May 24, 2006

Rap sheets getting more attention than stat sheets

In a little more than two months college football teams will start their "fall camps" in preparation for the 2006 season. Most coaches surely cannot wait for the time when stat sheets get more attention than rap sheets.

It's a time for optimism, excitement and probably a load of relief because coaches can spend more time worrying about the trouble the next opponent presents and less time worrying about the trouble their players might be getting into.

If idle hands are indeed the devil's workshop, the spring and summer must be his peak season. Sure, athletes have issues with the law during the framework of the season, but there just seems to be more incidents during the offseason.

Just look at some of the incidents that have occurred since Texas defeated Southern California in the Rose Bowl:

Texas running back Ramonce Taylor was charged with possession of marijuana.
Alabama linebacker Juwan Simpson has charged with possession of marijuana and having a pistol without a license.
Indiana receiver James Hardy was arrested on misdemeanor domestic battery charges.
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez faces sexual assault charges.
UCLA freshmen John Hale and Jess Ward faced felony assault charges.
Six Mississippi State players were charged with assaulting an off-duty police officer.

Those are just the headline stories. There's been the usual DUI and MIP charges that occur with college kids that don't make national news, but those are no less troublesome.

The reactions from coaches have been predictable and similar.

"Whenever there is a problem with one of our players, we do a lot of investigation," Alabama coach Mike Shula told the Birmingham News. We're still in that process, so it's too soon to make any decisions."

Texas coach Mack Brown's reaction was about the same.

"We are aware of the recent situation and will follow it as the legal system runs its course," Brown told The Associated Press. "At this time, we will not consider reinstating him to the team."

Olin's Quick Hits
Quarterback Mack Brown has opted to transfer from Colorado, which had six players vying for that position. Also, Patrick Devenny, a redshirt freshman, will move to another position. That leaves the Buffaloes with juniors Brian White and Bernard Jackson, senior James Cox and freshman Cody Hawkins on the depth chart.

The city of Dallas reportedly has talked with as many as two dozen schools, including Notre Dame, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, about playing neutral site games in the Cotton Bowl. Notre Dame officials have recently indicated an interest in playing in the Dallas area, but probably not against an upper-echelon opponent.

Texas is completing the most dominant sporting year in the Big 12's history. The Longhorns, who won the football national championship, won or shared at least seven men's conference championships in the nine sports in which they participate. The other two they finished second in the standings. Texas won or shared championships in football, basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming & diving, indoor track & field and outdoor track & field. The Longhorns finished second in cross country and golf.
UCLA coach Karl Dorrell also took a wait-and-see approach after Hale and Ward pleaded not guilty earlier this month.

"Based on the information available to us, we have decided to wait until the outcome of the legal process to impose any disciplinary action," he said.

Really, that's all coaches can do. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, after all.

Yet, coaches sometimes come under unfair criticism for not having control over players. But players cannot be monitored on a 24-hour basis, especially in the offseason - when they have more free time.

So, there's really nothing a coach can do, issue warnings, give advice and look forward to August. Then coaches know where players are and what they're doing for at least part of the day.

Best in Class(room)
SMU was recognized by the American Football Coaches Association for posting a national-best 100 percent graduation rate for its football student athletes.

The AFCA released its annual Academic Achievement Awards date on Tuesday.

The study involved the freshmen class from the academic year of 2000-2001, including those who entered at that time but who did not receive financial aid until after their initial year, or who transferred from another institution and subsequently received a grant-in-aid.

Also, Boston College, Duke, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Southern Mississippi were cited for posting a graduation rate of at least 90 percent.

Schools graduating at least 70 percent were Auburn, Baylor, California, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colorado State, Florida State, Iowa, Iowa State, Maryland, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska, North Carolina, Penn State, Rice, Rutgers, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Troy, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia.

The median graduation rate was 57 percent.

Good and bad for USC
USC's roller-coaster offseason continues to seem like a good-news, bad-news joke.

The good news is running back Chauncey Washington, who had to sit out spring practice with academic issues, has regained his eligibility and will likely go into August practices as the No. 1 contender to replace Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

The bad news? Backup safety Will Harris tore knee ligaments while playing basketball and will miss the 2006 season. Also, guard Matt Spanos will be academically ineligible for the upcoming season.

A Buff no more
Colorado cornerback Gerett Burl, who was suspended twice during spring practice for violations of team rules, has officially been dismissed from the team.

A starter last season, Burl broke up 14 passes and recorded 61 tackles.

Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com, and he files his national notebook every Wednesday. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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