On Tuesday, Hood signed scholarship papers with Tennessee, and the university immediately began the public relations campaign to justify his admission. University president Mike Hamilton, coach Lane Kiffin, and the head of public relations for the university all issued statements on the signing. So did officials at Knoxville Catholic High School and Daniel Hood. But Hood's conviction raises a couple of intriguing questions, can you do something so bad at 13 that you don't deserve a second chance? And do sports really even qualify as a second chance? Especially when playing sports for the University of Tennessee is a privilege, not a right.
(Warning: Court transcripts after the jump involve mature language.)
The facts of each case dictate how we view the defendants. All crimes are not created equal. Sometimes the details can be so heinous, they're hard to escape. Such is the case with Daniel Hood. Merely stating that he has "character issues" is a trite euphemism that disguises what actually happened on August 11, 2003. That night Hood and an older friend, 17-year-old Robert Sanrico, who is currently serving 10 years in prison, raped and kidnapped a 14-year-old girl.
From the Tennessee Court of Appeals opinion:
Last year Daniel Hood was named Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee. He led his high school, Knoxville Catholic, to a 15-0 record and a class 3A state title. Along the way he amassed 27 scholarship offers from schools across the country. Then schools began to hear the details about the 2003 incident, his "character issue," and offers began to dry up. Soon Lincoln and his 3.8 GPA and 27 ACT had no major scholarship offers.
In sports we're often asked to give second chances to athletes for off-field transgressions. Sometimes that extends into third, fourth and fifth chances. Generally we comply because when it comes right down to it, we're all liberals in the case of talented athletes; we believe that with the right environment, the right coaching, the right support, they can succeed.
But often this distinction is artificial. We're not asking whether or not Daniel Hood should get a second chance in life. Plainly, he already has. With his GPA, his test scores, and his graduation from a top private school in Knoxville, he'd likely be admitted to dozens of colleges, free to pursue whatever course of study he chose. None of that would be an issue. Daniel Hood has already received his second chance at life.
Daniel Hood's football highlight film on Rivals.com has been watched 17,594 times.
Now we're faced with a more difficult question, should a second chance at life extend to athletics? Can anyone who has read the actual details of this incident really feel that comfortable rooting for this kid on the football field? This isn't a case of accusation where an athlete deserves a presumption of innocence. This is the case of a kid found guilty and a court of appeals affirming that conviction.
Hood's victim doesn't oppose his playing football for Tennessee. In the nearly six years since this incident, Hood has not been in trouble. Daniel Hood will run through the T this fall only because he was such a young juvenile when he committed this crime that he didn't go to prison. Otherwise instead of wearing orange and white next fall, Hood would be wearing an orange prison jumpsuit.
There's something really wrong with that. And I think it ultimately says more about us, than it does about Daniel Hood.