Student-athletes or student-inmates?
WVU quarterback Pat White suggested on Tuesday that the reason he hasn't also played baseball in Morgantown is that the WVU baseball coach is a racist. And, believe it or not, that qualifies White as one of the good guys in area college athletics this week. Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, after his team's significant criminal element was featured in an ESPN "Outside the Lines" program, finally dismissed defensive tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor from the team. Baker was part of two fights, one that occurred off campus in April and left two people injured, the other a fight at the student union that left one person hurt. Baker's previous punishment was suspension from campus during summer school - yes, summer school. Taylor also was involved in the student union fracas. The actions against Baker and Taylor come just months after receiver Chris Bell was tossed off the team after police said he burst into a campus dining hall and threatened a teammate with a large knife. Nice. Sounds more like state prison than State College. And we haven't even discussed the April 2007 incident in which a gang of more than a dozen football players broke into a campus apartment, leading to a melee in which, according to "Outside the Lines," one student was struck with a beer bottle, another was whacked with a wooden stool and yet another was kicked in the face. I could go on, but for more on the seemingly out-of-control Penn State football program, I would highly recommend Bob Smizik's column from the Wednesday Post-Gazette. At about the same time Paterno, shown above in a "What, Me Worry?" pose, was formulating his punishment for Baker and Taylor, a couple of White's fellow WVU athletes were introducing themselves to police in Pittsburgh. According to a P-G report, WVU basketball players Joe Mazzulla and Cam Thoroughman were arrested after a scuffle at a PNC Park security station where they had been taken by off-duty police officers who were working at a Pirates-Colorado Rockies game. Police said the two had been drinking underage and refused to provide ID. Officers said Thoroughman struggled with them after being asked to put his hands behind his back, and they eventually had to hit him with pepper spray to subdue him. Meanwhile, according to police, Mazzulla tried to prevent his teammate's arrest and took a swing at an officer before he, too, was taken down. Typically, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, not exactly known as a disciplinarian, said, "We will let the judicial process take its course, and the matter will be handled internally." Of course it will. If WVU can determine that even a good portion of what police say is true, the two players should be removed from the team and have their scholarships revoked. But that's not going to happen, especially in the case of Mazzulla, who is a rising star on the team. Mostly likely, the pair will be suspended for an early season game against the Little Sisters of the Poor or some other punching-bag team. When do we reach the point where so-called student-athletes are held accountable for their actions? When do we reach the point where the cesspool that is now big-time college athletics forces college presidents to rethink the skewed emphasis on games? When do coaches quit bringing low-life thugs onto college campuses? The answer is never, because the top-tier college sports, football and men's basketball, bring in big bucks, and money always wins out over doing the right thing. And it isn't just at the college level. More and more people are living and dying with high school sports, basing their happiness on the achievements or failures of a bunch of 16- and 17-year-old kids. That's really sad. I'm a sports fan, but we have a sickness in this country when it comes to athletics. What is the cure?