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Elam’s scholarship reprehensible

Observer editorial | Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Abram Elam was convicted of a felony in August for his role in a 2002 incident involving three other Notre Dame football players and a female Notre Dame student at an off-campus house. All four players were dismissed from the University a year and a half ago and were charged with various sexual assault crimes. Of the four, Elam was the only person convicted of any wrongdoing – Donald Dykes was acquitted on all three counts and the prosecutor’s office dropped charges against Lorenzo Crawford and Justin Smith – and was placed on probation.Last week, Kent State University not only accepted Elam as a student, but Golden Flash football coach Dean Pees offered Elam a scholarship to play football in 2004. Elam has one year of eligibility remaining.Give Elam credit for trying to get his life back in order in part by wanting to play the sport he loves, and give Pees credit for giving Elam a second chance. While Elam shouldn’t have to live the rest of his life in the shadow of a grievous error he made when he was 20 years old, he shouldn’t get a free ride, either. The problem lies with the scholarship money given to Elam, a convicted felon. The money Elam receives will consequently be taken from another aspiring Kent State athlete, who does not have a felony on his or her record. Why would Pees and Kent State make such a decision? One could conclude that Kent State, which ranked last in pass defense in the Mid-American conference in 2003, badly needs defensive help. Elam, who played defensive back for the Irish, will undoubtedly make an impact for the Golden Flashes next season in the secondary. But Elam’s ability to improve the Kent State football team does not excuse Pees from offering the defensive back scholarship money. Elam should have the opportunity to play football again wherever he wants. But Pees should have made the former Irish defensive back walk onto his team instead of giving him a scholarship. Giving Elam a second chance is not the issue, but rather rewarding Elam for his football abilities while ignoring his serious personal mistakes shows poor judgment by Kent State. Many criticized Notre Dame’s disciplinary process that kicked Elam and the other three football players out of school before criminal charges were filed. But few can question the University’s moral stance. Kent State, on the other hand, should be embarrassed by its decision to give scholarship money to a convicted felon.