College Sports

Judge rips USF coach Charlie Strong after player arrests, then recuses herself from case

University of South Florida football coach Charlie Strong, hired in December, was blasted by a Tampa judge after two of his players were arrested in recent months.
University of South Florida football coach Charlie Strong, hired in December, was blasted by a Tampa judge after two of his players were arrested in recent months. AP, via Tampa Bay Times

A Tampa judge, hearing the case of a University of South Florida football player charged with sexual battery, took the opportunity to scold USF coach Charlie Strong and question his leadership, saying she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to be an alumnus of the school.

Hillsborough County Judge Margaret Taylor expressed her views on the football program during Tuesday’s proceedings for Bulls junior defensive end LaDarrius Jackson, who was arrested in campus housing Monday night and charged with sexual battery and false imprisonment. A video of Taylor’s rant went viral and on Thursday she recused herself from the case.

Jackson is the second USF player accused of a violent crime in the past few months. In late March, defensive back Hassan Childs was charged with aggravated assault and marijuana possession in a road rage incident during which he pulled a gun on a family and was shot three times.

Strong was hired in December from Texas and did not recruit any of the current players. He kicked Childs off the team and suspended Jackson after his arrest.

"I graduated from USF in 1989, long before there was a football team. And while USF may not be the top-ranked school in the nation, I was never ashamed of being an alum until now," Taylor said in video from the courthouse posted by WTSP-TV. "I'm embarrassed and ashamed, Mr. Jackson. Let's just say my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now."

She went on to suggest Strong lacks control over his players.

"Coach Strong, if you are listening, in the last couple of months there have been two arrests of your players for very violent felonies. This court, and I'm sure I'm not alone, questions whether you have control over your players. It's fairly clear you do not have control of them off the field, and I guess only time will tell whether you have control over them on the field.

"I would implore you to think long and hard about whether being head coach at USF is a good fit for you before any other members of this community have to suffer at the hands of one of your players."

Strong responded with this statement: “In the short time I have been here our program has been built on character, discipline and family. We have wonderful young men in the USF football program who choose to do the right thing every day. We are dedicated to recruiting young men of high character, and to consistently developing them with structure and frequent education regarding appropriate conduct and behavior, on and off the playing field.

“While I am shocked and saddened at the recent arrest of a member of our team, I am disappointed that the actions of two players over the last two months have harmed the reputation of our program, of our wonderful university and of my character. We have high expectations of our coaches, staff and student-athletes and we hold accountable those who act contrary to our values.”

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