Past time for athletes to be accountable

My new favorite person in the entire universe is Florida Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor, who, while presiding over the first appearance of a University of South Florida football player charged with sexual battery, not only gave him hell, but lashed out at his coach, who wasn’t even in the courtroom.

This is what she had to say to coach Charlie Strong in remarks were taped by a local TV station:

“Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players for very violent felonies. This court, and I’m sure I’m not alone, questions whether you have control over your players.”


Strong, naturally, defended his program and himself, and that’s fine, but we’re still all in for Judge Taylor because it’s about time someone other that a few sportswriters spoke out about the thuggery that goes on among college sports programs. The fact is, all that matters to coaches and administrators at schools that feature football and men’s basketball is winning, and to win, they’ll recruit anyone … Aaron Hernandez … anyone as long as he can run/catch/throw the ball or shoot three-pointers or is 7 feet tall.

Arrested for holding up the local candy store? We’ll help you turn your life around. Unless you injure your knee. Then we don’t really want to know you. What’d you say your name was, injured kid?

And Judge Strong gave the football player a piece of her excellent mind, too:

“While USF may not be the top-ranked school in the nation, I was never ashamed of being an alum until now. Embarrassed and ashamed …”

And three cheers for Judge Taylor.

What this country needs is more people raising hell in public forums about the abuses on campus, especially abuses by athletes, especially abuses of women. Athletes are privileged characters at our universities, and most of them appreciate their status and try to live up to it – kids like Andrew Luck, who actually studied and is, apparently, a decent guy. But too many use their ability to master sports as a signal to do whatever the heck they want to whoever they want. And, yeah, they might get suspended for a game or two or even for a season, but their actions have to be particularly egregious, and made public, before they get kicked off the team.

Hey, if nobody off campus finds out about it, or if it only makes it to the sports pages, and if all Jimmy gets is community service, hell, give the kid a break. And the girl whose face he smashed in? Maybe the college will cover her medical expenses. As long as she SHUTS UP ABOUT IT.

We live in a nation in which education is supposed to be what college is about, and for some kids – oy, those NERDS – it is, but for too many, it’s just a way to get to the pros.

One-and-done is the mantra on so many campuses for so many athletes. It means pro ball and pro money.

For other athletes, one-and-done, “Hey, the judge only gave me a year in the joint.”

Unless, maybe, we get more judges like Judge Taylor, who, if nothing else, raised a little hell where it is well deserved.

Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.