The term student athlete comes with a plethora of stigmas paired to its social image. In the spotlight all the time, student athletes are supposed to be idolized. At least that is how it was growing up.
I watched college football my entire life, raised in a family of Huskies — an unfortunate reality. I was raised in the tailgating culture. Every Saturday my dad would load us up in his car at 8 a.m. and take us to a parking garage just up the street from Husky Stadium and we would tailgate for about six hours until the 2 p.m. game. Then for an hour I would watch the people I truly worshipped. I did not care much for professional athletes — their accolades and cocky attitudes made me feel bad for their families and sorry that money made them so unpleasant.
Grown up and thankfully now a proud Coug, I view student athletes in a whole new light. Before I am taken out of context, I do not believe that all student athletes are poor examples. According to the WSU Athletics website, in the Fall 2010 semester, 17 student-athletes earned a perfect 4.0 semester GPA. I know a great deal of student athletes, both on scholarship and off. One of my roommates plays for the WSU club tennis team.
The students that anger me and make me sad to be a Coug are the irresponsible athletes. The athletes that know they have both a local and a national spotlight on them and still proceed to give it their best effort to ensure that their lives are thrown away.
I am not saying I do not make stupid decisions, too. I do, and do them often, but I am an average inhabitant of Pullman. If I mess up and get arrested, my parents will bail me out of jail and I will be back in school the next day. But when the university is paying your tuition, the least you could do is pay it some respect. In the past two weeks we have seen two prime examples of football players throwing their lives to the sideline — and the fans are not cheering for these feats.
First was inside linebacker C.J. Mizell referred to as “one of the most talented football players at Washington State” by Bud Withers of The Seattle Times. According to The Daily Evergreen, Mizell was arrested following suspicion of misdemeanor assault and trespassing at a fraternity party. I could care less that he went to a fraternity party, as long as our players are not belligerently drunk in public I do not see the harm. The problem came when Mizell assaulted another man about not being allowed into the party.
This is something that happens to every guy on the Washington State University campus. If you are not in the fraternity or do not know someone in it, odds are you are not getting in. Mizell should have taken that fact and walked away. If he had kept his cool, told the guy his opinion of him, keeping everything verbal and then just walked away, no one would have ever known about his night other than close friends and he would still be on the WSU football team.
In even more recent news, redshirt junior Zachary Koepp, was arrested early Sunday morning on a charge of obstructing a public servant. Details on his arrest are not clear yet, and because of that I will take the high road and not criticize his behavior too hard, but when a police officer tells you to stop, you do it. Whether you are a football player or not. Being a football player does not make you invisible it makes you shine.
These two cases are relatively minor compared to last year when current NBA player and former WSU Cougar Klay Thompson was arrested for possession of marijuana. Marijuana should be legal, but the bottom line is it is not, and getting caught with it will get you arrested. Last year everyone knew Thompson was going to go pro. He did, but not without controversy. Thompson being a star athlete made the coaches go extremely soft on his punishment, only suspending him for one game. Had they been stricter, the repercussions of his actions could have cost him his NBA career.
So I leave you athletes and fans of athletes with this. Focus on your academics, even if it is only halfheartedly. If you are going to do something stupid, immature or illegal, do it in private where you will not get caught. Or better yet, do not do it at all.
We are all watching you, every hour of everyday. As long as you are an athlete, that spotlight you love so much will be your best friend or your worst curse — which one it will be is your choice.