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Athlete crimes stain reputation, but pinning the source is no easy matter

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 24, 2009 7:21 AM

Hawkeye football players breaking the law — and getting caught — shines an extremely negative light on the UI.

However, when it comes to our football team’s legal woes, finding the source of the problem is not as simple as black and gold — it’s varied with shades of gray.

The negative spotlight for the continued rash of arrests for the football program — most recently offensive tackle Kyle Calloway’s OWI charge this weekend — can be spread across numerous levels. Some believe that head coach Kirk Ferentz, the highest paid public employee in Iowa, must take a share of the blame. It’s analogous to the business world where the man at the top takes the fall for the misfortunes at the bottom.

However, the football players who come to this university are adults by law and should be expected to behave in accordance to the level expected by their peers and the community at large. College students are awarded great freedom, but with that comes consequences for those violate the law. Hawkeye football players should be held to a standard of accountability set as high — if not higher — than that set for other students at the university.

The blame for first offenses should undoubtedly be pinned on the player. However, when those players are reinstated to the team and proceed to get in trouble again — as is the case with Ferentz’s son James Ferentz — coaches should share that blame. When a player gets in legal trouble, Ferentz and the rest of the coaching staff need to think carefully before letting the player sport the Hawkeye jersey again.

Last September, former Hawkeye player Chigozie Ejiasi was hired as director of player development for the football program. The process of developing newly recruited players and fostering their development on our campus was a positive step. The university became one of only a few institutions to adopt this position. Ejiasi was a great choice with his knowledge of the program and his understanding of what a student-athlete goes through at the school.

The media attention of these off-the-field incidents has gone from this state to a national level. Each time one of or players gets arrested, news wires grab the story and inject their own spin on the issue. For good or bad, Hawkeye football is one of the hallmark characteristics of this institution and, more importantly, this state. Each time there’s a run-in between a Hawkeye footballer and law enforcement, another black mark stains the reputation of this university. The program under Ferentz’s guidance is moving in the right direction, taking a significantly harsher response to player conduct. However, if progress is measured by inches instead of yards, we will have to endure many more embarrassments in the future. The UI has so many astounding attributes that it would be regrettable if this problem would stain our legacy.

This past football season was an indication of what Iowa football and this university can represent. Perseverance and dedication were on prime display as running back Shonn Greene showed the heart that can shine through in the UI football program. Greene’s second chance at success was something to be extremely proud of. The boost to our reputation can not be measured in simple words or phrases.

As students, we all had a picture of what the UI could become when we first stepped on this campus. Like it or not, Iowa football is a large portion of that picture. The arrests and poor judgment of our football team are eroding that sentimental view. If those involved do not respond to our pleas, there might be nothing left of that picture.


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