I hope you don't feel the same way after reading this
But you probably will
Disclaimer : if the NCAA decides to ban Florida, Alabama, USC and Georgia from post season play and it results in TCU getting a chance to play for the big one, this post will self destruct.
The college football off-season blows. It blows really, really hard. Like hearing, “Your 2005 Football National Champions, the Texas Longhorns!” hard. That’s the problem with college football – you have four intense months of weekly action, then eight months of nothing, to the point that the most exciting part of those eight months is listening to the decisions of a bunch of teenagers regarding where they’ll be not attending classes for the next four years. People groan that baseball is boring because the season is too long, but screw that – baseball is boring because it’s a sport you can bond over with your grandfather and has more breaks than Joe Theisman’s leg; give me six months of college football and I’ll STILL complain that it’s not long enough.
But this off-season has been a little different. Sure, recruiting was a lot of fun to watch this year and being able to see Josh Huff and the Oregon Ducks fail for the next several years is going to be genuinely satisfying. But no, I’m talking about what the NCAA governing body has given us this year. We all knew USC was the dirtiest among dirty programs, which seems silly to me because how hard is it to recruit a top athlete to Southern California to essentially play for LA’s pro team and have the option of running a train on all of the high caliber/ low self esteem starlets that Hollywood has to offer? If Texas Tech or Baylor was ever busted for recruiting violations, it would be the least surprising thing ever, but USC? I don’t know. It just seems like Helen Keller could put together a top 5 class every single year just by showing them an episode of The Hills and displaying this photo:
And while USC runs a dirty program, did anyone ever think they would actually be caught?
When the rumblings started right around the time Pete Carroll jumped ship, it made sense that something was coming down the pipe, but then Lane Kiffin left Knoxville to come take the reins which kind of made it seem like he knew something we didn’t and that this was all going to blow over. Well, then USC took the muzzle off of Athletic Director Mike Garrett – possibly the dumbest man in the history of the world – all hell broke loose and now Kiffin and co. are looking to put the pieces back together in Souf Central. Not that I have any pity; It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving pair than Lane and Ed Orgeron. And I don’t think THIS IS THE END OF USC’S REIGN IN THE PAC 10 AS WE KNOW IT!!! as the headlines would have you believe. But, I do think the NCAA is absolutely clueless when it comes to their methods of punishment, and recent events just prove it.
If you’ve been following the SEC Media Days this week, it’s basically been a big cover your ass convention for stalwarts Georgia, Florida and Alabama as NCAA investigators are closing in and trying to expose the misdeeds of agents and players at their programs. And I’m fine with the investigations. Sports agents are the slimiest of the slimy. If you’ve ever seen NFL Uber Agent Drew Rosenhaus on television, he’s basically Don King but white and with a slightly better haircut. He and his fellow agents MO is to fleece owners out of millions of dollars for coddled athletes who likely will never live up to their end of the bargain and get arrested for slangin’ lean. The college junior who gets a mid round grade and would be best served to come back doesn’t need a seedy agent in his ear every single day inflating his opinion of himself and coercing him into a bad decision. It happens often. So you obviously can’t have these agents just running wild on campus pushing unrealistic promises to these kids and making a mockery of college football. But does the punishment from the NCAA truly fit the crime?
Take the Reggie Bush case. Reggie lets an agent pay for his family’s housing back in 2004-2005. The NCAA investigates. Five years later they come to a decision. That decision? To suspend USC from post season play for 2 years, vacate some victories and scholarships, and make USC return Bush’s Heisman Trophy. Remember, they make USC return theirs, but not Bush returns his. Reggie Bush still got drafted second overall, still got to bang out Kim Kardashian for a couple of years, still has a Super Bowl ring and is still rich rich rich. Reggie Bush still has his Heisman. It will not be removed from the record books. It will not be given to Vince Young. How does Bush, the one who took the money, lose in this situation? His USC team from his junior year may have to take down their championship banner, but what does that prove? They beat the ever loving piss out of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The NCAA won't retroactively name OU national champs, nor will they give it to Auburn, who is still reeeeeeally grumpy about that whole thing. OU lost victories for the Rhett Bomar debacle, but who cares? The outcome of those games doesn’t change. Bob Stoops isn’t getting fired. No one denies that Bobby Bowden wasn’t a damned good football coach because he was docked a few victories in the eve of his career.
Where the NCAA really sticks it to the schools is in lost scholarships and bowl game suspensions, and that’s where I have somewhat of an issue. Why punish the current athletes while the main culprits get off scott free? I understand the NCAA has to do SOMETHING – USC cheated, lied about it, and was arrogant when they were caught. But why punish the players who were not even enrolled when the transgressions happened?
The story this week is that former Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey took $100,000 from an agent before the Sugar Bowl this year. I understand this violates a very basic NCAA rule, but my question to you is this: Who gives a shit? He took some money before his last game as a Florida Gator. Does that somehow make him a different player? What changes in this scenario? And, what’s going to happen if the NCAA proves that he DID take the money is the current Florida players will be punished. What point does this make? And why punish the school at all? Should Florida have hired a private detective to shadow Pouncey throughout his entire career and make sure he didn’t get into any shady dealings? Considering this was between the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl, dude COULD have been a bit smarter and waited a few weeks before taking the money, thus not drawing near as much attention to it, but the fact remains: Why should the current Gator team be punished for what one guy who DOESN’T EVEN PLAY THERE ANYMORE did?
So the coaches are coming out and vilifying these agents, with Nick Saban going so far as to refer to them as pimps, and calling for any agents caught dabbling in illegal activities to have their licenses suspended, or even serve jail time. And he's right - that is exactly what should happen. But, the truth is, they’ll never get caught. These agents are smart. They don’t walk up to a kid and hand him an envelope full of money; they have intermediaries, they have secret bank accounts. In other words, they know how to not get caught. Someone will take the fall, but not the top guys, and more than likely it will only be the current athletes at the school. The agents will have you believe they aren't at fault - Hey? This kid is coming out early to take care of his family! I had nothing to do with it! It has NOTHING to do with my cut of his signing bonus!- but, tell that to the countless ex-NFL players currently working minimum wage jobs sans degree.
The NCAA is in a pretty remarkable lose/lose situation with this whole thing. Behind door number one, they can completely ignore the violations by these agents and end up more screwed up than college basketball and their one and done situation. Behind door number too, they can attempt to catch the violators and punish them, but they’ll never be swift enough to catch someone in the act, and if they do catch them they’re typically out of college football and their jurisdiction doesn’t allow them to make these players cooperate in an investigation, therefore their only recourse is to punish the schools. Again, this doesn’t really prove anything because the players who commited the violations get off without any repercussions.
So is there a proper solution? Well, for one, why can’t they just punish the individual after the fact? Reggie Bush took $300,000 to house his family; make him pay it back to the NCAA as a fine. Same with Pouncey. If he took the money from an agent, make him pay it back to the NCAA. Then the NCAA can put these monies into a fund and use it to, I don’t know, feed the homeless or something. I’m sure the NCAA has various charitable organizations they donate to. Seriously, you hit these guys in the pocketbook a few times, then future athletes are going to think twice about taking the money and running. Reggie Bush doesn't give a shit about his legacy as long as he still has that money in his pocket. And if they catch the kid while he is still in college, toss him out. As far as the coaching staff, if the investigation shows that anyone was negligent to the point that they created the environment that produced the individual, kick them out of college football for good. If a coach can be fired midseason by his school for failure to perform, then surely the NCAA can justify running the coach off for failure to not be a dickhead.
The thing the NCAA needs to realize is that they’re never going to clean this stuff up. This whole thing reeks of a pissing contest - the NCAA is like the absentee dad who hits you in the face with a belt every few years just to remind you where you came from, but all the football programs really just want to hang with their BCS step-dad who may not be the best solution as a guardian, but he throws them gobs of cash to appease their doubts. College athletics are really the greatest physical proof of the theory of evolution. When the NCAA cracks down on something, the schools are able to evolve just enough to get away with it until the next purge occurs. Seriously, the NCAA firebombed the SMU Athletic Department 25 years ago for recruiting violations, and yet schools still get in trouble for the same thing. They don’t learn; they adapt. The USC example from this year is a bit more glaring considering they were viewed as a pretty untouchable program, and if the NCAA slaps a few violations on the SEC East maybe people will finally start getting the message, but I honestly don’t believe that for a second. At the start of the decade, Alabama was under very similar sanctions to USC, and they’re now the defending national champs and getting investigated once again. The fact that John Calipari still has a job should tell you that these schools have no shame. Kentucky would rather win a Basketball Championship and have it vacated than never win one at all. Winning at any cost is still winning.
I love USC getting their pants pulled down in front of the entire country; I just don't see how not allowing them to be voted in the Coaches Poll is going to deter future athletes from taking lap dances and bottle service in the club.