The Orlando Sentinel, believe it or not, has one of the Best Sports Sections in the country. For a city with only one pro franchise, that's a big deal. One of the reasons why the Sentinel has done so well is their Florida Gators coverage, led by Jeremy Fowler, who is easily the best Gator beat writer. His Swamp Things blog, which includes Andrea Adelson, should be the first read for every Gator fan.
Fowler and Adelson cover the Gators like the New York Times covers politics or the way ESPN covers Brett Favre; there is always news. When a South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist noted Florida football's arrests, Adelson gave it a modest treatment. A few days later, Janoris Jenkins got hit with a little taze, and Fowler was giving you the blow-by-blow action. Since the Sun-Sentinel column was noted on May 28, the Sentinel has stuck with the story, pulling every last drop out of it. So much so that they managed to drag Urban Meyer out of his mancave to make a statement. From a database of arrests, to wondering if Florida's discipline savior should be an attorney or Tim Tebow, every angle has been looked at. There has been one angle missing, which Deadspin rightfully called the Sentinel out on;
I count nine cases that rise above garden-variety youthful delinquency. Three of those were tossed. One involved a guy sneaking into an impound to retrieve his girlfriend's towed car, which is downright noble. Nine cases since 2005, if you're counting generously. This a team "out of control"?
Any infraction a college athlete commits, beyond a violent crime, has to be first looked at as "College Kids Do Stupid Stuff". Maybe I'm still too close to college age, so I am more forgiving than Fowler and Adelson, but Fowler was only a few years ahead of me in school. Did he forget what Gainesville can do to the average man? (Actually, both Fowler and Adelson are UF grads, which is probably why they are so good at their jobs.)
I'm not trying to make excuses for UF. As athletes, they are held to a higher standard, and rightfully so. But if you go to school in Gainesville and you don't know productive students who have made mistakes with alcohol/drug use or punched someone in the face, you don't know anyone. (If I didn't carry out one of my female friends from the bar XS, she would have qualified for both.) It is the nature of any college student to act up.
That said, Fowler and Adelson's pursuit of the story is what any good reporter would do. In an age where newspapers are dying, it's nice to see a pair put so much effort into their job. They should also understand their subjects, rather than aiming for the most page views and blog comments. Is the number of arrests a problem? Of course it is. But Meyer removed the four players who were accused multiple times and followed UF policy the rest of the way. Meyer understands he is dealing with 18-22 year olds who are asked to be insane for 14 days a year and perfectly calm the other 351 days. Not to mention, the first time these guys are away from home. Those that cover the Gators do not have to agree with this, or even understand it. They do have to take into consideration that college kids do stupid stuff.