Saturday, September 29, 2007

Beat The Press Beating Up Boston College Athletics

I watch very little television, but rarely miss catching "Beat the Press" -- the Friday edition of WGBH's "Greater Boston" -- at some point over the weekend via Comcast On Demand. During one of the segments of the September 28, 2007 broadcast, the panel slid back-and-forth between Oklahoma State football... and Boston College football. Host: Emily Rooney. Guests: Dan Kennedy (Northeastern University), Eileen McNamara (Brandeis University, formerly of Boston Globe), John Carroll (Boston University and Greater Boston), Joe Sciacca (Boston Herald). The video of the segment can be viewed online here.

The show was doing a segment on the press conference by Mike Gundy, coach of the Oklahmoma State University football team, who was complaining about a column by sportswriter Jenni Carlson. Her column was critical of OSU quarterback Bobby Reid, whom Gundy sidelined recently.

The gist of the discussion was that the column was journalistically not well-written -- if not even "toxic" in Carroll's mind -- but also that Gundy's outburst went off the deep end. There was some degree of disagreement amongst the host and guests about whether or not sportswriters should treat college athletes at big-time football programs differently from professional athletes: the segment had an on-air interview by Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaunessy who said that they should be treated differently, while acknowedging, however, that it was a bit of a gray area; Joe Sciacca made the point, and Dan Kennedy agreed, that these college athletes are part of a big-time money-making machine, receive big scholarships and premium housing, and are one-step away from professional sports, and hence should be treated with a scrutiny similar to professional athletes. Apparently, Reid's mother is considering a lawsuit against Carlson.

The discussion continued [unofficial transcript produced by myself]:
MCNAMARA: A kid who is playing hockey for Williams College is not the same as somebody who is playing Big 10 or Big 12 football. I know absolutely nothing about sports, but I am married to a sportswriter, and he says this is big-time athletics... We don't comprehend it, really, here in New England, what real big-time college sports is.

KENNEDY [overlapping with Carroll]: It's as big as professional sports in much of the country.

CARROLL [overlapping with Kennedy]: We're going to get a lot of email from BC fans out there... sorry, Dan.

ROONEY: That's a good example: there's a tremendous amount of attention paid to BC and all of its games. Do they get that kind of scrutiny from the local press? I'm asking that rhetorically because I don't read enough...

CARROLL [overlapping with Kennedy and Rooney]: Well, if you read the police blotter, they do. And that's happened quite often...

KENNEDY [inaudible]

ROONEY: I'm talking about the game itself.

KENNEDY: You don't get it here, because we have major professional sports in every sport you can think of. But if you go out into fly-over country like Oklahoma, this is it, this is what life revolves around, their big-time college sports program. And these guys, it's one degree of separation between that and the NFL.
I have a prediction: they are about to receive a lot of letters and/or email from BC fans.

Comments? Direct them to . Once again, comments or complaints about the WGBH broadcast should be directed to, not here.

Legal and/or Behavioral Troubles for BC Athletes

I suspect that Carroll was making a reference to Boston College athletes who have had some legal (and behavioral) problems both recently and in the more distant past. He gave no specifics, particularly since his comments were in passing, but a little bit of research provides some details.

BC's student newspaper, The Heights, published an editorial back in January motivated by two basketball players being kicked off of the team. A previous basketball player had problems: "Ryan Sidney, who was a promising raw talent, peaked as a freshman because he couldn't keep his personal issues under control and was constantly in the news for drug problems and behavioral indiscretions." The problems date back to 2000-1 "when Kenny Harley was busted for getting in a bar fight at Mary Ann's." The Heights continues:
"Teammate Andrew Bryant was subsequently dismissed from the university after news broke of his involvement in a robbery during which he pistol-whipped somebody. The next year, a bizarre story broke concerning Jermaine Watson jumping out a window, rumored to be armed and escaping cops. He jeopardized his playing ability to escape legal authorities."
Hockey isn't immune: "Captain and assistant captain Joe Rooney and Brian Boyle were stripped of their respective C and A jersey patches." [See note below for clarification: punishment stopped there.] Woman's hockey coach Tom Mutch "stepped down [in April] in the wake of allegations of improper behavior with one of his players" (Boston Globe) -- sexually explicit text messages to Mutch were found on one of his player's cell phone, according to The Heights. Mutch is married, by the way, to a woman who isn't on the team.

This summer, two BC football players, Gosder Cherilus and DeJuan Tribble, were involved in a bar scuffle that has led to charges filed against both. I believe that both are currently playing for BC football this fall. And former linebacker Raymond Henderson was recently, allegedly caught with three different drugs and trafficking paraphernalia in his Cleveland Circle apartment, and has been indicted.

Boston College is a Jesuit-led university that focuses on "student formation," i.e., in teaching their students how to be moral and upstanding in every aspect of their life. It is a fair question to ask: why does this focus on "student formation" appear to be finding difficulty gaining traction amongst a few of their student athletes -- and even one of their coaches?

Note: comments to the Brighton Centered Blog are encouraged, but moderated. Vitriolic comments will not be published.

EDIT (10/2/07):  The case of BC football players Tribble and Cherilus just got more complicated:  the man injured in the bar fight, Sean Maney of Watertown, has now also been charged with assault and battery.  This means that pretty much everyone involved in the scuffle (except Maney's brother's girlfriend) has been criminally charged -- Tribble, Cherilus, off-duty state police officer Joseph Boike, and now Maney.


Anon said...

Rooney and Boyle lost their letters temporarily because they weren't going to class as frequently as Coach York expected - no GPA issue involved and most definitely no criminal behavior involved. York has high standards and higher standards for the captains. It is unfair to drop their names that way.

ballgame said...

Normally, I enjoy reading your blog and think your blog is one of the more objective I have read. Although I rarely see a wholly positive article about BC from you, you seem to treat the issues with a lot less vitriol (some of which is inaccurate to be kind) than other information sources.

I guess I don't see the purpose of posting this article on your blog based on its stated purpose, other than to take another shot at BC. Are you insinuating that this does not happen at other schools. In the case of the football players, there are multiple versions of the sequence of events out there and some inconsistencies in the victims story. BC has said they performed a thorough internal investigation and do not believe that anything was done wrong by the players. I can guarantee you that if the players are found guilty, they will be disciplined accordingly. Innocent until proven guilty. What happend with Ray Henderon is indeed very unfortunate and I hope he gets the help he needs, but his actions all occurred after he left BC and therefore it is unfair that he be included in your list of "what's wrong with BC"

BC has been very strict with its basketball program. The reason you hear about these issues is because BC actually takes action and disciplines its players (including kicking them off the team) while other programs sweep the issues under the rug, even when players have been CONVICTED. The fact that you bring up events that happened several years ago is kind of curious as I am not sure what impact it has on the issues today.

I look forward to reading more objective articles about the issues that A-B truly faces.

Michael Pahre said...

Thanks for your comment.

If it wasn't clear, I was trying to figure out any evidence behind the "police blotter" comment made by John Carroll in the context of a discussion of BC athletics -- not police incidents regarding students in off-campus housing. Allegations and criminal charges, as opposed to convictions, were clearly described as such in my post, as was behavior of a non-criminal (i.e., academic) nature or activity after leaving school (note the italicized emphasis already added to the word "former").

Based on this information, Carroll's "police blotter" comment relative to BC athletics appears to have merit, but his addition of the words "quite often" probably does not. Note that his "police blotter" reference was most likely to police incidents, not convictions, hence why an expansive view of the record was necessary.

I have no idea how this activity compares to other universities with a similarly successful athletics program. Notre Dame might be a very good comparison school due to the combination of strong athletics, good academics, and religious affiliation. Maybe you could research this and let me know.

Anonymous said...

Please do not talk about sports unless you know it.

ColdHenry said...

Interesting post. I'm not so sure that Notre Dame is the best measure, however; it's tempting for the reasons you mentioned, being the only Catholic schools with D1A football, but consider even the implementation of the Catholicism: BC is Jesuit, has coed dorms, and is "as Catholic as you want it to be". Notre Dame has single sex dorms, curfews, crucifixes on all the classroom walls, and one of two university grottoes in the country (the other being Providence). Also, ND is in a cornfield, and has considerably more limited social opportunities than does BC, in Boston.

If you limit your criteria for comparison to just private universities playing D1A football in major metro areas, you get (off the top of my head) Rice, Tulane, Miami, Pittsburgh, Northwestern, USC, and SMU. Of which only Miami, Northwestern, and USC (and BC) play in BCS conferences, and considering the neighborhoods that Miami and USC are in, I think the dynamics differ again. Leaving Northwestern as a good comparison.

(I consider major metro area more important than religious affiliation, as the dynamics of a town/university and by extension its police force differ greatly in small-town settings vs big cities; big city police often have more important things to do than corral drunk college kids; not sure police blotters are concerned with the religious affiliation of their subjects)

In the context of "formation" I'd be more curious to see revenue atheletes vs non-revenue athletes vs non-athletes vs overall student population. I think they are probably highly correlated, and suggest simply that people are people, some do responsible things with the opportunities they are given, while others do not.

wrightwb said...

The BC football team has the third-highest graduation rate in the nation (96%), tied with Duke, Notre Dame, and Stanford, and behind only Northwestern and Navy. I just thought that was relavent while people were piling on BC athletics.