Athletes victims of close scrutiny

By Greg Rivara

When Joe Student breaks a rule, it’s no big deal.

But when Joe or Susie Athlete break a rule, the roof comes crashing down.

Such is the life of college athletes, at NIU and across the nation.

And such is why athletic department officials are trying to cope with police, intrusive media and angry fans after three NIU football players were arrested for battery.

Huskie football players Tom Osteen, Rich Favor and Brent Schroeder and NIU students Joe Marconi and Shawn Doyle were involved in a fight early last week.

Marconi and Doyle were sent to the hospital. Osteen, Favor and Schroeder were sent under a microscope.

“Expectations for athletes are higher than the average person walking the streets. I can’t change that,” said Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell.

“I’m trying to figure out what happened,” said head football coach Jerry Pettibone.

Pettibone is not alone—he’s joined by NIU’s Judicial Office, the DeKalb Police Department, coaching staff, athletic department and scores of NIU followers.

Although athletic department officials realize the athletes are representatives of NIU and hence need to watch their P’s an Q’s more closely than others, there still is a sour taste left whenever an athlete gets into a scrape and thrown into the spotlight.

Athletes are warned their moves are watched, Pettibone said. They’re told they must live up to higher expectations than others.

But athletes aren’t thugs and that stereotype still lingering is “sad,” said O’Dell.

“This is our basic policy when student athletes have problems on and off campus,” O’Dell said.

“Number one, is they’re innocent until proven guilty; and secondly, we’re not going to interfere with the legal process. Thirdly, NIU athletes are like any other student, we’re not going to turn our backs on them, and fourthly, based on initial information, these students are going to be suspended until the investigation is complete,” he said.