Is the Kansas/Kansas City Media Giving KU a Pass?

Back in 2004, K-State and former football coach Bill Snyder were coming off a tough season.  But as bad as the season was, things got tougher in December of that year.  At that time, it became publicly known that Snyder and staff were recruiting a middle linebacker by the name of Marcus Raines, a product of California.  Raines was 6'3" and 250 pounds of potential at middle linebacker.

He also had pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

The details aren't much fun to recite.  Raines was involved in a fight wherein he allegedly kicked his victim in the head.  His actions contributed to the death of another individual, shattering the victim's dreams and those of his family.  Then, when it became known that K-State was interested in giving Raines a second chance, the Kansas and Kansas City media apparently decided it was time to go on a crusade to end any hopes Raines may have had for redemption on the gridiron and in school.

Here is a list of the Kansas and KC media outlets who reported on the Raines story.  Some of these are so old I don't have links, but if you doubt me you are welcome to head to your local library or the morgue of each newspaper:

KC Star: Cats pass on ex-con amid controversy; Snyder stops recruiting juco LB, by Howard Richman, KC Star, Dec. 4, 2004, page D1
Topeka Capital-Journal: Snyder withdraws offer to juco linebacker, by Tim Bisel, Dec. 4, 2004, page F; The Marcus Raines story has no winners, by Kurt Caywood, Feb. 4, 2005
810 WHB: Caywood, The Marcus Raines story has no winners
Wichita Eagle: KSU backs off recruit who served time; junior college linebacker Marcus Raines was convicted in death of a high school classmate, by Jeffrey Parson, Dec. 4, 2004, page 3D

(I should quickly note, by way of legal clarification, that there are serious discrepancies among some of these stories.  The KC Star article says Raines agreed to a plea deal, whereas the Eagle's account has him convicted.  Caywood's article mentions that it was a plea, so I guess that breaks the tie.  Onward.)

We don't really need to get back into the details and the arguments on both sides of this.  If you listen to the right people, like Raines' junior college coach, his two years in a youth detention center changed him and he was a pleasure to be around.  The whole deal was a mess from the beginning, and was made worse by the story accounts that Snyder and K-State dropped Raines' scholarship publicly before notifying Raines of the decision.  Never have I been in such a situation, but I really wish that, having gone as far as they had, the staff would have stuck it out with Raines.  There is a plausible argument to be made that he deserved a second chance.  Raines went on to a college career at Southern Mississippi, where to my knowledge he kept his nose clean.  I should note that Raines was recruited to USM by Jeff Bower, a man many regard as a class-act in the coaching profession:

The real concern is maintaining his high graduation rates and even, scandal-free keel.

Anyway, I didn't bring this story up merely to talk about a recruiting gaffe that happened more than three years ago.  No, I did this because it has come to my attention that KU is recruiting a football player from Memphis named Jocques Crawford.  As a matter of fact, Crawford is listed on KU's commitment list, according to Rivals.

According to a news report I've found, Crawford was arrested and charged with aggravated rape, before pleading guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor simple assault.  Links are here.  And I'm pretty sure it's the same Jocques Crawford, because of this line from a Rivals story about his commitment to KU:

Crawford, who is originally from Tennessee, informed his mother of his decision this morning.

Know how many stories I've seen in the KC Star, Topeka Capital-Journal, Wichita Eagle, or 810 WHB about this kid?  None.  The only story I can find about it is this one from the Dallas Morning-News, in which Texas Tech coach Mike Leach felt the need to defend himself for offering Crawford a scholarship to play at Tech.  Apparently, KU coach Mark Mangino has faced no such pressure.

We could get into a long and interesting debate about whether it really is necessary for the local media to question whether coaches should give second chances to student-athletes who have been convicted of or pled guilty to a crime.  As far as I'm concerned, it's news that is of some interest to a certain segment of the public.  That said, I can understand the viewpoint that what is done is done, and in the United States we generally believe in second chances, though not third or fourth chances.

But we're not operating in a vacuum here.  The local media has set its standard for how it deals with this situation when the recruit of a local school has a history that is less than stellar.  I'm not asking for preferential treatment for K-State by the local media.  I'm merely asking that similar situations be covered similarly.  We can also sit here and debate the differences between the Raines situation and the Crawford situation.  Raines' actions resulted in the death of another human being, and were a felony.  Crawford's actions did not result in the death of another human being, and what he eventually pleaded to is classified as a misdemeanor.  If those distinctions are really the reason why the local media is not running this story, I'd love to hear why they think those distinctions are significant enough to justify differential treatment.

This type of situation is getting pretty old from the media that covers K-State sports.  On this very site, I have already documented one instance of blatant hypocrisy by a columnist for a local newspaper.  Now we have this situation.  I have no idea what the editors of these newspapers are hiding behind.  It's not like this is a juvenile case with sealed records.  Other news outlets have been on this story since 2005.  Back when the Raines story broke, in 2004, it had been almost two years since the incident, which occurred in 2002.  It's not like Crawford's plea is significantly older than Raines'.

I have no idea what is going on here.  But I think we, as consumers of news, have a right to demand more from our local outlets.  If this story is reported on and brought to light for all in the area to explore and discuss, I have no problem with whatever happens with that.  If Mangino wants to stick by his scholarship offer, that is his decision.  But if our media are going to claim to be objective presenters of news, they better present all the news in a consistent manner.

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