Let’s start here: what Ladarrius Jackson is alleged to have done is disgusting and horrifying. If the allegations are true, he needs to go to prison for a long time. This is sexual assault, and our thoughts are with his victim. He retains the presumption of innocence, but if a fraction of this is found to be true he will not only be banned from football at USF forever, he will likely be banned from the campus forever.
We are NOT defending Jackson. He deserves his day in court and a fair trial as well as competent legal counsel, but statistically only between 2 percent and 10 percent of cases like these are “false reports.”
When Ladarrius Jackson was presented for arraignment today, Hillsborough County Administrative Judge Margaret Taylor not only set bond at $25,000, she took the opportunity to dogwhistle about the new head football coach of her alma mater. A transcript of her words in full:
"Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players for very violent felonies. This court, and I'm sure I'm not alone, questions whether you have control over your players. It's fairly clear you do not have control of them off the field, and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field.
"I would implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you before any other members of this community have to suffer at the hands of one of your players."
"I graduated from USF in 1989, long before there was a football team. And while USF may not be the top-ranked school in the nation, I was never ashamed of being an alum until now. I'm embarrassed and ashamed, Mr. Jackson. Let's just say my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now."
Charlie Strong was introduced as the fourth head coach of USF football on December 15th, 2016. He has held his new job for about four-and-a-half months. He recruited neither Jackson or Hassan Childs, who was immediately dismissed from the team after a road rage incident where he was shot in March.
He inherited these players. And he has dealt with them swiftly and severely. Jackson was immediately separated from the team while still in Orient Road Jail. If a scintilla of this is true, Jackson will never set foot in a USF locker room again.
And then, in a move of pure class and grace, Strong took the highest of high roads in a public statement following Taylor’s speech.
“In the short time I have been here our program has been built on character, discipline and family. We have wonderful young men in the USF football program who choose to do the right thing every day. We are dedicated to recruiting young men of high character, and to consistently developing them with structure and frequent education regarding appropriate conduct and behavior, on and off the playing field. While I am shocked and saddened at the recent arrest of a member of our team, I am disappointed that the actions of two players over the last two months have harmed the reputation of our program, of our wonderful university and of my character. We have high expectations of our coaches, staff and student-athletes and we hold accountable those who act contrary to our values.”
That statement issued via USF media relations is wise, thoughtfully crafted, and tangibly false. Because while the two arrests may have harmed the reputation of the program and our wonderful university, they didn’t do a damn thing to Strong’s character. Because not an iota of this has anything to do with him or his character or leadership.
But hey, congrats to Judge Taylor. The last time she was in the national media was when she moved to Downtown Tampa via House Hunters on HGTV. The source for that press release? Judge Margaret Taylor. Now she’s got her name and face on ESPN.com and CBSSports.com
So bully for her and her profile: all she had to do was tarnish the reputation of a man well-known as a disciplinarian involving off-field incidents with players, sometimes to the detriment of his won-loss record at both Texas and Louisville. When Strong arrived at Texas, he immediately laid out a set of expectations for how his players would behave. One specifically says “treat women with respect.”
Taylor graduated eight years before USF football existed. Before she lashes out at the coach of her school, she should probably catch up on the record of the man currently leading the program.