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Report highlights Pitt's legal problems

Sports Illustrated and CBS News teamed up to do an extensive investigation into the criminal background of every player on SI's preseason top 25 from last year. Its findings shed Pittsburgh in a negative light.

According to the report posted online Wednesday, Pitt had more players on its roster with police records -- 22 -- than any of the schools surveyed. Cincinnati was 15th with five. Because no other schools in the Big East made SI's preseason Top 25, we don't know how those numbers compare with other league schools.

The story opens with details of the Panthers' many off-the-field problems in 2010, including the arrests of Jabaal Sheard, Jason Douglas, Keith Coleman and Jeff Knox. All but Big East defensive player of the year Sheard -- whom school officials insisted was trying to break up a fight -- were either dismissed or suspended indefinitely.

The investigation points out that college teams don't usually do very thorough background checks into the players they are recruiting and signing. Pittsburgh officials said they instituted a process for looking into players' backgrounds after last year's troubles.

"This evaluation is not a legal criminal background check," the school said in a statement released to SI. "Rather, it is a checklist of questions that attempts to gain greater knowledge of the behavior and citizenship of an individual prospect from a variety of people."

Off-the-field problems played a big part in Dave Wannstedt's forced resignation in December. Pitt officials stressed the need for discipline and then touted that with the hiring of Miami (Ohio's) Mike Haywood -- who was subsequently arrested himself and then fired. Current coach Todd Graham has said discipline will be a major focus of his program.

Later in the article, the writers suggest that not performing simple background checks can leave schools unprepared for high-risk players, and they cite current Cincinnati freshman linebacker and Florida native Antwan Darling as an example.

On March 22, 2010, Darling was arrested for burglarizing a residence in Miami. That day, 17-year-old Kimberly Lewis was home alone from school sick when she heard two men prowling around the outside of her house, locked herself in a room and called 911 ...

Miami police responded quickly and Darling was arrested at gunpoint and charged with felony burglary of an occupied dwelling. He subsequently entered a pretrial intervention program and the charge was dropped, clearing the way for him to accept a scholarship to Cincinnati.

The story says Darling has also been charged with a felony count of firing a weapon and possession of marijuana.

A Cincinnati official told SI he was unaware of the burglary arrest, while coach Butch Jones spoke only in general terms:

"When recruiting a prospective student-athlete, we do our due diligence in exhausting all avenues looking into an individual's background," he said.

The story also cites the case of Cincinnati receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, whom the story says was arrested seven times in his youth, as an example of someone who has turned his life around. Thompkins will be eligible this season after transferring from junior college last summer.

Keep in mind that only two Big East teams were a part of this survey. I'd bet just about every team in the country has to deal with these kinds of issues.