Into the Abyss

Nothing to see here

If I asked you what the main purpose that the NCAA served was, you really wouldn’t be able to give me an accurate answer. Do you know why? It is because there really is no accurate answer. The NCAA is a monster the likes of which Mary Shelley couldn’t even dream up. To make a long story short, the NCAA’s primitive beginnings came from Theodore Roosevelt wanting to develop a governing body that would keep the college football teams of the time from bringing in “ringers” and jeopardizing the health of everyone who was participating in the sport. He didn’t want anybody getting killed. That’s admirable. However, since then, the NCAA has become an organization that borders on (pardon another literary reference) 1984 territory. In 2003, Rick Reilly wrote an article that illustrated how the NCAA punished then Utah Utes Basketball coach Rick Majerus for silly things like buying bagels for players, and assistants buying players groceries when they didn’t have enough money to pay for them. Needless to say, those don’t seem like things that deserve to be punished. Most would agree there is nothing wrong with being a good Samaritan. The NCAA is not most. They were, however, most definitely on top of those infractions being committed. They acted swiftly, and that was that. That seems to beg the question, though: If they knew that Rick Majerus was doing things on that minor a level, does it not seem strange that it would take them so long to realize the large-scale infractions that have been headline-news recently, at USC and Ohio State? I mean, we all know the NCAA hates Utah, but I think this goes deeper than that.

Terrelle Pryor was driving cars that everybody knew he couldn’t afford. There have been numerous statements made on the fact that it seemed relatively obvious that Terrelle was driving something that was not within his means. It doesn’t seem as though anybody wanted to look into that; to maybe figure out how this was all happening. Instead, they were worried about bagels. Nobody seemed to mind that Reggie Bush had a HOUSE that was provided for him by an agent, until Yahoo! sports broke a story about it, and created enough noise to warrant the NCAA looking into it. They just now took away USC’s title. This happened more than 4 years ago. They were worried about Rick Majerus buying ham sandwiches, though. The biggest laugh came when the NCAA caught Ohio State red-handed, they still allowed the players who committed the infractions to participate in the Sugar Bowl, because of the ironclad alibi that Jim Tressel wasn’t properly taught the rules. Oh, really? After ten years, Jim didn’t know his players couldn’t trade signed goods for tats, cash, and pot? They heard that he didn’t know the rules, put their hands up, turned their backs, and sacrificed some regular season games for the ratings that a fully-charged Ohio State Buckeyes team vs Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas Razorbacks draws. Now that they have discovered the added depth to the problems at Ohio State, their Sugar Bowl victory will no doubt be vacated, as will all games that Terrelle Pryor or any of his cohorts played in. Because, after all, nothing proves a point like pretending games never happened and punishing people who had nothing to do with what happened.

I’ll ask a question: If Ohio State, and every other school who played with ineligible players (USC, Memphis, Michigan, etc) has to vacate wins, banners, and every other bell and whistle they won, why doesn’t the NCAA return a little of the $5.64 billion it has to work with, because networks like CBS, Fox, and ESPN pay it so handsomely for its content? It provided a tainted product to those networks, and if it is so concerned with operating from its moral high ground, then I think it owes the distributors their money back for any game that was aired with an ineligible player. It gives the NCAA a little incentive to take more preventative measures, instead of, winking, nodding, making money, and making examples of people like Rick Majerus, distracting everyone from the bigger problem.

What Rick Majerus did wasn’t wrong, primarily because giving a kid a full scholarship to play sports at school doesn’t give him any money to pay for a pizza, or to go on a date. It just means he’s not paying for something that would have otherwise put him in debt up to his eyeballs. It’s great, but for a kid with no money, he still has no money after he’s given a full ride to play football. They could get a job, if they weren’t a part of a program that makes it near impossible to get a job because of the amount of commitment that is necessary to be a part of the team. Not to mention the fact that these kids still have to go to class and get good enough grades to play in the games. That doesn’t really leave a lot of time to get a job, to pay for these things. When somebody suggests that these players should get a living stipend though, they immediately get shouted down about how other people pay $140,000 for college, and scholarships should be good enough. Let me just be perfectly honest here: the kids who get the athletic scholarships for sports, don’t usually come from the same socioeconomic backgrounds as the kids who are going to school without an athletic scholarship. That shouldn’t shock anybody.

It just seems like there’s no right answer to this. If you try to run an honest program, you still run the risk of getting caught for minor infractions that you might not even realize are against the rules (but hey, maybe since the excuse worked for Jim Tressel, it works for the little guy too.) If you want to attract blue chip prospects, you have to compete with programs who are offering him enough money to retire on. It’s no wonder coaches cheat, it becomes the nature of the game. Cheat, get away with it for a while, eventually get caught, and finally, have the NCAA say it never happened, but keep your championship rings, and the millions of dollars you made coaching a big time football program. I think you might find a couple hundred-dollar bills laying around that you can dry your eyes with. It honestly makes more sense to cheat in the NCAA now than it does to try and be honest, because, though you stand to lose much less from being honest, you stand to gain way less than you stand to lose. When nobody really knows the rules, why even try to abide by them? These are the types of questions that the NCAA has raised.

Steve Sabato is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

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About Home Field Advantage
We are two senior Sports Communication majors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. We have launched this blog as part of our senior year capping project, with the goal of creating a comparative analysis and multimedia approach to the differing sports cultures in America.

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