Less than a week after a Sports Illustrated/CBS News study shed light on the criminal histories of college football players, student-athlete background checks are back in the news. According to HawkeyeInsider.com, University of Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery has offered a scholarship to junior-college basketball recruit Anthony Hubbard, despite the 25-year-old's criminal record.
Hubbard served 37 months in prison after pleading guilty to a December 2003 robbery that also involved felony charges of malicious wounding and use of a firearm. He was 18 at the time.
Playing his sophomore season for Frederick (Md.) Community College, Hubbard averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds. His coach, Dave Miller, told Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen this week that Iowa did its due diligence when inquiring about Hubbard. "They did their background work, absolutely," Miller said. "We had paperwork here, and we sent the paperwork out to them."
Miller dismissed as "nothing" Hubbard's arrest in January on a misdemeanor assault charge that was later dropped. Of the 2003 incident, Miller said, "This is what I say to all the coaches; he made a mistake when he was 18 years old. He's now 25. Enough. He's a great kid and let's move on."
"When we make a final decision to offer a scholarship to a young person in any sport, we've spent months and in some cases years trying to evaluate if it's going to be a good fit," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told Harty, adding, "We don't do official criminal background checks, but we do an extensive background search."
Barta said he would be open to a national discussion on criminal background. Iowa's football team ranked second only to Arkansas in the number of players with criminal records, according to the SI/CBS study.
Miller said that he wouldn't begrudge coaches who pass on Hubbard, but added they would regret it. "He's a heck of a player and even a better person."
In his own defense, Hubbard told HawkeyeInsider.com, "I'm being straight up with everybody about what I've been through. I'm not hiding from anybody. It made me who I am today."