On the heels of yet another Mizzou product being arrested (Sheldon Richardson), someone has to say it, Mizzou has a problem. Richardson is one of many recent Mizzou students or recent alumni to be arrested or be involved in controversy related to drugs or other criminal actions.
As reported first by KOMU-8, Mizzou is tied with Georgia for the most student athletes arrested since joining the SEC with 16. Of those 16, 10 of them were football players, ranking second behind Texas A&M. Mizzou ranks third in overall reported charges with 26.
However, going through case by case is not the point of this article, but rather to point out one of the more alarming statistics with Mizzou; It ranks the highest in drug possession charges (10) since joining the SEC, and one of the top major programs (in terms of sports and national recognition) when it comes to sexual assault charges in the NCAA.
According to Outside the Lines (OTL) it ranks second (amongst schools athletic programs OTL investigated) in reported sexual assault charges from 2009-2014 with 63 reported cases connected to 46 athletes on both the football team and basketball team. This accounts for 14% of athletes from those sports in that time period. Though Mizzou isn’t the only school to have issues with drugs or sexual assaults amongst its most popular sports programs, (in terms of television viewers/deals and money earned for the university) it is one of the worst in its own conference.
While many will jump up and say, “Of course the football program will have more arrests due to the amount of athletes on the team”, I’ll quickly rebuttal that. The Mizzou track program had more athletes than Mizzou’s football program in 2014. (106 on football, 116 on track and field). Yet, the track and field program has yet to have an arrest since joining the SEC. So it isn’t just a matter of bigger numbers meaning more arrests, but rather an environment among players and coaches that allow this kind of behavior to exist.
It is a shame when you hear not just at Mizzou, but across the college landscape, that those who are victims of assault (sexual or not) by prominent figures in college athletic programs are often harassed by fans and teammates to be silenced. In one instance a woman at Mizzou had reported that her ex-boyfriend, a Mizzou football player, had threatened to post her nude photos in addition to implications that he hit her. She didn’t want to report it to the athletic department and eventually dropped the case after she left Columbia, Missouri.
According to Outside the Lines, athletes at many colleges across the United States are more likely to have charges dropped or dismissed than non-athletes within the same city and universities. Many of these athletes have access to expert lawyers and are often advised by athletic departments on what actions to take. On the other end of the spectrum their accusers often have little to no legal advisors behind them to aid their cases. In other cases involving drugs often the charges will be moved to other smaller crimes to avoid jail time or delay it.
It is a shame the most popular university in the state of Missouri has a cultural problem involving drugs and sexual assaults amongst its athletes. It is a problem that should not be ignored. While many of those athletes were dismissed from the university, it is one thing to react to a crime, it is another to prevent them all together.
While many football players have had no problems with drugs or other illegal actions and have gone on to be successful both on and off the field, it is a problem when three of some of the schools most recent top draft picks are linked to drug use (Sheldon Richardson, Shane Ray, Dorial Green-Beckham). Though Richardson was just suspended for drug use two weeks ago, his car allegedly smelled of pot in his recent arrest. An NFL product as young as Richardson should not have to come out into the public and say, “I’m not a dope fiend, man.” following an arrest. Nor should one like Green-Beckham already have multiple assault and drug allegations and charges.
While the actions of few should never dwarf the actions of a people as a whole, when will enough Mizzou products being linked to drug charges and sexual assaults be no longer considered isolated incidences, but rather be treated as a problem? When does a pattern of crimes go from being a concern to becoming a lack of institutional control? Remember, it only took three NFL players (Ray Rice, Ray McDonald, Greg Hardy) to completely overhaul the NFL’s stance on domestic violence and that is out of over 1600 players/coaches. It would be hard to argue with 46 out of about 320 athletes between the football and basketball programs making for a much stronger case of a cultural problem within an athletic community.