We hear about it all the time: big-time college athletes getting busted for all kinds of transgressions. We tend to slam down the gavel and lament another jock feeling a sense of entitlement. Then one of our own discovers the inside of a patrol car. Suddenly we have a rooting interest. Suddenly we realize there's a person involved, a living, breathing human being with family members who live in our neighborhoods. Suddenly we think, and hope: Maybe he's innocent.
Steve Levy's a Cornwall kid who starred at quarterback for Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. He went to Cal on a full ride. He sat on the bench for most of his first three years, one as a red-shirt, all the time waiting for his opportunity. He finally got a big chance at big-time college football last fall. Levy played in six games and led Cal to victory over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. He wound up 2-0 as a starter. Levy was chasing the starting job for his senior season this fall. Now he's chasing his reputation and football future. Cal coach Jeff Tedford suspended Levy for the season opener at Tennessee. At best, Levy will face another steep climb toward regaining the starting position. At worst, he will have to deal with serious consequences, his gridiron future perhaps the least of those concerns.
All because of an incident inside a bar in the early morning of June 25. According to police, Levy was involved in a dispute with a patron at 1:23 a.m. When the doorman asked Levy to leave, police said, he threw a pint glass at the doorman, who sustained a cut near his eye. Levy is facing a felony charge of using an instrument to incur bodily injury, essentially assault with a deadly weapon. He could face two to four years in prison, and today faces a pretrial hearing. Levy has pleaded not guilty. Only the people who saw the incident know the degree of Levy's guilt. Chances are, at the very least, he's guilty of poor judgment. A lot of bad things happen in bars after midnight. Levy, of such wondrous decision-making skills on the field, must be able to read the potential consequences of every situation.
"I wouldn't make a judgment on it until it all goes down,'' said Levy's buddy, John Allegretta. "It's not like him to do something like this. Steve's not a violent guy or a big juicehead.'' None of this makes Levy a bad person. Even if he's guilty, Levy can learn from the mistake and go on to live a productive life. If he's not guilty, Levy will serve as a reminder that big-time athletes also are innocent until proven guilty. Not just one of our guys.