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Opinion

Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
Email: bhandwerger@wwltv.com | Twitter: @wwltvsports

By now, you've seen that Saints receiver Joseph Morgan was arrested and charged with drunk driving after being found in a car on the side of Earhart Expressway during Memorial Day weekend.

Certainly Morgan is now second-guessing his choice to drive after spending his evening drinking before getting behind the wheel of a car.

But what if I told you, beyond the normal 'he could have called a cab' retort, that he had a different option?

What if I told you that the NFL Players Association offers a confidential car service program to any active or former player?

You're likely shaking your head in amazement even harder.

Through the program, players are offered a service called the Player Transportation Link, administered by Corporate Security Solutions, Inc.

The point?

'The purpose of the service is to prevent members from driving while impaired,' an official with the NFLPA said.

The question is why isn't it used 100 percent of the time?

Sports Illustrated recently profiled Josh Brent and the accident he was involved in that killed teammate Jerry Brown. In December, USA Today's Brent Schrotenboer wrote that 177 of 624 arrests of NFL players since 2000 were for suspected drunk driving. Schrotenboer went further, saying that on average, NFL players get caught for DUI 13-14 times a year.

I'm not naive enough to say only NFL players are driving drunk or bad enough at math to think that 13-14 is a high percentage in a league that has more than 1,700 players on the payroll. But I also know there are many more who drive drunk that don't get caught.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011 (the latest data available), an estimated 9,878 traffic fatalities occurred when a driver registered a blood alcohol content level of .08 or higher. Thirty-three percent of Louisiana's 675 traffic fatalities in 2011 were estimated to involve someone with a BAC of greater than .08.

We all have the opportunity to call taxis or have a sober driver enjoy the night. Yet, while we're hit over the head with those suggestions through commercials and the more-than-occasional news story about a drunk-driving fatality, there are still many who don't.

NFL players are no different.

The NFLPA places a sticker for the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service on the back of the players' IDs. The information is available through pamphlets and newsletters as well as other material that's regularly handed out, the organization said.

Maybe it's the cost of the service. Players cover the deeply discounted cost offered through the PTL, paying roughly $90 per hour.

And two types of services are offered one in which a player is picked up and the driver remains until they get to their final destination and one in which a car is dispatched to where the player is at the time.

While $90 per hour seems like high cost, especially when compared to cabs, it's a low payout when considering what's at stake for the players and the public. While expensive, professional athletes can afford it. In fact, I'd argue they can't afford not to use it.

The New Orleans Saints had no comment when asked if the franchise provides its own car service and the NFLPA said it couldn't share data about the system's use.

SEC needs to go to nine-game schedule
For once, I agree with Nick Saban, Alabama's polarizing head coach.

The Southeastern Conference needs to go to a nine-game schedule and there's no question about it.

According to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, Saban knows he's 'absolutely in the minority no question about it.'

But he shouldn't be. Let's not kid ourselves while the SEC hosts the nation's top teams, it's not the deepest.

Adding an extra conference only takes away a guaranteed win over a glorified junior college team, one that doesn't excite fans.

It's that latter game that should have the SEC worried. USA Today's blog For The Win says attendance has dropped the past four seasons with nine of the 14 schools seeing a decline in 2012.

The SEC's answer is to upgrade the in-stadium experience, be it adding bigger video boards showing full replays or boosting the Wi-Fi.

Saban's answer and the right one is something different. Add another conference game and get rid of the cupcake.

Fans pay a lot of money in hard economic times to support their schools. They don't want to see Alabama or LSU or Georgia play North Carolina Technical College for Lawnmower Repair or Big Valley State of Northeastern Winnipeg or McNeese State or even Louisiana-Lafayette.

They want to see their schools play another major conference school, an Auburn or Florida or South Carolina in a year when those games weren't normally scheduled.

It's the fair and right thing to do. And let's be honest, because the SEC is the SEC, a loss isn't going to knock the top teams out of the title picture.

Losing even more respect for Rutgers
Rutgers has found itself in a world of mess the past few months and, unfortunately for the university, it's not settling down anytime soon.

The latest, a revelation that the newly hired athletics director was involved in the same cruel behavior that started this process when the university fired basketball coach Mike Rice, shows poor judgment by the university's hiring handlers.

Even more it shows that search firm Parker Executive Search might not have its client's best interest in mind.

Still, ultimately this falls on the one person who ultimately made the hire. Power is corrupting and it appears to have gotten to Rutgers president Robert Barchi, who apparently helped bulldoze the way for Julie Hermann to get hired for the AD job without a full, proper vetting process.

Rutgers represents the state. In fact, it's full title Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Barchi has to use his position responsibly and when it comes to hiring, he has to fully vet those candidates deemed worthy of the open position.

Can you imagine how people would react if this were happening at LSU? No one would stand for it.

MLS becomes first ongoing U.S. pro league with openly gay player
The big sports news in April was Jason Collins' announcement that he was gay, becoming the first athlete in professional American sports to come out while currently playing.

While Collins is a great story, one that's not being covered with near the fervor happened Sunday in Los Angeles.

Robbie Rogers became the first player in an ongoing season to play as an openly gay athlete. He did so as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS.

Say what you want about MLS and soccer, but this is as big a step forward in this country as what Collins did.

Let's not forget that.

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