Florida Gators Taking "Fastest Team in America" to Heart Off the Field

Part of the Florida Gators' success in recent years has been Urban Meyer's commitment to building "the fastest team in America." This occasionally results in fun stunts, but more often puts playmakers like Percy Harvin and Jeff Demps on the field in the Swamp and has generally contributed to the Advil budget of opposing defensive coordinators.

It's too bad many of the slower members of the team like to make up for what they lack in quickness in application of off the field horsepower. The Orlando Sentinel has the story of the team's staggering number of traffic citations.

⇥⇥Florida has had well-publicized arrests in recent months stemming from traffic charges – including Carlos Dunlap's DUI charge on Dec. 1 -- but those incidents comprise a small fraction of a team-wide 251 traffic citations in Alachua County, according to Orlando Sentinel research.⇥⇥

⇥⇥These charges range from speeding tickets to numerous cases of driving with a suspended or revoked license, typically a second-degree misdemeanor or, for repeat offenders, a felony.⇥⇥

Before we race to judgment, it's worth noting that this large number is easy to misinterpret.

Here's the Sentinel's own description of the methodology used in reaching that number:

⇥⇥The data was compiled in late November and early December through Alachua County court records, accounting for 96 Gators who either entered fall camp on scholarship or served in the "game participation" portion of this season's boxscores. Charges stem from 2006-09 for football players who usually drive cars or motorized scooters around campus or in Gainesville.

96 players, for the uninitiated, is a lot, 11 more than the scholarship limit for football. And stretching the data over that four-year period produces a big number that some will misinterpret. 251 is the right number of citations, but it's a number arrived at with a number of qualifiers.

That's not to say this isn't a bit stunning, or that the truly intriguing part -- the number of tickets incurred by just a handful of players -- isn't worthy of concern.

⇥⇥But 12 different Gators have seven or more tickets, including team leader Jermaine Cunningham, an All-Southeastern Conference defensive end who has almost as many career tickets (14) as sacks (18).⇥⇥

⇥⇥The list includes cornerback Markihe Anderson (11), offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (11), offensive lineman Corey Hobbs (11), safety Dorian Munroe (11), defensive back Miguel Carodine (11), linebacker Dustin Doe (9), offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey (7), All-American linebacker Brandon Spikes (7) and three starting defensive linemen -- Lawrence Marsh (7), Terron Sanders (7) and Jaye Howard (7).⇥⇥

That's 113 of the 251 tickets right there -- and, amusingly, that group contains no players anyone would mistake for a speedster on the field. 

It also brings up an important point: Who is Miguel Carodine? I've never even heard of him, and Googling produces this official bio, which leads with "CAREER: Has not seen action for the Gators." That's one of a ton of players involved, to be sure, but a practice squad member gets included here? I wonder how many others were included in this survey (a Sentinel database would have been a great decision) without ever playing a down? 

Sure, we get the important tidbit that Tim Tebow's never been cited, but I want to know exactly who got pulled over for what, and this doesn't quite deliver.

The Sentinel story, instead of providing those details, devolves into dodgy math about the average number of tickets per college-age male compared to the average Gators player -- in taking the average of the entire team, they come up with numbers that are skewed by the high upper quartile. It also airs accusations of jealousy on the part of cops by a Gainesville attorney known for representing Gators, but misses one of the flashpoints that the paper missed in reporting on the team's arrest totals: Race. Is it possible that there is a higher rate of traffic citations for college-age African-American male, and that that rate might be a fairer comparison for a mostly African-American team?

It also skirts one of the most important issues in this or any case: Where is all the money coming from?

Scholarship athletes have a bit more disposable income than many students, but motorized scooters and cars are costly purchases, even if, as a former player quotes note, athletes can buy them at a discount from athletes leaving the program. Furthermore, though, parking decals necessary for taking these vehicles on campus aren't cheap, and a string of traffic tickets certainly isn't going to be easy to pay for any college student.

So how are these guys getting their tickets paid?

The answer is that some aren't -- Carodine is one of two players to catch a criminal charge for driving without ever having a license, and some of the citations included in the 251 are for driving with a suspended license for failure to pay tickets. We'll likely never know about most of the rest.

But, if I were the Sentinel, I would follow the money. A need for speed is all well and dismaying, but mostly harmless, and not unique to athletes. (There is tragic exception in Florida's recent past.)

The money, though, could be an interesting line. The only thing more worth the inevitable scorn of Gator haters than the ticket totals is the bill these players owed the state in total. 

And the only thing more disconcerting about a story of large-scale disobedience of the law is how many more questions this raises.


This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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