Success on the field is no excuse for abhorrent behavior

Ella Cook

Our culture idolizes college athletes. Young children look up to these stars for their talent on the field or court. But unfortunately, media coverage of college football, among other collegiate level sports, fails to show how athletes act off the court. This can place false identities on players, simply praising the athlete, when in reality there is often more to the story than just heroic acts on camera.

Playing a college sport should be a privilege, not a right. In order to create an equal environment, college athletes must follow the same guidelines as other students.

If an athlete is caught cheating or is involved in a sexual assault case, the same actions must be taken as they would be with a regular student. “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary released this March about sexual assault on college campuses mentioned the story of a popular Florida State University football player, Jameis Winston.

According to the film, Winston was never charged with sexual assault despite a testimony from a victim and evidence, including bruises on the victim’s body. The university also placed  strict guidelines that made it hard for police to question Winston. For example, the local police department was not able to speak to Winston anywhere on the premise of the football field.

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To many unaware of this scandal, Winston seems like a successful football star who won the Heisman trophy, an award for outstanding performance in college football, his freshman year at Florida State.

According to a survey released by Senator Claire McCaskill in 2012, 22 percent of American universities allow their athletic departments to oversee sexual assault cases made against student athletes. Some athletic departments have gone so far as to hold off a hearing until after a crucial game in the season, the survey found.

Unfortunately, expelling a successful college athlete for breaking a disciplinary guideline is a difficult task. Florida State University and other top universities rely heavily on the profit they make from the success of sports teams. According to the NCAA website, Florida State University has earned $130,011,244 in total revenue from their winning teams.

Expelling a top athlete such as Winston could lead to financial loss for Florida State. If the university loses a strong athlete, the school wins fewer games, ultimately making less money.

Universities who value sports as a part of the culture on campus have placed athletes on pedestals, cutting them more slack than they would a regular student. While fostering an entertaining environment through sports is important, colleges should hold athletes to the same standards as their fellow students.

University sports teams unite students and breed school spirit. Sports such as football and basketball have become big traditions in universities all over America and, moreover, are a positive way to add to the community aspect of a school.

Regardless of how popular these sports teams are, however, college athletes must be held accountable for abhorant acts, even if it means cutting star players.

Yet, despite lack of action in many of these cases, some schools have handled sexual assault cases in an appropriate manner. 19-year-old Stanford student Brock Turner was accused of sexual assault in January of 2015. Turner, one of Stanford’s top swimmers, withdrew from the university the next month. Although Turner did withdraw himself, he is no longer allowed back on the campus.

If all universities with athletic programs followed similar guidelines to those at Stanford,  sports teams would consist of not only strong athletes, but positive members of their communities.