I grew up revering athletes. As a kid in the 1990s, there were so many role models for a 5-year-old who wanted to be a professional football or basketball player. Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, or John Elway — we had some of the greatest sports figures ever. They were idols and we believed they lived life the way it was supposed to be lived.
They were class acts, men and women whom parents supported and trusted. This aura of personal conduct and presumed classiness superseded any dark characteristics an athlete may have.
It was not just professional athletes; it was the college and high school players. As a University of Michigan fan growing up, Charles Woodson was a god. Any kid who followed Iowa State wanted to be like the Davis brothers. However, as I have grown up and been exposed to the world of talented athletes, that facade has been washed away.
I have been primarily disappointed in the reputation presented by our very own Cyclone athletes. Are there diamonds in the rough? Sure. But are there bad eggs? Of course. According to data from arrestnation.com, Iowa State was second among colleges with 12 citations, charges or arrests levied in 2011. This number was only one behind the University of Florida and four ahead of the University of Oklahoma. Arrestnation.com describes its website as "... a place where the arrests/citations of all people in sports are recorded."
However, it is not the lesser-revenue sports making headlines; it is the high-profile athletes. How often do we hear about swimmers or cross-country runners being problematic? Totaling all sports, college football topped the notorious list nationally, as well as locally.
Seven of the Cyclone arrests came via football players, but men's basketball and wrestling also had team members represented. Some offenses were simple misdemeanors that are commonplace among college kids, but when assault and frequent OWIs occur, it tarnishes the reputation of the university as whole. With the recent dismissal of six football players, it further adds to the black eye on the team and the university.
In high school sports, we were often required to dress up on game days. Boys or girls, freshmen to seniors, all athletes were expected to be respectful and responsible, and that was reflected all the way down to our wardrobes. However,, when the NBA implemented its dress code a few years ago, I was perplexed. I did not understand why the wardrobes of grown men needed to be policed. I assumed they are wealthy, responsible adults who should be allowed to wear whatever they want.
After a few years of adapting to the dress code, it now makes sense. The NBA wanted to portray a more positive image. It was a way to implement more class and give the players a more dignified look. When the players stopped wearing baggy sweats and T-shirts, they actually looked like professionals.
Other than the home football games, I'm not sure how many of our esteemed athletes I've seen dressed in something more formal than sweatpants. While we as the student body shell out cash for overpriced bookstore clothing, the athletes are adorned with closets full of ISU gear. It is a hefty amount of free gear that gives these should-be reputable role models a slovenly appearance. Some people may just view them as outfits, but they also typify the sense of entitlement to perks that athletes feel they are due.
This is not meant to chastise or belittle any single person or program, but rather to serve as a wake-up call for our college athletes. No other students in the Cyclone community receive the same publicity or adulation.
Athletes, you are put on a pedestal and are granted forgiveness that others would be denied. Most students would love to have the same praise and reverence. Students, boosters and ISU alumni fund the opportunities that come your way.
In return, we just ask for more class, more discipline and better representation, not just on the field, but in every outlet where you represent the Cyclones.