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Winning programs don't need criminals; winning programs create criminals


It's early, but it looks like Urban Meyer has brought his Florida discipline to Ohio State. (US Presswire)  
It's early, but it looks like Urban Meyer has brought his Florida discipline to Ohio State. (US Presswire)  

Allen Pinkett said what he said, and by now you know what he said. The question is, do you agree with it? Not publicly, of course. To agree publicly would be politically incorrect, and after seeing what happened to Pinkett -- what still might happen to him -- you're not going there. But in the private recesses of your mind, do you agree?

Do you agree that, "to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team," as Pinkett told a Chicago radio station on Wednesday? Do you agree with his assertion that "Ohio State used to win all the time [because] they would have two or three guys that were criminals?"

Do you?

Well, don't. Stop it. It's nonsense, and I say that knowing there are people -- smart people -- who feel Pinkett was right, or at least that Pinkett was onto something. No need to drag these people through the mud by linking to their comments, but there are people out there who think Pinkett was speaking the truth. He was speaking it clumsily, unadvisedly ... but he was speaking the truth. That's what some people were thinking, smart people, which just goes to show that smart people can be wrong.

Allen Pinkett, for example, seems smart. And Allen Pinkett was wrong. I don't care that he played college football, and that he played so well from 1982-85 that he left as Notre Dame's career rushing leader. Allen Pinkett is a smart guy and a great former college football player, but that doesn't mean everything he says about the sport is correct.

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This stuff was not correct.

What he said about great teams needing bad guys was intellectually lazy and even illogical. Literally, it's stupid.

Running the 40 in 4.4 seconds helps a player, and being able to bench press 400 pounds helps a player, and being able to do both helps immensely. Being able to do both while also having the idea to urinate on a building? That idea doesn't make the player better. It makes him stupid.

But where did the player get the idea that he could do something so stupid ... and get away with it? From his coach, probably. From the last time a teammate did something stupid and got away with it.

Because this is the truth: Bad guys don't make a college football team great. But a great college football team can make a guy bad.

That's where this conversation needs to go, with the admission from everyone involved -- coaches, players, radio analysts like Pinkett, sportswriters like me, fans like you -- that college football can corrupt. It can give a good player the wrong idea, that he's above the law.

Sorry to drag you into this, Urban Meyer, after Pinkett unfairly smeared the Ohio State program from yesteryear, but the Buckeyes' new coach is Exhibit A for the culture that has enabled the college criminal. Misbehavior didn't make Florida a two-time national champion under Meyer; those national championships made some of Florida's players think they could misbehave and get away with it.

Hell, they were right.

If you recall, close to 30 Florida players were arrested in Meyer's six seasons, and it's not because Meyer or his predecessor, Ron Zook, had terrible taste in recruits. It's because a college football player at Florida -- especially when Florida is competing for national championships -- is an exalted species, and Meyer didn't knock his players down a peg or two. The arrests mounted, mostly smallish stuff but with an occasional serious crime mixed in, and Meyer allowed it. He didn't encourage it, obviously, but he didn't end it by kicking players off the team. Worst-case example? Star running back Chris Rainey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stalking in 2010 after sending a woman this text message: "Time To Die B----."

After roughly 25 Florida players had already been arrested under Meyer, Chris Rainey told a woman it was time to die -- and Meyer eventually let him back on the field. What kind of message does that send to everyone else on the team? You know what kind. The wrong kind.

And it's happening at Ohio State, too, where a handful of Buckeyes have run afoul of the law in Meyer's first few months in charge -- and are still on the team. Storm Klein was charged with domestic violence after being accused of hitting the mother of their child, and while he wasn't convicted of that, he did plead guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. In other words, something happened between Klein and his former girlfriend, something bad enough that he took a plea to reduce the original charge.

Klein was kicked off the team ... then allowed back on. Same goes for tight end Jake Stoneburner and offensive lineman Jack Mewhort, who were removed from scholarship but then brought back to the team after pleading guilty to running from police after allegedly urinating on a building.

The message has been sent to Meyer's Buckeyes, just as it was sent to his Gators: Up to a certain point, bad behavior will be tolerated.

Here's a thought that I wish Urban Meyer and every other enabling coach would embrace:

You don't get the behavior you want. You get the behavior you allow.

In most cases, players act out because their coach allows it. And I'm not writing a politically correct sonnet to college football players, absolving them of misbehavior, because they don't deserve it. They're knuckleheads and ingrates, the ones who get into trouble. They've been treated like heroes for so long -- by weak peers and lazy teachers in high school, and then more of the same in college -- that they don't get it. They think they're special because people like their coaches, and people like their fans, have shown them they are special. So some of these idiots think they can smoke a joint or steal a laptop or even, to their utter shame, hit a woman.

And their coaches, those idiots, let them get away with it.

And so Allen Pinkett, that momentary idiot, says what he said as if he's onto something deep -- and some people agreed.

Don't be one of those people. Don't believe it. Don't agree with it. Don't let them win -- the misbehaving players, the coaches who allow it, and the schools who accept it.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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