- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

Eric Knott reported to the Michigan State football team last week after pleading guilty to fourth-degree sexual conduct and serving 30 days in jail.

Go, Spartans.

They have spirit, yes they do, they have spirit, how about you?

The victim in the case was a 13-year-old girl, who probably looked 93, which is the legal equivalent of the bend-but-don't-break defense.

In the nefarious culture of major college athletics, where up is down and down is up, you not only are obligated to throw the record books out the window, but it is necessary to throw out minimum standards of decency and common sense as well.

It helps to hold your nose, too.

The pungent aroma of a sewage treatment plant is preferable to the stench emanating from East Lansing, Mich.

Just give a blue-chip thug a second chance.

He made a mistake. He paid his debt to society. It is up to Michigan State, and athletic factories like it, to reach out to these unfortunate souls and show them a better way.

Dummy me.

I used to think an athletic scholarship was an honor, a reflection of something vaguely noble, awarded to only a select few youths who met the criteria on the field and in the classroom. I did not know, until the last generation, that an athletic scholarship is sometimes the carrot that is dangled in front of a perpetrator to engineer profound social change.

I did not know you could allegedly rape a 13-year-old girl, plead down to a misdemeanor after being charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, spend 30 days in jail and end up with an all-expenses-paid inducement from one of the most prestigious institutions in America.

The thinking, alas, is hardly endemic to East Lansing.

A few years ago, George Washington University performed a series of intricate verbal maneuvers around basketball player Richie Parker before the fallout became too much to bear and he went elsewhere.

Mount St. Mary's College went the extra mile, possibly because it is miles from anything, in providing a halfway room for a convicted slasher, Melvin Whitaker of 72-stitch infamy.

As you know, colleges are in the business of education, and what an education it sometimes is.

Which second chance, philosophically speaking, is easier to rationalize, the one awarded to an athlete who had a little fun with a 13-year-old girl or the one awarded to an athlete whose slashing ability resulted in a 72-stitch wound?

That, class, if you accept the assignment, is your essay question today.

Bobby Williams, the coach at Michigan State, told the Detroit Free Press: "I'm excited about Eric Knott joining our football program. The last 19 months have been extremely difficult for him and his family. Eric has accepted responsibility for his actions and paid his debt to society."

As difficult as it has been for the player and his family the last 19 months and that notion is almost funny it is the 13-year-old victim and her family who have had to absorb an extremely difficult set of circumstances.

Of course, as long as it is not your 13-year-old daughter, it is easy to dispense antiseptic statements to the media.

If it were your 13-year-old daughter, maybe you would not be so detached, so clinical, so eager to move forward. If it were your daughter, maybe you would feel inclined to break the perpetrator's legs or threaten him with a John Wayne Bobbitt-like remedy.

That wouldn't necessarily be the right response, either. But, my, it sure is amazing just how socially conscious coaches become, almost religious-like in fervor, so long as it is someone else's daughter and the prospect of saving a life is possibly connected to the won-lost record.

Where's Beano Cook when you need him to evaluate what impact, if any, this "distraction" might have on Michigan State's football efforts this season?

If it helps any, the "distraction" says he is "focused," ready to contribute, hopefully, to the greater glory of Michigan State football.

Let's stop here to allow the lump in the throat to pass.

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