Recent arrests aside, life skills coach seems to work for Iowa football

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Three members of the Iowa football team have been arrested for alcohol-related offenses this summer. But compared to the recent past, that number is way, way down.

From April 2007 through late June 2009, 26 football players were arrested or issued citations. That includes five felonies -- two for rape, two for stealing credit cards and one for dealing prescription drugs. Of the 26 arrests, 20 were alcohol or drug related.

Among those charges include nine for public intoxication, five for drunken driving and five for underage possession of alcohol. Every athlete arrested for a felony ultimately was dismissed from the football team.

To address the arrests, Iowa hired a life skills coach in Chigozie Ejiasi in September 2008. Among Ejiasi's tasks is to build relationships with players, especially the young ones, and try to keep them out of trouble.

The number of arrests with Ejiasi's hire initially surged, but almost flatlined over a 12-month period. Before running back Jewel Hampton and defensive back Jordan Bernstine were arrested for public intoxication on June 5, 2010, Iowa football's last alcohol-related offense was June 20, 2009 when Kyle Calloway was arrested for drunken driving on a moped.

Iowa defensive end Broderick Binns was was arrested Friday morning for drunken driving. He's the third Iowa football player arrested for an alcohol-related offense this summer.

Last year I talked to Iowa associate athletics director Fred Mims about that trend of alcohol-related arrests. Here's the story I wrote, just days after Calloway's arrest:

IOWA CITY -- University of Iowa athletics department officials are concerned but not alarmed by the number of alcohol-related arrests among student-athletes.

Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims said alcohol-related incidents have not increased recently despite high-profile incidents involving football players.

"It's not an epidemic in any sense," Mims said. "What we have is we have some people making poor choices."

Since mid-April 2007, 26 Iowa football players have been arrested or issued citations. Twenty of the players had charges or citations related to alcohol or drug use/possession.

Nine players were arrested for public intoxication, five for drunken driving and five were cited for underage possession of alcohol. Two were charged with drug possession. One player was charged for underage possession and public intoxication in another incident.

After an 11-month stretch from April 2007 through March 2008 that included 14 arrests or citations, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz changed some team policies. Ferentz declined to explain publicly what those changes were, but among them was hiring a life skills adviser to help players transition to college life.

"The bottom line of that is we have taken the approach as a team back in March, the beginning or prior to spring ball, with this roster we have now and it took shape, I think March 1 is when that happened ... we have talked to our team to draw a line of demarcation at that point," Ferentz said in July 2008. "I would hope people would be fair enough to judge us from what happens from then on."

Since Ferentz's line of demarcation, the alcohol-related tickets and arrests have continued. Not counting sexual assault charges filed against two former football players for an October 2007 incident, 10 Iowa football players have been arrested or cited. All but one included an alcohol-related charge.

Mims rattled off a litany of alcohol programs aimed at student-athletes. In 2007-08 all new football players were required to attend an orientation that included high-risk drinking and take an online course on alcohol before arriving on to campus. The department brings in speakers who talk about alcohol and poor choices.

"I don't know how much more programming one can do," he said. "We have probably one of the more intrusive programs in the country."

Department penalties rank among the nation's most stringent, Mims said. An athlete receiving a ticket for underage possession of alcohol must perform six to eight hours of alcohol education designed by the school's social services program consultant, Marvin Sims. A second possession ticket or a first-offense alcohol arrest results in a first strike in a three-strike program. A first strike means the student-athlete must complete an alcohol education program, be put on notice and perform 20 hours of community service. A second strike means automatic suspension pending a full alcoholism assessment and 30 hours of community service.

"On the third strike, you're done," Mims said.

Each team can impose additional penalties, Mims said.

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