Young men facing serious charges such as sexual assault or felony drug dealing often are booted from college sports teams as coaches face pressure to take a hard line about off-field misconduct.
But when such behavior gets them kicked off of one team, the players may get another shot at stardom elsewhere.
At least 108 college athletes who faced serious charges—including armed robbery and rape—were accepted by another school’s sports program, often on scholarship, from 2011 through June 2016, according to a Wall Street Journal review of team disciplinary actions and criminal charges against football and men’s basketball players at Division I schools.
Alex Figueroa is one of the promising student-athletes with legal baggage who have been given a second chance.
Mr. Figueroa lost his spot as a linebacker at the University of Miami after he was arrested and then charged with sexual battery of an intoxicated 17-year-old girl in the summer of 2014, according to school statements and police and court documents.
Mr. Figueroa, in an interview, maintains the sex was consensual. But to avoid what could have been a lengthy legal process and, if convicted, a prison term, he took a deferred prosecution deal on felony charges of sexual battery with multiple perpetrators, and agreed to sex-offender treatment and community service.
Then Mr. Figueroa went back to playing college football.
Now 22 years old, he spent the past two seasons at Garden City Community College in Kansas, helping the Broncbusters win the 2016 National Junior College Athletic Association championship. He transferred to the University of Central Oklahoma this semester, with a full scholarship to play on its Division II football team.
John Green, athletic director at Garden City, said small classes and close relationships with administrators and coaches help keep student-athletes in line.
“We’re not just prostituting these kids for athletic ability,” he said. “We are going to challenge them to do the right thing.” He counts Mr. Figueroa as a success story.
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