Outside The Lines Report On Athletes Avoiding Criminal Charges Includes Wisconsin


On Sunday, Outside the Lines, the investigative reporting arm of ESPN, released its report on 10 schools allegedly involved in covering up or dismissing criminal charges for its football and men’s basketball athletes between 2009 and 2014.

The 10 schools involved were Florida, Florida State, Texas A&M, Auburn, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Wisconsin.

On the outset, you can link notable cases to Florida State and Jameis Winston, or A&M to Johnny Manziel, and even Wisconsin for both Montee Ball incidents.

The Outside the Lines report, however, goes heavy on the infographics and makes the university a more shadowy figure than what it probably is. The data showed 45 criminal incidents where a football or men’s basketball (FBMB) players had suspected involvement for the six years between 09-14, 35 of which an athlete on either the football or men’s basketball team was directly involved (named/charged/prosecuted).

It also shows eight of the 35 as repeat offenders.

The percentages of athletes in incidents are difficult to understand, as player involvement and charges dropped/not prosecuted percentages are part of the a larger number created here, but cannot be created from the 8, 35 and 45 listed in the dataset.

The Outside the Lines investigation’s focus on these 10 schools was attributed to the ease of accessing police reports in the states and the notoriety of the programs in terms of revenues and football and men’s basketball rankings. There is one major issue that arises, however, as the top seven athletic programs in terms of revenue are not involved in the report despite being from the same states.

Wisconsin is the next on the board in terms of revenue at No. 8. The question must be asked then, why Oregon State and not No. 1 Oregon? Why A&M and not No. 2 Texas? Why Michigan State and not No. 3 Michigan? Why Auburn and not No. 4 Alabama?  Why Oklahoma State and not No. 7 Oklahoma?

My Concerns

The revenue issue is a matter of a reporting concern. Why didn’t Outside the Lines investigate further or if they didn’t, explain why not. The last few national championship teams from men’s basketball programs, Kentucky, Duke, UCONN, were also not part of the process.

The incident numbers are extraordinarily low for these college campuses. While crime violent in nature, theft, assault, battery and other offenses are grave concerns across all college campuses, the overall crime total for six years with a pool of hundreds of players is a lot lower than the average total in surrounding communities.

In 2014, there were nearly 44,000 students enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Taking into consideration that the enrollment number stayed largely consistent in each year, only 45 reported FBMB criminal incidents amounts to 0.017 percent of the student body involved in a criminal report (named, charged or prosecuted) per yer between 09-14.

On average there were nearly eight crimes committed on campus (with police action, not including campus security, dorm squabbles or minor traffic violations) per year involving FBMB athletes.

Crime rates are derived from taking the total number of offenses per year in a given category (or average of all collected data) per 100,000 people.

The average crime rate on campus for FBMB athletes per year is (8 / 44,000) x 100,000 = 18.18. That’s a low number. But take that rate and put it against the average number of FBMB athletes in a given year, let’s say 130, you get another rate — 6,153.84.

What does this all mean?

It’s unclear, just like the Outside the Lines report.

Crime rate data is often interpreted in countless ways. Some rates are higher than others, like the rate per year of offenses committed by members of the FBMB teams, but seem like such a small issue looking on the campus as a whole. Just in the last 30 days there have been over 700 crimes in the same nature to the OTL report within a 5-mile radius of the UW-Madison campus.

What are the odds that an athlete committed one of these crimes? Probably the same odds one of the readers of this article committed one of the crimes. Low overall, but in this data pool they’d be highly noticeable.

Which brings me to my final ramble.

Why Do People Still Cover Things Up?

There might be nothing I detest more than the “good ol’ boy” classification of athletes in relation to media members, police and faculty.

First off, in terms of crime, athletes are just people and deserve to be treated the same. But there’s a catch.

FBMB athletes earn a huge amount of money for their respective universities. These players are not often small. When they get involved in batteries, sexual assaults and other crimes violent in nature, the effect is sudden, immediate and painful. If someone 6-foot6, 280 pounds, who trains, lifts and then practices controlled aggression for 50 hours a week decides to throw a punch or shove or pin, you will stay down.

The same goes for the aura of players. Montee Ball is a running back, a position not known for is grandiosity, but rather its importance. When Ball got arrested and then attacked, the story was big because his importance was big.

How much pressure was there from faculty and police to release him or sidetrack the issue? We don’t know. The OTL report mentions 2009-10 linebacker Kevin Rouse, who I had to look up.

I didn’t know he played for the Badgers. I didn’t know he was a person until yesterday. I knew players get arrested, are told to wait, sit tight, and then sometimes get released, but I can’t for the life of me tell you why this happened to Rouse and not somebody more prolific.

I don’t know why people cover up for athletes and not other members of the public. I don’t know why Jameis Winston wasn’t given more early scrutiny as a heralded freshman just because he could play football well. Serious crimes are committed with serious frequency and oftentimes the most physically violent people in our community are not given the proper looks because they play revenue-generating sports.

Yes, the players should know better. The faculty and coaches should know better. The administration and police and media, like ESPN, should know better.

ESPN should know better than to sample 10 schools for serious ethical violations when there are over 100 Division 1 FBS football schools, 300 Division 1 basketball schools, hundreds more in lower divisions or other associations who on average do the exact same thing at or near the same frequency.

So why was Wisconsin on the list?

There are nine other schools asking the same question.

And hundreds more thanking the heavens they don’t have to.

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