If ever there was a poster boy for the sometimes sordid business of recruiting “blue chip” high school athletes, it is Willie Williams, the nationally acclaimed linebacker out of Miami Carol City High School. After milking the system for free visits to other campuses, he surprised no one and chose his home town school, the University of Miami.
The weekend before he signed, however, was spent at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In addition to grousing about his free meals — chicken not lobster — he managed to physically accost a woman, hit a guy in a bar and set off three fire extinguishers in his hotel. He is charged with misdemeanor battery involving the woman. That Gator hat trick, however, also has resulted in a violation-of-probation charge. Less than 18 months earlier he had pleaded no contest to felony burglary.
Moreover, this “cow chip” athlete has a record that includes 10 prior arrests. UM said it didn’t know that. Ditto for the other schools that were recruiting him, including UF and Florida State University.
That strains credulity. Nationally prominent prospects with rap sheets are not state secrets. What doesn’t strain credulity is that so much rides on a successful football program –read money — that schools yield to the temptation to simply do whatever it takes to bring in talent, however tainted or thuggish. Because of Williams’ high profile, this case is now notorious. What it isn’t, however, is rare — just worse than most.