I pulled up ESPN.com yesterday to see what was going on in the world of college football and was hit with a deluge of decidedly non-football terms like “banish” and “plea bargain.” There were no less than six headlines about players in trouble with the NCAA or the law.

From busting car windows to lying to police officers to verbally assaulting them, it was all there.

A report that Washington fullback Zach Tuiasosopo had plead guilty to a misdemeanor for smashing the windows of four cars in a drunken rage came just before a headline announcing that Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford had kicked in a car window (just one?) at a nightclub. Also making news were Arkansas’s Shawn Andrews and Mark Pierce. The former was cleared to play after accepting improper gifts, but the latter was suspended because he was arrested for being belligerent towards police officers.

Joining the not-so-distinguished list were Virginia Tech’s Marcus Vick and Brandon Manning, suspended for team rules violations. And, naturally, there was an update on the never-ending Maurice Clarett sideshow.

And this was just in one day. At this rate, it won’t be long before there will be enough players banned from their teams that they could form their own team. They could print mug shots instead of headshots in the game programs, and for those without criminal records, their bios could include the number of NCAA violations right along with the number of tackles and touchdowns.

This is the time of the season when the games are often snoozefests – Saturday’s Big Ten matchups of Michigan State-Rutgers, Iowa-Buffalo and Ohio State-San Diego State are prime examples. But this year, the dullness of contender-versus-creampuff games might be a welcome relief.

Of course, in Columbus on Saturday, the game might be little more than a footnote. The focus will likely be on the most disconcerting of the recent off-the-field incidents, Ohio State running back Clarett’s filing of an exaggerated police report. Actually, the ensuing investigation and verdict (or lack thereof) has become almost a bigger mess than the superstar’s initial offense.

In the offseason, the sophomore, who tore up opposing defenses during the Buckeyes 2002 national championship run, claimed that $10,000 worth of his belongings was stolen from a vehicle he was driving. It turned out Clarett exaggerated the value of the items.

He went on to mislead NCAA and school investigators, and there are also reports that Clarett broke NCAA rules on accepting benefits.

But the real fun began when punishments began to be dealt out. First, the deal was Clarett could continue practicing but would miss at least three games. Then his father told reporters the younger Clarett would be suspended for six games. An official announcement hasn’t been made, but yesterday coach Jim Tressell pulled Clarett from practice and the rumor was that Clarett was done for the season.

But the way it’s been going, who knows?

Whatever the final decision is, it should be made soon. This – and the wave of misconduct occurrences across the NCAA – is tarnishing college football. For the sake of the game and the fans, let’s hope the biggest headlines start being made on the weekends again – and without all the legal jargon.


Courtney Lewis can be reached at cmlewis@umich.edu.

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