King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The NCAA's Williams rules: Wreak havoc in society and you're OK, as long as you can play ball. Threaten the NCAA cash box? Sit tight, we're thinking.


Salon Staff
July 29, 2004 11:00PM (UTC)

You'll be happy to know that the Williams kid will be able to play college football after all.

Oh, I don't mean Mike Williams, the USC wide receiver who declared for the NFL draft in February after a judge ruled that the league's age restrictions violated antitrust law. That Williams kid, who broke no laws or rules and did nothing even slightly unethical by hiring an agent and declaring his intention to play pro ball, is still hanging after an appeals court overturned that ruling, making him ineligible after all. The NCAA is considering his application for reinstatement.

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I have the utmost confidence that the NCAA, in its Solomonic wisdom, will find a solution to this sticky situation that will result in the NCAA best protecting its income sources.

I also don't mean Ricky Williams, by the way, whom I only mention because a reader said he'd beat me up if I mentioned him again this week. Come on, then! If I hadn't blown it on Tuesday, I could have had a shot at an all-Williams week.

No, the Williams I'm referring to is Willie Williams, the top high school linebacker in the country last year by some accounts, about whom the University of Miami has decided, well, OK, sure, you can come play ball for us even though you have a rap sheet longer than our opponents' longest play from scrimmage last year -- when we went 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl, woohoo! -- and you neglected to mention this to us when we were recruiting you, during which time you also added two items to it, both on your official visit to a rival school.

That Williams kid, the one in good standing, accepted probation and pleaded no contest last month to a felony charge of setting off fire extinguishers at a hotel during his visit this winter to the University of Florida, and also to a misdemeanor battery charge for hugging a woman without her permission on the same trip.

No reason that last item should set off alarm bells in today's college football world, eh? Williams also agreed to pay $1,300 in damages to a man he had a fight with in a nightclub on the same visit, though charges in that case were dropped. That was some busy visit. I don't know when Williams had time to check out the library.

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Incidentally, if you ever wondered what a top-recruit's official visit is like, read Manny Navarro's amazing account of how the Hurricanes courted hometown hero Williams in the Miami Herald.

Williams was already on probation for a 2002 felony burglary when he visited Gainesville, and a probation violation beef stemming from his two legal incidents could have landed him behind bars for five years, but it didn't.

University president Donna Shalala said that Miami will hold Williams to a high standard off the field. "He can't get arrested," she said, "and if he gets arrested, he can't get convicted. And if he gets convicted, he can't go to prison. And if he goes to prison, and his sentence overlaps with the football season, we definitely won't let him play in those games. Unless he can get a work release."

That's not really what Shalala said. What she really said was that the university had "placed the bar high," for Williams. "There will be academic conditions that he must meet." She said this in a letter so we wouldn't be able to hear her laughing.

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"Additionally, he will participate in a program that we provide for all athletes that provides mentoring, constructive counseling and monitoring of their behavior -- both on and off campus."

Well, good. Seriously. I'm glad the university is going to hold Williams to high standards if he wants to keep his scholarship, and in fact I hope those standards aren't too high, because after all the kid's just a freshman and he's gone through a lot of stress and confusion before his college career even starts.

I think 75 tackles this year sounds fair, don't you?

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Oh, stop, I'm kidding. I think it's great that the University of Miami is reaching out to troubled youth and giving them an opportunity to go to college. If they just happen to be 6-foot-2, 225-pound heirs apparent to Ray Lewis, hey, so much the better. Extracurricular activities are important on the Miami campus. Especially now that the Hurricanes have moved from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Miami coach Larry Coker, signaling the academic rigor Williams will be expected to live up to, said, "I take this very serious."

Previous column: Ricky Williams: The readers write

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