There is a sort of sickening cynicism taken to college sports these days.
From events like a potential avalanche of NCAA sanctions that could come down on USC to the recent criminal accusations plaguing the Oregon Ducks football team, all the way to the immediate derisive comments that come with each John Calipari recruiting class, the perceived link between successful high-level college athletics and character risks has never seemed stronger.
But is the link really there?
You have to wonder if it's really something endemic in college sports, something about giving athletes a certain social standing or maybe a selection bias in the way football and basketball players are brought to campus. Or could it be that instances of shady acts are really no more prevalent among athletes than they are among regular students, but their exploits just happen to make the paper and get dissected on message boards?
It would not be surprising that among 41,000 students, crimes happen and that attention tends to shift toward high-profile offenders like athletes or frats. We just have to wonder if the focus comes from a rate of bad behavior that is actually higher, or if nondescript students are just harder to hone in on and categorize.
It all comes to the forefront as three more Badger football players, wide receiver Kraig Appleton, defensive end Shelby Harris and linebacker Nick Hill, have been suspended indefinitely, for violating team rules. It comes at the end of a laundry list of Badger players whose indefinite suspensions have ultimately led to their departure from the team.
Maurice Moore was suspended after a drunken driving arrest and soon was off the team. We still don't know exactly what safeties Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter did
before the season, but what is
Word 11"" name=""Generator"">
certain is that the indefinite suspension proceeded by the end of their UW careers.
Before that was the Lance Smith saga, the final straw of
which is still a mystery (Smith was thrown off the team for getting expelled from a first-offenders program, but what caused that is unknown).
The online rumor mill is already turning. Its content is not worth repeating here, but if history is any indication, Appleton, Harris and Hill will likely be gone from campus at semester's end.
This pattern makes the Athletic Department seem quite adept at dealing with these situations, specifically in dealing with them quietly. Problem players are not kept around, and maybe it's a good thing.
The program doesn't find itself in much trouble despite embarrassing moments like some of the ones above or the appearance of former back Booker Stanley with blood on his shirt after a Mifflin Street Block Party altercation in photos on SI.com (Stanley was later let go after another set of charges was levied against him).
Most times, the Athletic Department makes little comment and refuses to release details. In the latest case the department is conducting an ""internal investigation"" and the police, at least at this point, have not been involved.
At some level, this outrages people. They want to know more about the players they root for. They want to know why Appleton won't be growing into the receiving threat many expected him to be.
But do we really need to know what they did? If it is not enough to get into the public record (through the cops), why should their trials and potential mistakes be held up just because they can catch a ball and play a game well?
Perhaps the Athletic Department is mum to let these young men leave quietly, perhaps it's for the sake of maintaining the program's reputation.
Either way, the last week has given the cynics another reason to question. Could they have a point? We're just not sure.
Wish you knew why the three Wisconsin football players are now suspended? Or do you think it's not the public's business? Tell Ben at email@example.com.