NCAA Football News
ESPN's Outside the Lines conducted a study beginning in the fall of 2014, looking into men's college basketball and football players from 10 high-profile schools who were accused of crimes from 2009 to 2014.
Sunday marked the release of the study, per ESPN.com's Paula Lavigne, which concluded that athletes often avoid prosecution and prison because of their status. Of the 10 schools, Florida and Florida State ranked first and second, respectively, in total athletes who had run-ins with the law.
Eighty Gators players were suspects in over 100 crimes, while the Seminoles had 66 players involved in alleged crimes. Florida had 56 percent of its cases either not result in charges, result in dropped charges or not reach the prosecution phase. Florida State had 70 percent of cases fall by the wayside on such statuses.
Lavigne cited a number of factors that contribute to many accused student-athletes not seeing a day in court. The intimidation factor of prosecuting an athlete from a big-name program is one, which has to do with athletic department personnel becoming involved in cases, along with the resources available to the players to call on renowned attorneys.
With specific regard to the Seminoles, Outside the Lines discovered nine instances in its study where "Florida State coaches or athletic department officials tried to determine when and where city police would interview athletes or attempted other involvement."
A former department staff member highlighted Seminoles associate athletic director Monk Bonasorte as a go-to intermediary.
"He is kind of the fixer for football," said the past employee. "He knows where the skeletons are buried, but he also helps keep those football players, not out of trouble, but out of paying for the trouble they've gotten into."
Recent No. 1 overall NFL draft pick and former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is mentioned in the Outside the Lines story regarding a sexual assault allegation against him. Winston ultimately didn't face prosecution after an investigation.
Benton County (Oregon) District Attorney John Haroldson, whose office deals with Oregon State athletes' cases, weighed in on how the media spotlight impacts similar cases.
"I think it would be naive to suggest that the high level of [publicity] doesn't have a chilling effect on people," said Haroldson. "You certainly see that happen in cases of sexual assault. ... They have to contend with, 'Do I want this to play out in the media?'"
Ex-Florida running back Chris Rainey was noted as being "named a suspect in five crimes in Gainesville" but "faced charges once."
Outside the Lines' investigation also revealed that Florida, along with other programs, has a campus police department with members assigned to specific university officials or the athletic department.
Although it's dangerous to conclude there is an imbalance of justice, the rates that crimes involving college-age males get thrown out before reaching court in Gainesville and Tallahassee are 28 and 50 percent, respectively. Those percentages are considerably lower than the rate for the athletes examined in the study.
The burden of proof certainly seems held to a different standard for men's college basketball and football players—at least at many of the powerhouse programs Outside the Lines reported on. In the study, Michigan State is noted as an outlier, since it offers free legal counsel to all of its students, eliminating the improved access to defense attorneys that athletes have at programs like Florida and Florida State.
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