Courtesy of Kentucky State Police
A registered sex offender in the state of Kentucky played a role in Ohio State’s 2013 football recruiting class.
Surprising? No, not really.
Let me explain.
Charles Waugh, a 31-year-old registered sex offender in Kentucky was seen posing for a picture with a trio of OSU football recruits. OSU became aware of the situation and sent an email out to every student-athlete on campus basically warning them to stay away from Waugh.
When The Lantern got ahold of the email, the story exploded, linebacker recruit Alex Anzalone who is seen in the now-infamous picture, decommitted from OSU, and his father thought out loud (to a reporter), questioning the way OSU handles recruits while on visits. Monday, Waugh was arrested for a parole violation and spent the night in Boyd County Detention Center in Kentucky.
Sex offenders and football (especially college football) should never mix.
But this is 2012, and in today’s world, sports are about much more than what happens between the lines.
The Waugh debacle isn’t in the same stratosphere of the horrors allegedly committed by Jerry Sandusky at Penn State or the Bernie Fine situation at Syracuse.
But nonetheless, this is the third time in less than a year that alleged sex offenders and sports have collided.
Welcome to 2012.
Besides the picture, Waugh obsessively tweeted at many current, former and prospective OSU athletes. After the story broke, many current and former OSU athletes came forward saying how Waugh tried to make contact with them time and time again via social media websites. It was the use of social media and email accounts that the Kentucky State Police took issue with. Apparently as a sex offender, you have to make your identity clear when using social media and email. Waugh didn’t.
Having never met him, I think it’s fair to say that what Waugh was doing went beyond normal and even went beyond the typical overzealous fan.
Waugh isn’t a new breed, though. Fans who like their teams a little too much have been around ever since sports entered the mainstream part of culture.
As part of the mainstream, athletes are and have been celebrities. For whatever reason, people want to be close to the athletes they pay money to watch. Some fans want to be closer than others, and that desire isn’t quelled after the final buzzer sounds.
All of this existed in 1980, but was much less likely to happen. The reason the Waugh situation isn’t surprising in today’s world is because access to athletes is at an all-time high.
Suddenly, some 17-year-olds aren’t just grassroots athletes, they’re grassroots celebrities.
They garner thousands of Twitter followers who are legitimately interested in their favorite food or whether they liked the new blockbuster movie.
And unfortunately, they might garner one or two followers who are a little bit too interested in not just the movie, but where and when they saw it.
So when the one or two fans who care too much about these athletes somehow get word that a recruit is going to be at a particular bar at a particular time, you better believe they’re going to show up.
It’s not completely clear whether Waugh gained access to the athletes from using social media, but it doesn’t take someone from the Mensa Club to make the leap.
The simple solution is for athletes to stay off social media. The realistic one isn’t much more complicated.
It’s been said time and time again that what you put on the Internet is public for everyone. That includes sex offenders. To completely avoid situations like the one with Waugh, athletes need to know people like him are out there and absolutely can read what they say online.
Solution: Don’t be stupid about what you put on the Internet and stick to movie preferences.
When Anzalone’s dad found out about the situation, he was understandably upset. He entrusted his son to OSU and Anzalone was exposed to a sex offender. I wouldn’t be happy if I were the father either.
But people like Waugh are everywhere, not just at OSU.
To blame OSU for the situation is to blame the institution for identifying and addressing the problem.
Choosing another school might mean Anzalone can leave Waugh in the dust, but it won’t eliminate other suspicious characters from potentially having access to him.
In the world of 2012, it’s inevitable.