Now that players like Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, and Terrelle Pryor have moved on to the pros, college sports have been kind of short on controversial players. These days it seems to be the coaches who are taking up the torch of scandal and fueling the debate and gossip. However, there are still some amateur athletes who are pros at stirring the pot.
- Tyrann Mathieu:
Both on and off the field, Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu is a one-man band of controversy. Possible dirty hitter? Ask clothes-lined and knocked-out cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Brett Favre-esque nude shots? On the Internet in all their alleged glory. Failed drug test? Pass the dutchie on the left hand side. With weeks of off-season still left before football season, Mathieu’s already talking trash on Twitter with Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and anyone else who doubts his backfield prowess. After being a ghost in the national championship game, the biggest question is can the Honey Badger lead the Tigers to a national title?
- Brittney Griner:
Call it a youthful indiscretion or a moment of adrenaline-fueled passion, but Baylor’s Brittney Griner continues to be a controversial figure for what she did in a 2010 basketball game against Texas Tech. After a tangle-up under the basket, the 6’8″ center threw a haymaker at Tech’s Jordan Barncastle, breaking her nose. Griner was suspended for two games. Just a freshman at the time, Griner has since led her team to a national championship in a perfect 40-0 season, and yet the punch still serves as fodder for detractors who attack her for her deep voice and unusual size.
- Yuri Wright:
This talented cornerback out of New Jersey hasn’t played a down of college ball yet, but he’s already been the subject of controversy. Although he had dreamt of playing at Michigan, the school got hold of some tweets the kid had posted while still a senior at Don Bosco Prep that also happened to get him expelled from school. The sexually graphic and N-bomb-filled posts caused Michigan to rescind its scholarship offer, and other top programs seemed to be similarly turned off. But Wright has signed with Colorado, so all will be well … except he’s also created a new Twitter account.
- Danny O’Brien:
We feel a little bad about lumping O’Brien in with some of these athletes, because he seems to be a good kid who just wants to play football. No doubt if he’d had his way, the Maryland quarterback would not have been the center of a drawn-out controversy this off-season. When O’Brien decided he wanted a transfer to another program, Maryland released him but restricted where he could go: no Vanderbilt, his top choice, and no Duke, his second choice. After loud public outcry the school finally let him go, and he chose Wisconsin. O’Brien’s not totally innocent, however, as it’s his employment of a controversial loophole in NCAA regulations that will allow him to play immediately after his transfer, rather than having to sit out a year.
- Jake Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort:
This dynamic duo of Ohio State football players was recently arrested for obstructing official business. Cops interrupted them mid-stream while they were urinating on the side of a restaurant, so they demonstrated how fast they can run the 40-yard dash (apparently not fast enough to not get caught). Now it seems the indefinitely suspended pair is definitely on Urban Meyer’s poop list, as this pic shows them relegated to the “Maize” team on the depth chart. (Maize is a color of OSU’s hated rival, Michigan.)
- John Bohannon:
Bohannon is a junior basketballer at the University of Texas-El Paso, a middling-at-best school in the C-USA conference. While he’s a star on his team and the leading scorer, he’s never made more news than when he decided to jump into the issue of homosexuality. Last year, Bohannon tweeted “#letsbereal it is NOT cool to be gay! (Zro voice) *jordan shrug*.” He later apologized, kind of, tweeting, “To those who were offended by my tweet a few days ago. Didn’t mean any disrespect by it as I do not judge anybody by their sexual preference.”
- Jonathan Brown:
An incident from last year’s football season placed Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown squarely on the watch list for controversial/dirty players. Well after a play had been whistled dead in the Oct. 1, 2011 game against Northwestern, Brown took a look around, walked over to Wildcat Patrick Ward, and gave him a swift knee to the groin. Brown’s talent is really what lends weight to the controversy: he was a breakout star of Illinois’ defense last season, finishing second in the Big Ten in tackles. Upon his suspension for the cheap shot, he said it was “out of character” for him. Let’s hope so; there’s nothing All-American about hitting another man’s junk.
- Matt Faiella:
Can we all just agree college athletes should not be allowed to have Twitter accounts? We could have made this entire list out of knuckleheads like Stony Brook fullback Matt Faiella, who took to Twitter to make “an inappropriate and offensive racial reference to describe Towson University student-athletes.” With it he earned himself a public reprimand from the NCAA, quite a feat given all the violations that institution has warring for its time. It also suspended Faiella from next year’s playoffs.
- Khalif Wyatt:
This story is just breaking as of this writing, but things do not look good for Temple basketball star Khalif Wyatt. While celebrating his 21st birthday, Wyatt and some friends tried to engage the services of a lady of the evening, who was actually an undercover cop. Wyatt issued an apology, citing poor judgment and pledging to cooperate with authorities. So here’s the debate: what to do with him? While it’s Wyatt’s first legal trouble, he was benched three separate times last year for disciplinary reasons. Should a full-fledged crime equal suspension for a few games, or even a whole season? Is this a good kid who’s made some mistakes or a lost cause?
- Nerlens Noel:
Simply being drafted by controversial coach John Calipari is enough to paint top prospect Nerlens Noel with the same brush. In fact, it was recently revealed that the NCAA is investigating possible eligibility violations by the Tilton School phenom. While there doesn’t seem to be much to the case, Noel probably didn’t win any fans (other than Kentucky fans) by using his highly publicized signing announcement to borrow a line from much-hated NBA star LeBron James. Now that he’s signed with the reigning national champs, he will be closely scrutinized by many to see if he’s lived up to all the hype.