Wheel of misfortune spins in college football

Published 12:02 pm Thursday, July 22, 2010

On his recent visit to Vicksburg, Mississippi State co-defensive coordinator Manny Diaz coined a term that fits the recent headlines from college football.

The Wheel of Misfortune.

He made the excellent point that when you laugh at the misfortune of other teams, the wheel spins to bankrupt on your turn. Karma is cruel that way.

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College football has endured a bad few weeks. Some Tennessee football players were involved in a bar-clearing brawl earlier this month that left one man beaten and bloodied and an off-duty police officer knocked unconscious. Several of the offenders were booted off the team or suspended indefinitely by first-year coach Derek Dooley.

SEC East Division rival Georgia fans laughed until their athletic director Damon Evans was found drunk behind the wheel with a woman not his wife in the passenger side. A few weeks later, a couple of Bulldog football players were busted for driving under the influence.

Southern Miss had the wheel turn in its direction when All-America candidate DeAndre Brown and several other football players were arrested when they refused to leave a rowdy pool party.

A rowdy pool party. Oh, the humanity!

Folks need to realize that these are, despite their lightning-fast 40 times, bench presses in the metric tons and Empire State Building-bounding vertical leaps, college kids. Many are away from home for the first time in their lives.

Research has shown that the frontal lobe of the brain, which controls judgment, is not fully developed until age 25. That’s not to discount the seriousness of a DUI charge, which is a serious offense that could endanger the lives of the driver and those around him.

Once upon a time, these things didn’t happen. More like, they didn’t get out. The attention paid to college football teams now is a 24/7 operation, as anyone with a video camera on their cell phone can become a reporter. What was once hearsay is now video-confirmed fact.

Players also were protected by their intensely structured lives cloistered apart from the rest of the student body in athletic dorms where the watchful eyes of coaches were on them at all times. Break curfew and you were running enough gassers to extricate all of contents of your stomach on a toasty morning.

But the NCAA, in all of its wisdom, wanted players to have a “normal” campus life. That meant no more athletic dorms. They also reduced practice times and even contact with their coaches, who are often the primary authority figures in the players’ lives. The NCAA didn’t think through the consequences of decreased supervision, and now we reap the whirlwind.

Folks just need to realize that football players are not all saints and they are not all sinners. Any organization that draws from all levels of society is bound to have some chaff among the wheat. And if the NCAA wants athletes to have a “normal” student life, incidents like these will continue to happen.

So the next time a player from a rival school gets popped for a DUI, don’t laugh. The next time, the wheel of misfortune might be spinning for you.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at swilson@vicksburgpost.com.