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Few football powers do criminal background checks on recruits

NEW YORK – An investigation of 25 top college football programs by Sports Illustrated and CBS News has revealed that Oklahoma and TCU were the only ones to do criminal background checks on recruits.

SI and CBS News did various criminal background checks on all the players on the rosters of the teams in Sports Illustrated’s 2010 preseason top 25 as of Sept. 1.

According to the story posted Wednesday on, the study found about 7 percent of the 2,837 players – 204 total – “had been in trouble with the law either before or after entering college.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert, who was attending a Rotary Club event in Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday, said the 7 percent figure appears “pretty unacceptable,” but also stressed that the NCAA needs more information on the subject.

“It’s surprising when you see a number that large and we need to do some homework,” Emmert said. “We don’t know what that (number) looks like relative to the regular student body. We don’t know what that looks like relative to society at large.”

Emmert said the NCAA will look into various means of ensuring coaches and athletic departments have access to more background information on recruits, but added that the decisions on which athletes to accept should remain with individual schools.

“We have always had a decentralized approach, where we let universities make those admissions decisions, and we need to keep that,” Emmert said, adding that he wants to be mindful of instances in which young athletes with police records turned their lives around because of their opportunity to go to college.

“There’s plenty of great stories of young men who have done something wrong, stupid, in their youth and they get into a university and wind up being a great success story,” Emmert said. “We want that to happen, of course, but a university needs to know what their decision is based on when they make that decision.”

There were no available figures to compare the records of the football players at the schools which were studied with those of the general student populations at those universities.

The other universities that were studied were: Pittsburgh, Arkansas, Iowa, Boise State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, Florida, Oregon, Southern California, Alabama, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Utah, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Oregon State, LSU, Texas and Stanford.

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