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The Sports Blotter

by Matt Taibbi


MORE STUPID BUCKEYES

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel may be the hottest coaching name in the land after Nick Saban and Pete Carroll, and he may be a hero in the heartland for bringing a championship back to Columbus, but damn, he's sure got a knack for recruiting arrest-prone knuckleheads. Maurice Clarett is the biggest black eye to Tressel's program, but he's actually one of the more upstanding citizens of the recent generation of Buckeyes.

There was wide receiver Angelo Chattams, who in 2002 was investigated for the theft of a set of golf clubs out of the back of an SUV. Or linebacker Marco Cooper, who was busted in 2002 just hours after the school's annual intrasquad scrimmage for felony drug abuse and carrying an illegal concealed weapon in his SUV. Or fullback Brandon Joe, who was found asleep in his car in the middle of a highway ramp. According to the Associated Press, there have been at least 13 arrests involving 14 football players since Tressel was hired in 2001.

Now there is one more pair to add to the tally. Sophomore backup tight end Louis Irizarry and sophomore reserve tailback Ira Guilford were arrested last week and charged with felony robbery. The crime in question was so stupid, pointless and dumbly executed that the school's athletic director Andy Geiger was moved to dispense with the usual "let's wait till the facts come in" line and immediately throw the two players to the wolves.

"These guys are gone," he said Monday. "They're done."

According to police reports, the two players committed one of the more standard campus football crimes—an attack on the sheepish science major minding his own business. Kenneth Whitwell, a biological sciences major, wasGuilford walking on the Columbus campus at about 3 a.m. when two men jumped out of a Ford Probe with a dented door, punched him in the face, threw him to the ground and stole his wallet. A witness called campus police and Whitwell was able to give a description. Minutes later, according to police, the suspects were apprehended, having parked their car close by and chosen not to escape but to simply stand next to it, gift-wrapping themselves for law-enforcement.

This isn't Irizarry's first run-in with the law. Last fall, he was arrested for punching two students and shoving his girlfriend in a dormitory fight. He spent three days in jail in the wake of that incident, and as a result of his probation settlement, he now remains in custody. At the time of his first arrest, coach Tressel said that Irizarry would "not be allowed to travel or compete in any games until this matter has gone through the legal process and been resolved at the university level." He said this firmly, with conviction. Nonetheless, Irizarry was allowed to play in the Fiesta Bowl against K-State, even though his hearing at school wasn't until a week later.

As unequivocal as Geiger was in the wake of this latest incident, Tressel was less certain. Not willing to cut the cord entirely, he went to the innocent-until-proven-guilty playbook. "We are looking into it aggressively to learn more about the facts," he said. We assume all of Ohio is awaiting the results of his investigation.


FREE AT LAST

Partially resolving a controversial case that received national attention, Georgia high school football star Marcus Dixon was freed last week when the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction for felony child molestation.

Dixon, 19, had been sentenced to ten years in prison after prosecutors charged him with the molestation count for allegedly taking advantage of a high school girl in a trailer. The girl, who was working as a custodian at the time, said she did not scream or cry for help because she was afraid the massive Dixon would hit her.

Civil rights groups, meanwhile, charged that Dixon was prosecuted for child molestation, and not statutory rape, because he is black and the girl is white. The NAACP filed a grievance on Dixon's behalf, and several major national news organizations, including NBC Dateline and CNN, repeatedly publicized updates of Dixon's case.

Dixon, a star football player for Pepperell High School in Rome, GA, had been slated to play for Vanderbilt when he was arrested. The Supreme Court let stand a conviction for statutory rape, but Dixon was released because he already served more than the one year required under that statute.

Dixon remains scheduled to face charges that he improperly shoved his hands down the shorts of a 14-year-old. The NAACP as yet has no position on that proceeding, although Association president Kweisi Mfume praised the recent ruling, saying, "Mandatory minimums don't work. This is more than a black and white case."

Meanwhile, Mike Prieto, the attorney for the young girl, showed his lack of a sense of humor in the wake of the court's ruling. "It terrifies me the message this sends to all the young women in the state of Georgia when they're confronted with a star athlete who wants to have sex."


MORE PHONE THROWING

Following in the tradition of Wisconsin wide receiver Ernest Mason, yet another Big Ten wide receiver is going to trial for—among other things—smashing his girlfriend's cell phone during a domestic assault. Penn State wide receiver Maurice Humphrey, a redshirt freshman in 2003, will appear in court Friday to face charges of beating up his ex-girlfriend and another man last fall.

According to prosecutors, Humphrey entered the apartment of ex-girlfriend Jennifer Maline on Nov. 23 while she and one Christopher Lolange were asleep. After punching Maline in the face, he dragged Lolange into the other room and broke his jaw. Then he hit Maline again and threw her cell phone across the room. Lolange later told reporters that he had to have his jaw wired shut for six weeks and have a plate and screw inserted in his face to stabilize the bones. Because Humphrey was second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards last year, his partial scholarship to the school has not been affected.


MORE SOCCER MOM CRIME

Just a quick update: The Beast several months ago brought you the first news of a new phenomenon in sports-related crime, the violent soccer mom. Last week saw another soccer mom arrest when Mary Palm, 40, of Brick, NJ, was arrested for attacking a player on an opposing team during one of her daughter's games.

Palm punched a 17-year-old girl after a ball went out of bounds and several players, including Palm's daughter, began arguing. Palm was charged with simple assault and may also face charges under the state's sports violence act, which offers stiffer penalties for violence committed during youth sports games.




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