Andy Hodges

Florida judge shows exactly why she should stick to courtroom

When it comes to sports, why do so many incredibly bright people make such ridiculous statements?

It happened again Wednesday, in Florida, and Arkansas native Charlie Strong caught the effect of it.

Judge Margaret Taylor said she was ashamed to be an alumnus of South Florida and questioned whether Strong had control of his players.

This came at a hearing in the case of South Florida defensive end LaDarrius Jackson, who is charged with sexual battery and false imprisonment stemming from an incident earlier this week.

“I graduated from USF in 1989, long before there was a football team. And while USF may not be the top-ranked school in the nation, I was never ashamed of being an alum until now,” Taylor said in video of the hearing posted by WTSP-TV. “I’m embarrassed and ashamed, Mr. Jackson. Let’s just say my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now.”

No problem there. A lot of South Florida graduates probably aren’t happy with the negative actions of a couple of football players arrested recently.

Then she showed how little she knew about the subject.

“Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players for very violent felonies. This court, and I’m sure I’m not alone, questions whether you have control over your players. It’s fairly clear you do not have control of them off the field, and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field.

“I would implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you before any other members of this community have to suffer at the hands of one of your players.”

Many fans at their schools probably agree.

But don’t blame the coach when the players make bad decisions. No coach in America would ever tell his players to do whatever they wanted, regardless of the consequences.

Blame the NCAA.

Under the existing rules, the coaches literally can’t babysit the players the way they used to be able to do. There are no more athletic dorms.

There are certain times of the year when their contact is so limited, they can’t do much more than say hello and goodbye. They can’t go tuck them in bed every night — or even visually be certain they are there — the way they could 40 years ago.

Strong tried to answer the charges as best he could.

“While I am shocked and saddened at the recent arrest of a member of our team, I am disappointed that the actions of two players over the last two months have harmed the reputation of our program, of our wonderful university and of my character.”

Charlie Strong

Unfortunately, that’s about all he can say. Based on Strong’s history, however, it’s a good bet the two players won’t be playing for South Florida when the season rolls around.

Which is all he can do.

But maybe this is an opportunity for a judge to drive a point home where it counts. Direct the comments at the presidents of the universities, who have taken away the control coaches used to have.

Maybe criticize them for taking away the control of coaches over their players. Yes, the NCAA has effectively taken away any control the coaches have, other than to kick a player off the team.

But that can only happen after the fact.

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