LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Outside of John Parchman's office in a small West Texas town, a diligent student shows up for another round of tutoring.
"He sits at a table every day with my wife," said the Cisco (Texas) Junior College coach, "and we learn college algebra."
|Some think Kansas' Jocques Crawford got a raw deal. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
The Kansas football program is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Cisco running back and national junior college player of the year in the fall. He is on track to graduate in May. Diane Parchman, a retired 30-year teaching veteran, is a small part of his support group. It extends here to Kansas, where Crawford is the jewel of Mark Mangino's recruiting class with the program coming off a 12-win, Orange Bowl season.
There is also curiosity because, for the rest of his life, Crawford will have to answer questions about being charged with felony aggravated rape in his hometown of Memphis, Tenn., in 2005. Crawford eventually pled guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor simple assault in an incident allegedly involving himself, a 15-year-old girl and three other boys. Newspapers reported that a 15-year-old girl told police she was forced to perform oral sex on the boys.
At first it looks like Kansas is taking quite a chance, trying to maintain the momentum created by a monster season, desperately trying to replace bruising tailback Brandon McAnderson.
Then you look into the eyes of Lew Perkins. Kansas' athletic director is a smart and powerful man in the world of college athletics. That Bill Self-to-Oklahoma State thing? A futile exercise for headline writers, it turned out. In the middle of the national championship celebration in San Antonio, Perkins focused those eyes on a reporter who asked about Self going to Stillwater. Perkins said confidently, "We'll be fine."
Three days later, Self agreed to a long-term contract and sizable pay increase.
"I'm a firm believer in giving a kid a second chance, but you have to feel good that it's going to happen," Perkins said of Crawford. "We went everywhere, to everybody -- the prosecutor, the coaches. We hired somebody to check him out for us, a lawyer who is a friend of mine. I met the kid. I felt really good about him.
"We talked to ... anybody who would talk to us. Everybody said, 'This is a good kid.'"
That's the thing. You can't find anyone to say anything bad about Crawford. Terre Fratesi, the prosecutor in the case, did not return a call asking her to explain why Crawford was allowed to plead down. Crawford originally signed with Texas Tech out of high school but did not qualify academically. The player was quoted as saying his background was, "no big deal," to Red Raiders coach Mike Leach who, through a spokesman, did not want to comment for this story.
Some go further than Perkins. Crawford is more than a good kid. He was the victim.
"It's really unfortunate because it ruined (his reputation)," said John Dowtin, the head coach at Cordova High in Memphis where Crawford starred.