On September 3, the Boise State Bronco football team will open its season against Southern powerhouse the University of Georgia, a team whose public image has recently been marred by legal controversy. In the past 13 months, according the Macon Telegraph, 11 UG players have been arrested by local police, mostly for alcohol-related crimes and fighting. Most recently, the team's starting linebacker and defensive tackle were both collared and charged with disorderly conduct and battery on a police officer for their involvement in a bar brawl. Before suspending the pair for one and two games, respectively, Georgia head coach Mark Richt told the AP, "We try to educate them the best we can, but, as you can see, we still have an issue we have to deal with."
As if sensing a challenge, current and former members of Boise State's team have escalated their own criminal activity to a degree matching-and in some cases, far exceeding-their high-profile opponent. First, on May 5, two former star wide receivers, 25-year-old Jay Swillie and 23-year-old Billy Wingfield, were picked up by Boise Police on felony charges of aggravated battery, stemming from a bar fight in the area of Sixth and Main. Apparently, the fracas started late Sunday night, when the players yelled select comments at the girlfriend of a 35-year-old bar patron and backed them up by fracturing the poor schlub's face before fleeing the scene. By Wednesday, the time of the week when football players are generally less likely to exert themselves, police were able to track down the pair and arrest them. (UPDATE: Wingfield was acquitted of a felony charge of aggravated battery by a district judge in December 2005.)
Not to be outdone by alumni, the current Bronco starting free safety, 22-year-old Cam Hall, played a crucial and careless role in a May 7 auto accident that claimed the lives of the perfect family-literally, Tony and Stephanie Perfect and their infant daughter Zoe. According to police accounts, Hall was late for work on Saturday after attending a Horseshoe Bend football game when he happened to pull his Mustang behind a GMC Sierra driven by Mark Lazinka of Boise. Lazinka, who had been drinking, refused to allow the defensive star to pass, and the two vehicles began a deadly neck-and-neck duel down southbound Highway 55. At the highway's intersection with Beacon Light Road, the Perfect's Subaru Outback pulled out in front of the racers, who were speeding in excess of 100 mph. Hall swerved around the car and continued driving, but Lazinka collided with the station wagon, killing all three passengers. Hall later called police, and has not yet been charged with any crime. Lazinka has been charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter and could face 30 years in prison.