Athletes should act as campus leaders, role models

About two weeks ago, Operation Campus/TAP issued 65 drinking tickets at a party on Main Street.
The tickets themselves aren’t something that should be ignored, but the more pressing issue is that 39 of those ticketed are student-athletes.
In addition to that, the party was allegedly hosted by the men’s cross country team, another serious problem.
Bradley, and the Peoria community, considers student-athletes role models.
If athletes want to live up to this standard, attending or hosting a party during which they drink 40-ounce malt liquor beverages isn’t a place to start.
When an instance such as this occurs, it sends a message to the rest of the Bradley community that athletes don’t want to be role models – or aren’t able or ready to be.
But something  athletes may not think about in their daily lives is that they represent the university. Those outside the university hear about them the most. When they make mistakes, it reflects poorly on the entire Bradley community because people are more likely to hear about them.
Even children in Peoria look up to Bradley athletes. In their minds, the athletes are superstars. When student-athletes drink underage, they are not only breaking the law but setting poor examples for young children who think of them as role models. 
We’re not trying to say that only athletes drink. We know that’s not true.
But odds are that if 39 students who aren’t athletes were ticketed, it wouldn’t have made the news.
At least not the front page of the Journal Star.
But this problem doesn’t lie solely with the athletes.
The Athletic Department and coaches, can’t just give the athletes who violate the law slaps on their wrists, something that has happened in the past.
On Jan. 20, men’s basketball player Theron Wilson was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and teammate Tyrone Cole-Scott was ticketed for drinking underage.
Their original punishment was a one-game suspension.
While coach Jim Les extended their suspension for another game, the decision for a one-game suspension did not match the seriousness of the crime they committed.
While the Comprehensive Alcohol Action Plan states athletes who commit alcohol-related crimes will be punished by their coaches and the Athletic Department, in addition to the punishment from the university, it does not specifically say what that punishment will consist of.
We’re not saying the Athletic Department and the individual coaches shouldn’t be able to choose a punishment, we’re saying the punishments need to make every student-athlete think twice before hosting or going to a party and drinking.
By doling out meaningless punishments, the Athletic Department is sending a message to athletes that they can get away with illegal acts.
The Athletic Department declined to comment on the punishments.
The problem with athletes drinking illegally is especially important this year as the Alcohol Plan has come into effect on campus.
The athletes should be at the forefront of the plan’s success as role models of this university.
It seems, though, that they are lagging behind.