A good chunk of these guys didn’t bring that feeling of shame to their NCAA football team back in the day, but they do now. As we look back at their current predicaments, of a lot of the following athletes drive their school crazy. The following list includes the biggest shame from 15 of the biggest programs in the nation. And the guys who follow are (or have been) some of the biggest names surrounding the sport. Some of these guys are disgusting and the shame is obvious. Others have just dealt with the same missteps and young twentysomething guy deals with. But their collegiate football team would have preferred those shameful actions were attached to a different program.
The top team on this list shouldn’t surprise you as the organization has dealt with scandals that have rivaled the Catholic church. No matter how much shame these other guys have brought their team, none deserve to be in the conversation of the team that tops this list. But with this list, each school would have been better off if their fan base could forget about these guys. Some may have played good while in the uniform of their alma mater, but the events following their collegiate life have greatly minimized whatever accomplishments were seen while in school.
In all honesty, you could probably go through every college football program and identify a shameful past. But here, we’re just looking at 15 of the biggest shames for 15 of some of the biggest programs in college football.
15 Oklahoma: Adrian Peterson
Luckily for the school, Adrian Peterson has had such a good NFL career that he’s not often linked back to his collegiate days. This running back isn’t the type of shameful image that a school would want attached to its football program. Sure, you can justify his time because of his absolute talent on the field, but you don’t really want to put that in the spotlight because of his issues off field.
Although Peterson has been one of the greatest running backs of his time, a collegiate program doesn’t want its name attached to such shameful actions … or they shouldn’t want their name attached to such shameful actions. Peterson, in Sept. 2014, was indicted by a grand jury for reckless or negligent injury to a child. He was also suspended for most of the 2014 season because of the incident that occurred May 2014.
14 Virginia Tech: Michael Vick
You don’t often hear Michael Vick and his alma mater named in the same sentence. It’s something that the school obviously wants to separate itself from. Again, we look at a guy with so much talent that the school doesn’t get knocked for fielding a guy who turned out to have a very questionable character and friend group. Although the talk has faded away, Vick had plagued the face of the NFL when the whole dog abuse scandal arose.
Most fans tend to forgive for sexual abuse and even most violence as long as its not associated with animals or kids. But that’s where the first two guys on this list fail (and where the guy that tops this list extremely failed). Vick may have just been caught up in a bad situation that the people that surrounded him, but he’ll be forever associated with dog-abuse for what he’s done.
13 Arizona State: Loren Wade
This isn’t a name you’ve heard recently or probably have even thought about for nearly a decade, but Loren Wade is a severe reason why Arizona State football has a shameful past. Wade, a former star running back at Arizona State, stunted any chance at a future back in the early 2000s when he shot and killed Brandon Falkner, who was a former Arizona State safety.
This wasn’t some type of football grudge, but it cast a severe shadow over the school’s football program. Falkner played football on the team a few years earlier, but that connection was highlighted throughout this proceedings. It was reported that if Wade had played with Falkner, this whole mess would have been avoided because both athletes were described as friendly people. But Wade was upset that Falkner was talking to his girl, so he hit him with his pistol then shot him in the head. It was a tough story to follow, and one that still haunts Arizona State.
12 Arkansas: Bobby Petrino
This was a tough one because a lot of organizations are shameful from the fact they hired Bobby Petrino. Petrino has had a number of shady situations around collegiate football, and even in the NFL. But he still seems to have what it takes to get hired at respectable universities, though that should change with one or two more missteps. But football tends to be a forgiving sport. If you can bring in some of those W’s, there’s always going to be someone willing to pay you seven figures.
But why has Arkansas been shamed more than anyone else by way of Petrino? It’s all because of a scandal that stemmed from a simple motorcycle accident. Back in 2012 when Petrino was coaching at Arkansas, he crashed his motorcycle and attempted to cover up the fact that his 25-year-old assistant, who he may have hired illegally, was with him at the crash. Petrino was later fired by the school after it was found out that he paid his mistress $20,000. But even though Arkansas had enough of the coach, he went on to find work since.
11 Colorado: Gary Barnett
Looking at the list of infractions committed on this list, Gary Barnett isn’t the worst offender in terms of NCAA rules and regulations. But his actions in Colorado were shameful, and get Barnett a comfortable spot on this list. It’s all because of Barnett’s involvement in a recruiting scandal, which stemmed from an investigation that showed drugs, alcohol and sex were used to entice recruits to the school’s campus, though none of the practices were sanctioned by the university.
Although Barnett was briefly able to keep his job after a short suspension, this was surely a shameful piece to the university’s football program. The worst part is that the school kept Barnett around after this, and after his derogatory comments when talking about kicker Katie Hnida. When all was said and done, the school was forced to buy out his contract and pay him $3 million … not a bad payday.
10 USC: Reggie Bush
Because of a recruiting scandal focused on this former star college athlete, USC suffered from severe NCAA sanctions that included a two-year postseason ban and vacating of wins from the team’s 2004 championship run. Bush even forfeited his Heisman trophy after the NCAA found that the running back received lavish gifts from a sports agent named Lloyd Lake. USC was even stripped from 30 scholarships over the course of three years.
It was such a demoralizing defeat for the school. It was a spotlight on such a shameful showing from one of its young stars. The worst part is that Bush didn’t put together a professional career great enough to overshadow these missteps. In fact, as Bush fizzled out of the NFL, that paved the way for this shameful past to be a bigger part of his story.
9 Rutgers: Ray Rice
Now the only reason this one is a bit of a stretch is because Rutgers isn’t among the biggest football programs in the NFL. But Rutgers still has a national allure that each of the teams on this list possess. Without a doubt, each of these teams are nationally known and Rutgers is no different. The worst part is that Ray Rice was bringing a greater level of attention to the program before Rutgers needed to start to separate from the former all-star NFL running back.
Rice burst into the NFL, and despite playing from just 2008-2013, he was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and was part of a Super Bowl winning team. Everyone remembers the video of when he assaulted his (at-the-time) fiancée. Both the NFL and Rutgers have been separating themselves from this shameful athlete.
8 Florida State: Jameis Winston
Sure, as Jameis Winston continues to succeed in the NFL his sketchy past filled with off-field issues is becoming less and less visible. But that doesn’t mean Florida State should feel any less shame for fielding the troubled young star. Especially since in January 2015, the Seminoles were forced to pay a $950,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former student who accused the football star of raping her in 2012. Winston was never criminally charged, but it was just another off-field instance that littered Winston’s shameful past at Florida State.
Winston had run ins with the law, his first came after an incident with a pellet-gun. There were multiple times when he was accused of very minor theft (once with filling a water cup with soda and again with what he says was forgetting to pay for crab legs). And his final youthful shenanigan at FSU occurred when he jumped on a table and screamed a sexually charged expletive-laced phrase. It’s somewhat surprising that he’s been able to succeed in the NFL without incident after all of this.
7 Ohio State: Jim Tressel
Jim Tressel went from being one of the most influential coaches to an administrator at a small-market college (he’s currently the president at Youngstown State University). That transition was a result from NCAA violations, which brought a large amount of shame to Ohio State as well as Tressel, who was scrutinized so badly that he gave up the spotlight of being a head coach.
All of this stemmed from Tressel’s knowledge of infractions by five of his players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor and fellow teammates were involved in trading championship rings, jerseys and other football-related awards for tattoos. Tressel was notified of these arrangements but never reported them to the NCAA (his excuse was that he did not know who to report the violations too). This eventually led to Tressel’s resignation and his transition to working as an administrator.
6 Notre Dame: Brady Quinn
Notre Dame was at the peak of its national fame when Brady Quinn was at the helm. Quinn was the type of guy who attracted fans who didn’t normally watch college football. It was a huge win for Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish quarterback was selected in the first round. Of course, a lot of people will say that the college’s job is getting their guys into the NFL. Well, they should be prepping the athletes for a successful pro career and that juts didn’t happen with Quinn, and Notre Dame should be ashamed.
You’ve still gotta credit Quinn for playing through 2013 (though he fell from relevance after 2009). Quinn was drafted with the 22nd pick in 2007 but he never really found his rhythm in the NFL, effectively washing out his fun-to-watch college days.
5 LSU: JaMarcus Russell
A top pick that fizzles out as quickly as JaMarcus Russell is never good for the school. LSU would have been better off if Russell hung up his jersey before taking a shot at competing in the NFL, because we all know how that went. He went from being one of the most impressive physical specimens to ever throw a football. He had some mobility and he was huge and he could throw a football harder and further than most.
But when you think of Russell now, there’s no thoughts of how good LSU was or how good he was in college. All of that has faded away after his failed professional career. After the Raiders selected him with the first overall pick in 2007, Russell played in the equivalent of about two seasons in the NFL and finished with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
4 Alabama: Trent Richardson
Any time a guy is so good in college, it’s just a gut-punch when he becomes the butt of everyone’s joke. Trent Richardson was so good that he convinced Cleveland to draft him third overall. The No. 3 pick for a running back is almost always crazy. There’s got to be an insanely great talent to make that type of draft pick.
Although Richardson fooled a lot of the NFL for a few years, he wasn’t nearly the type of talent that should have been drafted so high in the first round. To Richardson’s credit, he did post some good numbers on a Cleveland Browns team that wasn’t all that great (but they were much better than what we all saw last season). But there was some front office jujitsu that got Cleveland such a good deal from the Colts. Now there’s no question about it, Richardson was a shame for a school that likes bragging about the professional talent that they pump out.
3 Florida: Tim Tebow
This was a tough one, especially because Aaron Hernandez went to Florida (but no one remembers him playing there). Why would a school be shamed by one of the biggest names in sports? Tim Tebow is not surrounded by controversy and he’s a Jesus-loving perfect son-in-law type of guy. He’s got such a good image and such athletic talent that people have even talked about the former NFL quarterback becoming a pro baseball player. Not bad. But when you look at what he did at Florida, and then what he did since … he’s gained a heck of a lot of negative criticism. Most NFL fans have hated the guy since he was drafted way too high and the longer he stays in the spotlight it has gotten worse. When you gain so many enemies from being so good in college, that causes a ripple effect to the school itself. Sure, it is a bit of a stretch, but when you look at Florida’s football program, Tim Tebow is currently its biggest shame.
2 Texas A&M: Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel is a party boy. That’s a majority of the guys you meet on any college campus. But that’s not what NCAA football programs are trying to promote … and Manziel truly optimizes the exact opposite image of a college athlete that school’s want to promote. But he was just so good in school. When you’re getting that type of attention for Texas A&M, it’s tough to fault the kid. Back in the day the school was getting more attention than it ever had. But you’ve got to wonder if any of that has turned out to be beneficial with what Manziel has done post-college.
Except for the autograph signings he still holds in Texas, Manziel would be nearly booed out of any room filled with NFL fans. Any time Manziel shows up on TMZ with a drunken rant or he gets pictured out at the club, the Texas A&M administration cringes. Maybe if he returned to the NFL and found a way to succeed that would surely change, but it seems extremely doubtful that could happen.
1 Penn State: Jerry Sandusky
If you’re related to a scandal like this your program should be shut down entirely. But Penn State brings in millions of dollars and their donor base far exceeds most in the country. That’s why Penn State football is going nowhere. No matter how bad the Sandusky name will hunt the program, and college football, for years and years and years to come. There’s no looking past the awful shame that Jerry Sandusky brought to Penn State. Heck, he single-handedly took down Joe Paterno. Sure, JoePa will still go down as one of the greatest names in college football, but outside of Penn State, he’s nearly forgotten about because his name will go down with Sandusky in any conversation going forward.
But you can’t blame us. From anything that’s been discovered about Sandusky’s time at Penn State, it’s obvious that everything the football program did should be tainted. We’ll attempt to ignore it so that you can have your strong following (similar to the Catholic church), but there’s no doubting that Penn State football has a long way to go to gain back some respect.