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Should NCAA become involved in dealing with athletes' crimes?: Yes

The NCAA needs to take crime by athletes as seriously as it takes recruiting violations.

As things stand now, a school may get in trouble with the NCAA if it provides transportation for a prospective athlete, provides too expensive a meal or makes an unapproved off-campus contact. The athlete may become ineligible, and the school may lose television or bowl appearances or its quota of athletic scholarships may be cut.However, if the athlete commits rape, armed robbery or assault and battery, the NCAA isn't interested. Such actions are not violations of NCAA rules.

One needs only to read the sports pages to recognize that we have a national epidemic of crimes by college athletes. As someone who was sports editor in college, played in pickup basketball and softball games with varsity athletes and knew some of them off the field, I am amazed at the actions and attitudes of some of today's athletes.

I am also disappointed at the inability or unwillingness of colleges and universities to deal with the problem. Clearly, only the NCAA can address the problem effectively.

Most schools have codes of conduct and student judiciaries. They tend not to tolerate rape, robbery and assault from the average student. It is not uncommon for students to be suspended or expelled for such activities. Unfortunately, it seems uncommon for athletes to be suspended or expelled for doing such things.

There is a simple solution - a rule that if an athlete is charged with a crime, he or she is suspended from participation in NCAA sports until the situation is resolved. If the athlete is convicted, the suspension is permanent.

If this seems too harsh to athletic directors, coaches and athletes, all I can say is "welcome to the real world." What I am proposing is fairly common in the workplace of both private and public businesses. When a person is charged with a crime, he or she is suspended, sometimes with pay, sometimes without, pending investigation and resolution of the situation. Sometimes the person loses his or her job solely on the basis of the organization's own investigation.

Yet athletic directors and coaches frequently argue that they should not act until the courts have acted. Often they succeed in getting that court action delayed until after the end of the season. In so doing, they are insisting on a double standard for athletes.

Furthermore, most colleges and universities view participation in extracurricular activities as a privilege, not a right. That should apply to playing football as well as to being on the student senate or the campus newspaper.

The problem at present is that athletes know the double standard exists and that they can get away with things that other students could not get away with. It is part of the exaggerated notion of their own importance that they get from coaches and the media.

The kind of NCAA rule I am proposing would deliver a different message to athletes and to athletic departments. I can only suppose that with such a rule, a coach would inform a recruit that lawless behavior would not be tolerated.