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Penn State Football: Arrests with Honor?

Penn State football has finally returned to the top five, unfortunately for the wrong reasons.

In a “special investigation” done by Sports Illustrated and CBS News on crime and college football, Penn State was tied for 4th with 16 players charged with crimes heading into last season. The investigation, which was done only on teams ranking in last year’s preseason Top 25, examined how many players on each team had criminal records at the start of the 2010 season. Pittsburgh topped the rankings with 22 players followed by Iowa, Arkansas, Boise State, and Penn State.

However, as the Slow States blog points out, the numbers found in this investigation may not paint an accurate picture of what is really going on.

According to the statistics given, 7% of players have been charged with or cited for a crime. Of those 7%, “nearly 60 percent…were guilty or paid some penalty”. If we assume “nearly 60 percent” means 57%, then 4% of players on top 25 football teams have been actually convicted of, or plead guilty to, a crime.

The number of average college students with the same criminal record? According to this article from Corvallis, Oregon’s Daily Barometer, 3.45%.

So, essentially, the results found by this investigation say that college football players are only slightly more likely to have been convicted of a crime than any other college student.

This is hardly the first time in recent years that Penn State, a football program built upon the rock-solid values of Joe Paterno and the “Success With Honor” mantra, has been mentioned for players getting in trouble with the law. I’m sure everyone remembers this famous “Outside The Lines” piece that aired on ESPN in July 2008, which exposed the numerous off-field transgressions in the past decade involving Penn State players. While that piece aired during an especially bad stretch of arrests, 16 players with criminal records on such a young 2010 roster indicates that some players still can’t avoid trouble with the law.

What do you think? Do the numbers from this investigation indicate a problem in college football, or are they overblown and manipulated to make a point? What does the top five ranking say about the Penn State’s football program? How do you feel about it?

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About the Author

John Tecce

John is a senior in the Smeal College of Business majoring in Marketing. He currently serves as the President of the Paternoville Coordination Committee and as a THON Chair for Nittany Nation. He tweets a lot.

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