Arrests of College Athletes Are More Than Double Those of Pros

Jeff Benedict has been investigating and writing about athletes and crime for more than 15 years. During that time, the professor of English at Southern Virginia University has written four books on the subject and looked at more than 1,000 incidents involving college and professional athletes. “So it takes a lot to raise my eyebrows,” he writes on this week.

But when he looked at publicly reported arrests involving college and professional athletes between January 1 and August 31 of this year, he uncovered some alarming numbers: Eighty-five college football and basketball players have been arrested during that span, more than double the number of arrests of NFL and NBA athletes. Seventy of the 125 college and pro players arrested this year are college football players.

He found considerable differences in how some college athletes have been punished. Take two recent arrests at Oregon and Oregon State:

During the offseason, Oregon star running back LaMichael James, who set a Pac-10 record last season by rushing for 1,546 yards as a freshman, was charged with menacing, attempted strangulation, and assault after an altercation with his former girlfriend. In March he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor harassment charge and was sentenced to 10 days in jail, but didn’t serve any time. Oregon suspended him for one game.

By contrast, Oregon State redshirt lineman Tyler Thomas was kicked off the team after police say they found him naked and intoxicated in a stranger’s home. Thomas reportedly went into a three-point stance and lunged at the officers, who fired stun guns to subdue him. The player was charged with criminal trespass, criminal mischief, and resisting arrest but has not been convicted of anything.

The professor lists all sorts of other allegations, highlighting a crazy number of weapons-related arrests (12 of the 16 involved college athletes) and a trail of alleged domestic abuse against women (women were alleged victims in nearly 20 percent of the total arrests).

And he is careful to say that charges will no doubt be dropped in some of the cases. “But let’s not bury our heads in the sand,” he writes. “If on average a [college or professional] football or basketball player is charged with a serious crime every other day, there’s an undeniable problem. It starts with the type of players that some college coaches are willing to recruit. Until colleges and universities demand a higher standard, the problem will continue to get worse.”

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