Castleton State College President David Wolk says there are many reasons why the college made a big push five years ago to expand intercollegiate sports.
"When you immerse students in very positive activities, extra-curricular activities and the arts and athletics, grade-point averages go up, community service is enhanced," Wolk said.
Wolk says over the last decade, the school has worked hard to build up these programs. The number of student athletes at Castleton has jumped from 100 to nearly 500.
"And for the most part, their conduct has been excellent," Wolk said.
But now six football players are front and center in a criminal investigation. Vermont State police say they may be involved in a retail theft ring, stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from a sporting goods store in Rutland.
"I was really surprised and I was really sad because I know these kids. And I was pretty shocked that they could have been involved," Wolk said.
The investigation started after Castleton's starting quarterback, George Busharis, was caught leaving Dick's with $300 worth of merchandise and a receipt for only $3. All-American wide receiver and CSC star player Brandon Boyle works at the store. Police say security cameras show him helping other players steal from the store.
Wolk says it's something he never expected.
"So, you try to treat these kids as you would members of your own family, so that makes it particularly heartbreaking because these are good kids who made a very serious mistake," Wolk said.
But Wolk says the college is moving forward. The six athletes will remain suspended from the team indefinitely as the investigation continues. And although the Spartans team could suffer with many star players missing, the president says now is the time for the remaining players on the team to shine.
"I've talked to a lot of the kids who remain on the team-- there are a number of kids who can now step up and take leadership positions. Not just get more playing time on the field, but become leaders," Wolk said. "And so that is the silver lining in the cloud and it's a good thing for those kids."
Vt. State Police are still not releasing the names of the additional four players involved in the investigation. But Busharis and Boyle are due in court next month.
Wolk says none of the students have been suspended from school, but as the state police investigation moves forward, so will the school's investigation. The judicial board will determine if the students will face disciplinary action.