College Football Crime Report Gets Reaction From Schools

Sports Illustrated cover
For the past six months, CBS News and Sports Illustrated have investigated the criminal backgrounds of college football players.
CBS/AP/Sports Illustrated

By CBS Investigates Intern Chris Zawistowski

Yesterday CBS News released the results of our six-month investigation in partnership with Sports Illustrated on crime and college football, a study that found 7 percent of players in Sports Illustrated's 2010 pre-season Top 25 had either been arrested or cited for a crime. The results also found that only two of the Top 25 schools-Oklahoma and Texas Christian University-did any sort of background checks on their recruits.

The University of Pittsburgh, with 22 incidents had the highest crime rate of the 25 schools in the report . The University's Athletic Director Steve Pederson and new football coach Todd Graham told CBS affiliate KDKA they would work to improve these numbers by placing a new emphasis on fielding a crime-free team.

Pederson said the school started conducting stringent background checks on recruits, though it still does not check criminal records.

"The discussion of criminal background checks is probably a national discussion to have," he said. "Conference commissioners and athletic directors getting together to talk about how you do that because there are a lot of things that go into that."

In a statement posted on the Hawkeyes' athletic department website, Iowa Hawkeyes Head Coach Kirk Ferentz also responded to the CBS News/SI investigation.

"For 12 years we have dealt promptly, firmly, consistently, and within the student-athlete code of conduct when we have incidents involving members of our football program, " Ferentz said in the statement. "My staff and I will continue to work to ensure our student-athletes are successful as a student, as an athlete, and as a citizen of the Iowa City community."

The University of Iowa ranked second in the CBS NEWS/SI study with 18 incidents, a number that school officials linked to the issue of underage consumption and extreme consumption of alcohol that has troubled The University of Iowa and Iowa City community for several years.

"I am very confident in Kirk's approach to recruiting," Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta said in the statement. "I know he and his staff go to great lengths in trying to assess character when deciding whether to invite a young man to the UI. Like the vast majority of our peers, we don't do official criminal background checks."

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jake Long, whose Razorback football program also had 18 incidents, released a statement noting the study "placed our students in a misleading context, one which failed to distinguish the nature and severity of violations from those featured in the story."

"We have high expectations of those who want to compete under the Razorback name," Long said. "We will continue to stress those expectations and will continue to hold accountable those who fail to uphold our standards."

Boise State University Director of Athletics Gene Bleymaier also defended his school's conduct-policy. In a statement, Bleymaier said Boise State is immediately notified when issues occur with their student-athletes and that discipline is handled by the school's student-conduct committee and the coaching staff.

The CBS News/SI investigation found the Broncos football team had 16 incidents, tying the school with Penn State for the fourth-highest crime rate among the Top 25 teams.

"We take criminal charges against our student-athletes very seriously and we deal with each one on an individual basis," Bleymaier said in the statement. "While we would prefer not to have any of these situations with our student-athletes, we have a very good record of dealing with these issues appropriately."

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