Too much made of arrests

Published 10:52 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

Auburn fans have had some good laughs about the players from certain state rival football program not being able to stay out of jail. Pa-role Tide and what not.

But the latest snickers, about Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw’s arrest Thursday on a domestic violence charge, ended abruptly. Auburn running back Eric Smith was arrested early Friday morning on a disorderly conduct charge.

So, has Auburn become the proverbial kettle? Making fun of the behavioral problems of a college football program is unwise when your program, like the rest, is made up of 18- to 22-year-old males. That, more than the remnants of an egg between those menacing Tiger eyes, is the point: college football players are going to have run-ins with the law. It doesn’t make them bad people, and it doesn’t mean the programs are spiraling out of control.

I went to college, and more students than you might imagine run into the same kind of situations as Upshaw and Smith. They aren’t all bad people, either. Delusional and immature? Absolutely. But that describes many 18- to 22-year olds. In fact, I would love to see a comparison between the percentage of football players at a particular institution that have been arrested compared to the rest of the student population. The difference between them and Upshaw and Smith is when the people I knew were arrested, the story didn’t make newspapers the next day.

That doesn’t mean Upshaw’s and Smith’s arrests shouldn’t have been reported. They are receiving scholarships to, and are therefore representatives of, public institutions.

The details aren’t clear about either the Upshaw or Smith cases. There’s nothing trivial about domestic violence, but these situations are almost always blown out of proportion. Unless, of course, you’re Florida or Georgia, which have had 24 and 30 players, respectively, arrested since 2005.

If Alabama’s and Auburn’s arrests become a trend, then there might be cause for concern. Until then, boys will be boys—and cops will occasionally have to put them in handcuffs.