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Five Most Controversial Players in College Football History

Searching for the jaw-dropping, and often criminal, stories of some of the most controversial players in college football history can teach you vital lessons in what not to do as a sports management student. For decades, spectators have packed into college football stadiums to enjoy heated rivalries, sweet plays, and ball-soaring touchdowns. One Marist Poll found that 54 percent of Americans call themselves college football fans. In recent years, drama orchestrated on the field has increasingly followed players into the locker room and college classroom though. Here are five notorious college football players who have seen their careers blow up with poor choices and even worse media attention.

1. Jameis Winston

Crowned the MVP of ESPN’s RISE Elite 11 competition at 18, Jameis Winston was highly recruited by Jimbo Fisher at Florida State. Although his playing career was successful with 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns, the cocky Heisman Trophy-winning QB had plenty of legal woes. In 2014, Winston was issued a citation and fined $30 for stealing crab legs from Publix. This followed a BB-gun battle with fellow Seminoles that resulted in $4,000 worth of damage. Jameis Winston also allegedly raped Erica Kinsman off-campus, which led to a $950,000 settlement.

2. Cam Newton

Now a starting QB for the Carolina Panthers, Cam Newton is known for leading Auburn University to their first national championship since 1957. During his single season as a Tiger, the SEC All-Team member drummed up 2,263 Heisman Trophy points and lots of controversy. Media reports showed that Newton had been suspended from the University of Florida for cheating and stealing a laptop. Cam Newton’s father, Rev. Cecil Newton, also came to fame when records surfaced that he had shopped his son’s talents to recruits for up to $180,000.

3. Harvey McDougle, Jr.

Nicknamed Scooter, Harvey McDougle, Jr. earned the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s “Best of the Best” award as an East Cleveland grad recruited by the little-known University of Toledo team. Soon the 245-pound RB was leading the Rockets in rushing yards at 620, but scandal was brewing. McDougle was accepting more than $5,000 in illegal gifts from a Detroit gambler, Gary Manni, to shave points. Harvey McDougle, Jr. even recruited five teammates into his devious conspiracy, who were all federally indicted in 2009 for the bribes.

4. Marcus Vick

Just like his dog-fighting big brother Michael, Marcus Vick has been one of the most controversial players in college football with ample mugshots to prove it. Recruited by Virginia Tech, the Paul Torgersen Award-winning QB played in seven games, including a lively 31-2 upset over Miami, before being suspended for the entire 2004 season. Among his criminal infractions were reckless driving, marijuana possession, and having sexual relations with a 15-year-old. When he returned in 2005, Marcus Vick famously flipped his middle finger to the crowd and continued his arrest record.

5. Reggie Bush

Wearing #5 for the USC Trojans, Reggie Bush is a two-time national champion who amassed 2,611 yards and scored 18 TDs. Academics weren’t his weakness with a 3.8 GPA, but taking gifts apparently was. Tumultuous reports showed that marketing agents had given the Bush family $100,000 to $280,000 while in Southern California. Faced with NCAA violations, Bush voluntarily vacated his Heisman Trophy. His NFL career with the Buffalo Bills continues to strike controversy with tabloids stating that Reggie Bush paid his mistress $3 million to get an abortion.

Sports management majors are no stranger to the fact that college football is a $3.4 billion-dollar enterprise. Unsurprisingly, money is frequently at the heart of scandals rocking NCAA Division I teams. Many quarterbacks are riddled with some controversy while being in the limelight, but no position is immune. The list of the most controversial players in college football is virtually endless history with Manti Te’o, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel, Adrian McPherson, Maurice Clarett, Rhett Bomar, and others.

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