One would think that USF paid better attention to its star athletes.
According to a recent article in the St. Petersburg Times, USF quarterback Matt Grothe is facing a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol to an underage person. While working at the Bull Ring Sports Bar on April 19, he was arrested during an apparent sting operation by Florida’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. Grothe is unlikely to face significant legal penalties and will undoubtedly face little reprisal from coach Jim Leavitt.
This is all well and good, as in the grand scheme of things Grothe may merely have made a simple mistake. Though a bartender is technically responsible for ensuring those he serves are of legal age, in a work environment where underage patrons are admitted, this can be difficult to accomplish. This is why wristbands are used in establishments that admit underage individuals. Though the 18-year-old individual who purchased the beers from Grothe did not have an “over-21” wristband, at a busy bar such mistakes are all but inevitable. Grothe will likely pay the penalty for that mistake, as he should, and that will be that.
The real concern in this scenario comes from Leavitt’s response when asked if he knew that Grothe was employed at the bar. Leavitt said he was unaware of the job, and when asked if anyone else on staff knew, he said “(I’m) unsure, but somebody is supposed to.”
The NCAA does not have a policy that restricts players from employment. They do, however, require that players be paid fairly for their work and refrain from using their status or celebrity to endorse a business. Though there is no evidence that Grothe broke any regulations, one can easily see how that line might become blurred when one of USF’s star athletes becomes employed at a drinking establishment that caters to USF sports fans.
Because of such questionable situations, USF’s athletic department has a policy that requires athletes to notify the department in writing before starting work at any establishment. The fact that Grothe’s employment was unknown to Leavitt means one of two things: Either Grothe failed to notify the department, or the department failed to maintain an awareness of his employment.
If Grothe is at fault, he should be disciplined for violating department policy. If the athletic department dropped the ball, they should consider being more attentive to the activities of their stars.