By Richie Avila | Contributing Writer

University of Minnesota suspended 10 players for sexual assault. (Courtesy of slate.com)

There have been several highly-publicized incidents involving athletes in the past several years. In the NFL, domestic abuse has seemingly become an epidemic, notably with Ray Rice and Greg Hardy. In college football, there has been a much more diverse selection of crimes committed by players, from murder and assault to credit card fraud, identity theft, and DWI’s.

Recently, the Florida Gators suspended nine players for their much anticipated match-up with the Michigan Wolverines. In an encounter where Michigan won 33-17, the talk surrounding the suspensions was about their impact on the game and not about the nine student-athletes who were facing third-degree felony charges. This highlights a potential cause to the substantial amount of college football players who get in trouble.

Last season, the University of Minnesota suspended ten players for sexual assault, a suspension that was protested by the other players on the team. Similar suspensions due to sexual assault have been handed out at Michigan State and Baylor University. In all these instances, the conversation was directed towards the on-field product, not the off-the-field issues. With the amount of money involved in collegiate sports, especially football, institutions have prioritized athletic success and monetary gains over player conduct. These institutions have cultivated an environment that enables this.

The Netflix documentary series, “Last Chance U,” highlighted this very culture, specifically focusing on East Mississippi Community College, an institution that welcomes players who were kicked out of other programs for academic or legal issues. The documentary series displayed the kind of prioritization of athletics over academics and off-the-field behavior that occurs at these “football schools.” Ironically, former EMCC running back Isaiah Wright, along with Camion Patrick of Indiana University, were charged with criminal homicide in July.

Football is a violent sport that tends to attract troubled youth from troubled areas. This is obviously not true for all players, but it is for a considerable amount, such as for Isaiah Wright. Wright grew up with his father in jail and had an inattentive mother and abusive foster parents. When that type of upbringing is combined with institutions that depreciate off-the-field conduct in comparison to football, the results will largely be negative. Additionally, with news of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) being prevalent in a greater number of players than originally thought, football may just be a recipe for disaster.

Unless these institutions change, there will continue to be an excessive amount of crimes committed by college football players, which is a shame. Football should be a means for troubled youth to improve their situation, not something that will later condemn them to a life in prison.

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