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Athletes are treated differently

"Football players are treated differently than regular students."

Have you ever heard, or possibly even made a statement like the one above? Chances are that you have. The consensus among many is that football players and athletes at big-time college football schools get all of the special attention in the world just because they are Saturday gladiators in front of 90,000 plus of the school's most fanatical alumni.

The state's big daily newspapers recently helped prove the point that football players do get treated differently on the campus of The University of Georgia and the city of Athens. They proved this with the reporting, in their sports pages, of two students running a fake ID operation from their dorm room on the UGA campus.

The two guys were traced by postal inspectors and arrested by the UGA police. Their names, whom I have forgotten, were listed in the statewide newspaper article, and rightfully so. They were the brains and brawn behind a business that was shipping fake ID cards to college kids all over the United States. Can you believe it? For some reason kids who are not yet 21 years old have the need to prove otherwise.

Warrants were also issued for the arrest of 13 other university students for the misdemeanor possession of fraudulent identification. The postal service had evidence that these 13 had taken possession of fake identification through the mail. Like chain letters involving money, you can't do that with a 39 cents, soon-to-be more, stamp.

Now here's where the special attention for the football players comes in. One of the 13 Georgia students that purchased a fake ID from the enterprising duo was football player Tanner Strickland. Young Tanner is only 17 years old. He just arrived on campus in January and won't turn 18 until July 28. He is 6'5" tall, weighs 318 pounds, and his hometown is Nashville, Ga.

How do I know all of these pertinent biographical facts on Tanner Strickland? I could have looked it up on the Internet or read it in a Georgia press release from when he signed his scholarship. But I didn't have to go to that trouble. The media did it for me.

Being the father of a UGA student, I read the story further hoping like heck I would not read the name of one Wesley Echols Walker as being among the others committing such a dastardly deed. I should not have feared because the story only named Strickland and did not mention the names of the rest of the dirty dozen. Clearly, they were not football players or athletes on a varsity team at The University of Georgia. Like Wesley, I suppose they were just regular old Joes or Janes.

Only Tanner Strickland's name appeared in the story as a purchaser who had a warrant issued for his arrest. The others in the group shall remain anonymous I guess. If any of those longed to be a "specially treated" college athlete, for once they were likely glad to not get what they may have been asking for. Only the football player got treated differently here. He got his name in the headlines. Isn't that the way it usually is?

As for Strickland's punishment for being an outlaw, Coach Mark Richt announced that Strickland had turned himself in to the authorities to face the music. Besides his sentence, Coach Richt said they would "wear him out pretty good" with some in-house punishment from the coaching staff. Many from the other side of the tracks of the athletic neighborhood suggested that he be suspended for a few games. I said, "Get real, the postal service saved him from suspension."

Oh yeah. When I asked 19-year-old Wesley Walker about this story he said, "I guess they got what they deserved. Everybody in Athens knows you don't have to get a fake ID through the mail."

Web posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007

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