The St. Petersberg Times reports that University of South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe, the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2006, was arrested and received a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol to a minor on April 19th at the Bull Ring Sports Bar, an off campus USF-themed sports bar where Grothe apparently works as a bartender. Grothe reportedly served two beers to an 18-year old that was working for the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. The article indicates that Grothe will likely receive a very minimal legal punishment (probably communtiy service and probation) and the arrest would not lead to significant disciplinary action from the USF head coach Jim Leavitt. A few things strike me here: First, Grothe should not receive any significant discipline from the USF program. At just 20-years old, Grothe is probably the biggest celebrity on the USF campus. He is a college kid, likely trying to have a good time doing something many college kids do, by working at a bar to make a few easy bucks. Yes, he obviously exhibited poor judgement in failing to ask for identification from a bar patron. He should quietly admit responsibilty and apologize for acting improperly, pay his fines, and do his community service in order to make things right with the legal system. He should apologize to his teammates for putting the USF program in the news for reasons other than football and run his laps or stairs without complaint. And, he should certainly use better judgement in the future when it comes to his offseason employment--working in a bar is probably not going to lead to anything good for a star quarterback in college. Second, we get these gems from head coach Jim Leavitt:
"I had heard something happened, but I didn't know what, " Leavitt said Friday when asked about the arrest. "He's not working there anymore." Asked if he had known Grothe was working there before the incident, Leavitt said he did not, and when asked if anyone at USF knew, he said "(I'm) unsure. But somebody is supposed to."Leavitt's team is receiving national attention for its improvements and will likely be on the cusp of the top 25 to begin the 2007. They will play the program's two biggest home games ever, against West Virginia and Louisville, and will have an opportunity to appear in a BCS bowl with wins. So, how, on Earth, do you not know that your starting quarterback is spending his evenings working at a USF-themed sports bar? Quite frankly, Leavitt is lucky that this situation with Grothe is the worst thing that happened. Imagine if some drunken boosters decide to give your starting quarterback a hefty tip and the NCAA catches wind of it (ask Rhett Bomar if boosters are ever tempted to "help out" star players while they are working). And, saying that you do not, but "someone is supposed to" know where players are employed does not really demonstrate that buck stops here mentality that most great leaders possess. The head coach of a football program is supposed to act as a CEO and Leavitt, with more than ten-years under his belt as the USF head coach, appears to have a serious disconnect with what his marquee player is doing on a day-to-day basis. If this happened to an SEC or Big 10 school and its head coach made comments like this, he would be publically skewered by the media and the NCAA would be looking into what else they were "unsure" of, regarding their players' offseason employment. Third, I am not a big proponent of paying NCAA athletes and I certainly appreciate that the players are receiving the opportunity to receive a great education and a college degree, but maybe it is time to allow a fair stipend to these kids, so they do not have to worry about making money when they should be concentrating on school and football. I recognize that the NCAA does not have a bottomless pit of money, but is it to much to ask for the pot to be shared with the folks that are playing in the games that sell tickets and provide the television revenue? I'm not asking for enough to buy an Escalade or trips to Vegas here, but how about a little something so a kid can take a date out? Anyway, I am sure that Matt Grothe will be the one running steps this week. Leavitt and the NCAA should have to run along with him.