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Judge rips USF coach Charlie Strong for behavior of players

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A judge presiding over the first appearance of a South Florida football player charged with sexual battery not only had harsh words for the athlete in court, but questioned whether new coach Charlie Strong is a good fit for the program.

Circuit Judge Margaret Taylor of Hillsborough County told defensive end LaDarrius Jackson during a hearing Wednesday that she is a USF graduate who is “embarrassed and ashamed” in the wake of two separate arrests involving members of the team since March.

Jackson, 22, was arrested late Monday after a female acquaintance said earlier in the day that he assaulted her in student housing. Jackson was removed from team activity after being charged with sexual battery and false imprisonment.

Another USF football player arrested in March, Hassan Childswas dismissed from the squad after being charged with aggravated assault and possession of marijuana in March.

Taylor had harsh words Jackson and Strong, the former Louisville and Texas coach who has been at USF since December. Strong replaced Willie Taggart, who left the Bulls for Oregon.

“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,” the judge said in a courtroom video obtained by the Tampa Bay Times from television station WTSP.

“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,” she added. “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 released a statement later Wednesday defending his program following the judge’s unusual courtroom comments.

“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,” the coach said.

“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,” Strong added. “We have high expectations of our coaches, staff and student-athletes and we hold accountable those who act contrary to our values.”

Before Taylor’s admonishment of Strong, the judge had some candid comments for Jackson, saying “assuming the facts surrounding your charges are true, your behavior is reprehensible.”

“I’m an alumni, graduated from USF in 1989, long before there was a football team,” Taylor said. “And while USF may not be the top-ranked school in the nation, I was never ashamed of being an alum until now,” the judge added. “Embarrassed and ashamed, Mr. Jackson. Let’s just say that my USF diploma is not proudly hanging in my office right now.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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