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Legislator sees special treatment for charged athletes

BY EMILY BUSSE | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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Rep. Wayne Ford, D-Des Moines, addressed the House recently, alleging Iowa college athletes have been “coddled rather than punished” for criminal charges.

“I have said before and I am saying again, Iowa’s three state universities are wrong when they allow players to continue to participate in sports after they have been arrested,” he said.

Ford used Hawkeye defensive end Adrian Clayborn — who was charged with assault on a taxi driver in January 2009 — as an example, but he said he did not intend to single out the player.

Still, he said the fact that Clayborn played this past season is an example of how athletes are receiving special treatment.

Clayborn’s attorney said last week the Hawkeye will plead guilty to the assault charges.

Ford called for the Legislative Oversight Committee to invite the state Board of Regents to discuss creating an across-the-board policy for future incidents.

“I’m not saying I’m perfect, but all of us need a rule of thumb to follow these norms,” Ford said.

But other local legislators said this idea is overkill — an unnecessary addition to an already adequate process.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said the Legislature should be the last resort regarding consequences for athletes. The issue has not reached the depth yet to constitute a meeting with legislators, he contended.

“No. 1, we already have a legal system in place,” he said. “And second, I believe the athletics directors and the coaches are generally pretty good about the appropriate discipline.”

Representatives for the athletics department said they were unable to comment on the topic.

Though Regent Robert Downer said he respects Ford’s dedication, he had no idea if the regents would meet with legislators.

Downer said he does not recall talk of implementing set policies for the three state institutions in the past. But in the fall of 2007, UI officials immediately kicked two Iowa football players off the team after they were alleged to have been involved in a reported Hillcrest sexual-assault case.

The difference between sexual assault and assault charges is one part of the problem with Ford’s proposal, Jacoby said.

“I think that that is the bottom line: Where do you draw the line?” Jacoby said.

And although Downer said he is not in favor of special treatment for athletes, Jacoby admitted that it is sometimes unavoidable.

Despite criticism that Ford is being hypocritical in playing down his own past misdeeds, he said he learned from those experiences shoplifting as a young kid. Ultimately, this problem needs to be addressed on a national level, he said.

“I’m for second, third, or even fourth chances,” Ford said. “But you’ve got to have higher standards.”


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