Mark Wiedmer: Parole Tide scandal no laughing matter

Mark Wiedmer: Parole Tide scandal no laughing matter

February 13th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Alabama Crimson Tide logo

Parole Tide!

That was the comment posted by "CrankE" on GoVolsXtra.com, the remark accompanying the website's story on four University of Alabama football players being arrested on second-degree robbery charges or credit card-fraud charges early Monday morning.

And you couldn't half-blame the Big Orange Nation for having a little fun at the two-time defending national champs' expense.

Especially after the embarrassment and humiliation the Vols endured a few years ago when several of their players, including Nu'Keese Richardson and Jantzen Jackson, were arrested for holding up passengers in a parked car for a heist that became a couple of cheeseburgers.

And when "rtrchatt" countered, "Cut 'em loose CNS (Coach Nick Saban) and, boys, if you need to pawn all those rings to pay your lawyers give me a call," Theo was quick to reply, "Typical gump. I've lost track, when are the trials for the sexual assaulter and tree killer? You shouldn't offer money for any rings. Remember you are saving up for teeth."

Ouch.

Yet however much fun Volniacs and Tiders might have with each other in an Internet chat room, there is nothing humorous about these charges, which basically state that Bama wide receiver Eddie Williams, once a five-star recruit, physically assaulted a man outside Bryant Hall and "rendered him unconscious," according to the police report.

Then Williams, linebacker Tyler Hayes -- who also confessed to robbing the student who was punched in the head and face and kicked in the ribs and back -- and defensive lineman D.J. Pettway took off in a car to use the credit card they had stolen from the student for purchasing snacks from a vending machine. Running back Brent Calloway joined them in using the credit card, the report goes.

Bond was set at understandably at least $60,000 each for Williams, Hayes and Pettway, with Calloway's bond set at $5,000.

And all that's as it should be. As it must be.

But another comment on the message board also screams at all that's wrong with big-time athletics, if not society in general.

Wrote "gObama" of the mess: "Good kids who made a minor mistake, but they will come back on the high road. You jerks get a life. As long as [Bama] can win national championships there will always be the jealous wannabees."

Thankfully, "jt45" shot back: "Minor mistake? Let's see here, they beat a student unconscious just for snack machine money. Yes, I'm sure we are really jealous of idiots like that."

Let's be clear here. Good kids don't beat someone unconscious. Assuming the charges are true, if Williams doesn't wind up serving time there's something hugely wrong with the Alabama justice system.

As for the rest of the Credit Card Quartet, Calloway has a previous issue with marijuana possession, which, coupled with this, should end his promising career. The other two almost certainly will face lengthy suspensions, if not outright dismissals.

But it's the expectations of our student athletes, especially our football and men's basketball players, that need to change the most.

It may be humorous for "scvols" to post: "Dang!!! I remember the old days when the VOLS were winning championships and our players getting arrested. Good times."

And as long as sports are played by 19- and 20-year-olds, there always will be issues with alcohol and recreational drugs, not that there's anything right about that.

We're also asking too many kids from ridiculously horrible backgrounds to instantly become perfect citizens because they have an athletic scholarship to a pristine campus.

A singular example of this problem: New Bama signee Reuben Foster and his mother were both shot by his father when Reuben was a baby. After more than 16 years on the run, the father finally was arrested last week. How's that for a stable, carefree childhood?

Still, we have laws and rules and accepted codes of conduct, and we should all be expected to adhere to them.

As "DonK37920" observed: "No matter what university, these kids need to realize that they are taking someone else's donation to fund their scholarhip. An [alum] took their hard-earned money and funded their school's athletic fund so that they can attend school for free and play football while getting an education. It's a privilege, not an entitlement."

But unless or until our major college athletes both accept and embrace that, the actions of the Credit Card Quartet are likely to be repeated.