicted of misdemeanor assault. The charge stemmed from an incident at a nightclub last spring in which Moye-Moore and another Terp allegedly beat up a club patron in the men's room and stole $30 from him. Friedgen suspended Moye-Moore indefinitely, but restored him to the roster by midseason. Moye-Moore ended up starting six games for the Terps. (Graduation rate, all students: 63 percent; football players: 39 percent)

7. ILLINOIS (10-1)
Illini head coach Ron Turner no longer has to worry about living in Champaign on a beer budget. The university gave Turner, who is in his fifth season at the school, a one-year contract extension and pay raise last spring. He is now slated to make $700,000 per year through 2005. (Graduation rate, all students: 76 percent; football players: 54 percent)

8. TENNESSEE (10-2)
Vols defensive lineman Lynn McGruder was dismissed from the team in June after he was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell. McGruder was placed on pre-trial diversion and the drug charges will be deferred for one year and dismissed if he stays out of trouble. He's now enrolled at Oklahoma and may join the football team there next fall. (Graduation rate, all students: 56 percent; football players: 42 percent)

9. TEXAS (10-2)
Apparently 'Horns fans of all ages could drown their sorrows following UT's disappointing loss in the Big 12 championship game. Royal-Memorial Stadium's Endzone Club is in danger of losing its permit to sell alcohol after one employee served a 17-year-old undercover operative earlier this season. (Graduation rate, all students: 66 percent; football players: 54 percent)

10. OKLAHOMA (10-2)
Two Sooners—starting middle linebacker Teddy Lehman and reserve tight end Lance Donley—received slaps on their wrists from $2-million-a-year coach Bob Stoops after being charged with disturbing the peace and public intoxication, respectively, the week before Oklahoma's big game against Nebraska. Neither missed the game. Donley's charge was dropped. Lehman pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and paid $140 in fines and court costs. (Graduation rate, all students: 46 percent; football players: 36 percent)

11. STANFORD (9-2)
Cardinal head coach Tyrone Willingham, an African American, has publicly admitted his desire to join, and expand, the ranks of minority head coaches in the NFL, even though Stanford reportedly pays him roughly $800,000 per annum on a contract running through 2004. The contract hasn't even prevented him from looking into other college jobs, as his involvement in the recent Ohio State and Notre Dame coaching searches indicates. (Graduation rate, all students: 92 percent; football players: 83 percent)

12. LSU (8-3)
Freshman Tim Pope is apparently no saint. Before arriving in Baton Rouge, the linebacker was arrested in Florida over the summer for leaving the scene of an accident, attempting to elude police, and driving with a suspended license. The attempting-to-elude charge was eventually dismissed, but Pope was fined $276 and has to do 50 hours of community service on the other charges. Tiger coach Nick Saban opted not to suspend him at the time, saying Pope was not yet officially a member of the team when the incident occurred. The coach got his chance two months later when, in November, he suspended Pope indefinitely for academic reasons and for coming late to practice. (Graduation rate, all students: 49 percent; football players: 40 percent)

13. WASHINGTON STATE (9-2)
Wideout Jason White spent three days in jail—and nearly missed the start of spring practice—for reportedly violating his parole. White allegedly failed to complete a community service commitment stemming from a 1999 conviction for residential burglary. He was released after it was determined there had been miscommunication among White, his parole officer, and the court. The same weekend, several Cougar players were reportedly involved in a brawl at a WSU frat party. (Graduation rate, all students: 59 percent; football players: 49 percent)

14. SOUTH CAROLINA (8-3)
Shhh . . . Gamecocks' coach Lou Holtz must have perfect silence. . . . According to a report published on ESPN.com earlier this season, Holtz has said his team will no longer try to perform under adversely loud conditions. The coach made the announcement two weeks after USC lost 10-7 to Arkansas in Little Rock. Holtz blamed the loss, in part, on his team's inability to call signals at the line of scrimmage in front of 55,000 screaming fans. (Graduation rate, all students: 57 percent; football players: 57 percent)

15. VIRGINIA TECH (8-3)
Hokies coaches claim Syracuse suckered their team this season. Literally. In the days following Tech's surprise loss to the Orangemen, associate head coach Billy Hite accused 'Cuse kicker Collin Barber and holder Jared Jones of planting a lollipop stick into the turf to mark the spot where the ball should be placed on field goals. Syracuse coaches laughed off the allegation. Equally laughable is the story of sophomore offensive guard Jake Grove, who was locked out of Tech's Lane Stadium during a game after leaving the field for treatment on an injury. (Graduation rate, all students: 72 percent; football players: 46 percent)

16. GEORGIA (8-3)
Thanks to first-year 'Dawgs coach (and former Florida State assistant) Mark Richt, you can call Athens "Tallahassee North." Defensive end Charles Grant was arrested in January on a charge of offering an undercover policewoman money for sex. He pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of pandering and was sentenced to 12 months' probation. Fullback Verron Haynes was arrested in February after a domestic dispute with the mother of his child. Haynes pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges in August and was sentenced to 12 months of first-offender probation. (Graduation rate, all students: 64 percent; football players: 58 percent)

17. MICHIGAN (8-3)
Cornerback Markus Curry will face misdemeanor charges for domestic assault and tampering with a telephone later this month after he allegedly pushed his girlfriend in her dorm room and prevented her from using the telephone to call for help. The freshman, who pleaded not guilty, was suspended indefinitely by coach Lloyd Carr. (Graduation rate, all students: 82 percent; football players: 45 percent)

18. SYRACUSE (9-3)
Last summer, a report obtained by the Associated Press revealed that, in 1996, New York taxpayers paid for Governor George Pataki to fly the 23 miles from an appearance in the upstate town of Skaneateles to Syracuse. Once there, he rushed to the Carrier Dome to take in the Orangemen's game against Miami with SU chancellor Kenneth Shaw (SU lost 28-21). Perhaps Orangemen football coach Paul Pasqualoni should have picked up the tab. Pasqualoni has been the school's highest paid employee in recent years, with a salary of $600,000-plus, nearly three times as much as Shaw. (Graduation rate, all students: 71 percent; football players: 72 percent)

19. BYU (12-1)
Cougar wide receiver Jonathan Pittman was arrested for alleged DUI while serving as a host for a junior college recruit on an official campus visit. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving and was sentenced to 20 hours of community service and fines of $750. Running back Brian McDonald, who was with Pittman at the time, pleaded no contest to an underage drinking charge and received a plea in abeyance, meaning the charge will be wiped from his record if he stays out of trouble for a year. In a separate incident, offensive lineman Teag Whiting was suspended for one game earlier this season after being involved in a fight outside a Salt Lake City bar last summer. As part of a plea agreement with the court, he was found guilty of disturbing the peace and interference with a police officer and sentenced to take an anger management course and pay $350 in court costs. (Graduation rate, all students: 69 percent; football players: 21 percent)

20. FRESNO STATE (11-2)
Fresno was everyone's sentimental pick for the national championship until back-to-back losses to Boise State and Hawaii derailed their undefeated season. The Bulldogs' kick coverage guy Kendall Edwards was, according to Sports Illustrated, the envy of coaches at eight schools—including Texas and Notre Dame—for his aggressive play early in the season. But his cheap shot on punt returner Tim Gilligan in the aforementioned nationally televised game against Boise State caused the WAC to suspend him for one game; coach Pat Hill removed him from the kick-coverage team. (Graduation rate, all students: 42 percent; football players: 28 percent)

21. WASHINGTON (8-3)
Troubled tight end Jerramy Stevens pleaded guilty to misdemeanor hit-and-run property damage after a vehicle he was driving last May crashed into a senior citizens complex. He was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and was suspended for the first half of the Huskies' opener against Michigan. His coach, Rick Neuheisel, meanwhile, received a 35 percent pay raise over the summer to bump his salary to $1.2 million per year. (Graduation rate, all students: 70 percent; football players: 55 percent)

22. OHIO STATE (7-4)
Buckeye QB Steve Bellisari missed Senior Day last month because he was suspended following his arrest on two counts of alleged drunken driving. The QB's suspension was lifted December 12. One count was dismissed, and he pleaded no contest to the other one; he's slated to serve three days in jail—after the Buckeyes play in the Outback Bowl on January 1. Meanwhile, his former coach, John Cooper, fired by OSU last winter, was under investigation by Franklin County prosecutors because of an unexplained $2000 on expense reports filed with the school. Calling it a "record-keeping error," Cooper repaid the money last spring and the matter was dropped. (Graduation rate, all students: 56 percent; football players: 33 percent)

23. LOUISVILLE (10-2)
After last season, the Cardinals signed coach John L. Smith to an eight-year contract extension, paying him roughly $800,000 a year. UL is a big spender in general, though. Its athletic budget of $27.1 million rivals that of many big-time conference programs, despite its standing in the relatively minor Conference USA. (Graduation rate, all students: 30 percent; football players: 29 percent)

24. FLORIDA STATE (7-4)
In response to Florida coach Steve Spurrier's attacks, FSU AD Dave Hart said, "Bobby Bowden represents integrity and class." Guess Hart has missed the litany of player arrests and legal problems plaguing the Seminole program in recent years. This year, nose guard Jeff Womble was suspended for the season opener against Duke for violating team rules. He and defensive end O.J. Jackson were arrested for alleged misdemeanor possession of marijuana this summer. Jackson was not suspended; his possession charge was dismissed. Womble completed a term of pre-trial intervention to avoid having the offense appear on his record. (Graduation rate, all students: 63 percent; football players: 53 percent)

25. TOLEDO 9-2
Interim athletic director Mike Karabin has had a change of heart. Three months after a tearful announcement that he would not apply for the full-time AD position at the school following his arrest for DUI in July, Karabin said he would indeed file for the position, which pays roughly $125,000 per year. Karabin's case was scheduled to go to trial last week. (Graduation rate, all students: 36 percent; football players: 59 percent)


This poll combines the AP college football Top 25 rankings with the NCAA's findings on institutional ethical conduct, graduation rates, and exploitation of African American athletes. Graduation rates and enrollment data cover entering freshmen from 1991-1992 through 1994-1995, all given six years to get degrees.

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