With the announcement that Maryland and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten, we have yet another example of how tradition and the needs of student athletes no longer matter at all in big time college sports. It’s all about money. In this case, it was all about the Big Ten Network and gaining exposure to large TV markets on the East Coast.
On one level the entire situation is pathetic. Does a weakened Big Ten football conference really need to add a weak Maryland program or a Rutgers program that will struggle to stay competitive in the Big Ten? Adding Nebraska made sense from a football standpoint. But this is all about money and markets. I guess once we all acknowledge that it’s a little easier to accept. There’s an arms race going on and the Big Ten sees these dollars as adding to their muscle for the long term.
Meanwhile we have more stories of academic fraud at North Carolina. Read this article and it will make you sick, especially when you consider that UNC hoops is the darling of the NCAA and the national media. Will the NCAA be just as hard on this basketball program? Will it dare vacate a National Championship for the NCAA Tournament that the NCAA controls? How much has money corrupted the holier-than-thou NCAA? With a whistle blower coming forward at North Carolina the NCAA may be forced to address one of its sacred cows.
If Ohio State, Penn State and USC can get crushed by the NCAA for football violations, then North Carolina should get punished for basketball violations and academic fraud.
But frankly the whole system of punishment sucks. Ohio State had a minor scandal over players getting tattoos, and now they might be shut out of a national championship game against Notre Dame. Maybe the NCAA doesn’t care as the BCS controls football championships, but a matchup between Ohio State and Notre Dame in the National Championship could have been the most watched college football game ever give the huge followings from both schools.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is strong-arming former Miami football players in their investigation of a rogue booster there. What’s worse – some Miami kids getting free steaks and yacht trips or “student-athletes” at North Carolina taking no-show classes where a student adviser wrote their papers?
Finally, ESPN has won the rights to televise the new college football playoff for 12 years for a reported fee of $470 million per year. Does anyone expect things to get better? At least the BCS will get better as we can have four teams fighting it out instead of only two. Hopefully it will expand to eight teams at some point. But the dollars keep getting bigger for what’s supposed to be amateur sports.
Now that the media has fed on the Penn State scandal for the past year after building up Joe Paterno as a saint on the sidelines for the past 40 years, some are naturally moving on to other subjects to deify.
With Alabama coming off of two National Championships in the past three years, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Nick Saban is the next coach to get glowing coverage from many in the media. Rachel Bachman and Ben Cohen have just written a profile of Saban in the Wall Street Journal where they take great pains to explain Saban’s greatness. Here’s an example of some of the gushing “analysis.”
The stunning volume of victories and championships and NFL draft picks has Alabama redefining college-football success as we know it. How, exactly, does the Tide do it?
Really? Redefining success? This sort of dominance over several years hasn’t been seen before in college football? Didn’t Alabama lose a game last season?
The writers go on to explain Saban meticulous attention to detail in the recruiting process, and I guess there’s some insightful reporting into Saban’s methods. But is there anything really new here? Saban is at one of the top football factories in the country and he’s grabbing the best recruits. It’s no different than what other successful coaches have done, and probably less impressive than what Urban Meyer achieved several years earlier at a school that doesn’t have Alabama’s tradition.
More notable, however, is that they also don’t dig into some of the less noble tactics used by Saban and others in the SEC like oversigning which is mentioned in passing near the end of the article after they’ve nestled Saban comfortably on his pedestal.
Here’s another nugget from the article.
“He’s incredibly honest in the recruiting process,” said former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, the starter on the 2009 national-title team who now plays for the New York Jets. “He tells kids, ‘Hey, you’re going to come in and redshirt. Look, you’re going to do this. You’re going to do that.’ He tells them exactly what he thinks. I think a lot of people respect that because so much of the recruiting process is an unknown.”
Wow. Saban sounds great. I guess it’s nice to hear this from Saban’s starting quarterback, but wouldn’t we learn a little more about what really goes on in college recruiting and at Alabama in particular by talking to some of the kids who lost their scholarship after one year because they weren’t quite as “special” as Saban thought when he recruited them? Of course we would, but that wouldn’t fit the happy storyline being promoted here. This isn’t about reporting; it’s PR fluff.
If the writers or the Wall Street Journal wanted to do some reporting, they might have considered looking into the random nature of NCAA enforcement and sanctions, and how many schools are learning to dodge the NCAA by just refusing to self-report problems. That’s why a tattoos for memorabilia scandal brings down a coach at Ohio State, while an alleged suits for memorabilia scheme reported in detail by SPORTSbyBROOKS gets ignored by the national media, Alabama and the NCAA. If a story doesn’t make it to ESPN or SI, it just didn’t happen. Right? Perhaps if publications like the Wall Street Journal would do some real investigating relating to this topic, they might have a real story about Alabama, or on the other hand they could say with confidence that Alabama student-athletes were avoiding the pitfalls encountered by players at Ohio State and North Carolina.
Some might argue that this was a simple football story, and there’s no need to bring in the ugly side of college football every time we discuss a top program. I get that, and it’s a fair point. Sometimes we all just want to enjoy the games. But when we get a profile exalting the recruiting “genius” of millionaire coaches like Saban, it’s journalistic malpractice to settle for token mentions of issues like oversigning and ignore well-documented allegations of misconduct.
Rick Reilly recently wrote a column where he admitted to “engaging in hagiography” as one of the many journalists who turned Joe Paterno into a saint. Of course Reilly had no idea of how that image would ultimately be destroyed, but he regretted focusing only on the positive spin surrounding Paterno’s success. A professor had called him and warned him that Paterno wasn’t a saint as everyone assumed, so there was a real story there had Reilly decided to actually do his job. Just like there’s a real story around all of today’s best coaches as well. Some are better than others, and many of them try to run clean programs. But it’s hard to take profiles like this one about Saban at face value if the issues bubbling under the surface are ignored.
TCU Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson (C) celebrates defeating the Wisconsin Badgers at the end of the 97th Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California January 1, 2011. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
According to several published reports, four football players were among 17 TCU students arrested on drug charges Wednesday. An arrest warrant for one of the players also alleges that at least three players were dealing drugs.
Three of the four players arrested were from Gary Patterson’s defense, including junior linebacker Tanner Brock, junior safety Devin Johnson, and junior defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey. Sophomore tackle Tyler Horn was the lone offensive player.
Brock entered the 2011 season as a starter and was regarded as one of the team’s best defenders after leading the Horned Frogs in tackles with 106 in 2010. But the former All-Mountain West player hurt his ankle in September and missed the rest of the season.
The investigation continued for several months, and on Jan. 18, the officer asked to purchase a half-ounce of marijuana from Yendrey. The warrant states that Yendrey said he was out, but a friend could get the drugs. The officer then was able to buy marijuana from a man who turned out to be Brock.
The officer allegedly again bought marijuana from Brock a few days later. On Feb. 1, the officer was alerted by the TCU police force that the football team was surprised with a drug test. The officer contacted Brock and spoke about the test on the phone.
The officer went to Brock’s residence and bought $220 worth of marijuana, according to the warrant. The officer told Brock that the drug test was “bull—-,” and Brock responded, “I failed that b—- for sure.”
According to the warrant, Brock said that he wasn’t worried because there “would be about 60 people being screwed.” Brock is alleged to have said that he and Horn had looked over the TCU roster and concluded that only about 20 players could pass the test.
The officer then asked Brock if he could get him any Xanax or hydrocodone pills. According to the warrant, Brock said he knew a girl who could get them and that he used to buy pills from two other football players, but they had graduated.
Per the report, TCU released a statement late Wednesday afternoon that said the school tests its athletes for drug use “on a regular basis.” Thus, it’s unclear at this point whether or not Brock embellished the number of players that would have been able to pass the drug test.
Either way, TCU has become the latest college football program to come under major scrutiny.
Penn State University head coach Joe Paterno looks toward the scoreboard during his team’s game against the University of Illinois in their NCAA football game in Champaign, Illinois October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)
Technically I went 2-2 last Saturday but I did produce this gem, which was worth another win in my eyes:
My 2-2 effort last week puts me at 21-13-2 ATS for the season. Again, chances are two of these four picks will be winners while two will be losers. Soooo, have fun with that.
My two winners? Iowa (+4) and UCLA (+8.5). My two losers? Alabama (-4.5) and Texas A&M (+14).
My latest .500 week puts me at 23-15-2 on the season and once again, if you can figure out which two picks will hit and which two won’t, you’ll have a 4-0 Saturday. It’s like a game. A twisted, nauseating game.
Nebraska @ Penn State, 12:00PM ET
One of two things are going to happen this week at University Park. Either Penn State is going to play the most inspired football of the season or the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno fiasco is going to bury them. I’m banking on the latter, which is why I’m riding the brutal-against-the-spread Huskers this week. Nebraska will be fired up and while Penn State may show plenty of emotion at the start, I think they’ll run out of steam eventually. THE PICK: NEBRASKA –3.5
Michigan @ Illinois, 3:30PM ET
I’m going right back to the well in picking against Michigan. Outside of trouncing Northwestern, the Wolverines have played poorly in two of their three road games this season. While Illinois is going backwards, this is a good opportunity for the Illini to snap their current three-game losing streak. They also seem to play Michigan tough, which is supported by their 4-1 record against the spread in the last five games these two teams have met. THE PICK: ILLINOIS –1
Louisiana Tech @ Ole Miss, 7:30PM ET
I’m choking on chalk this week but I really love this matchup. Some bettors will look at this game and all they’ll see is the WAC vs. the SEC, and the fact that Ole Miss is getting points at home. But in some respects, this is the Bulldogs’ season. They take down a SEC opponent on the road and regardless of whether or not they catch Nevada, their season will be a success. As for the Rebels, will their hearts even be in this one? They’ve been terrible all year and now they have a non-conference game that means absolutely nothing to them. Even though LA Tech is favored, I like the Dogs in an “upset.” THE PICK: LOUISIANA TECH –2
Hawaii @ Nevada, 10:15PM ET
I’m choking on chalk this week. Hawaii has had issues coming to the mainland, as evidence of its embarrassing 40-20 loss to UNLV in Week 3. UNLV is one of the worst teams in college football this season and it steamrolled a Warrior team that was a 17-point favorite. Nevada is 4-1 against the spread in its last five home games against Hawaii and the home squad is 8-2 ATS in the last 10 meetings between these two teams. I hate that the line is a full point and a half above the key number of 14 but I like the Wolf Pack anyway. THE PICK: NEVADA -15
Auburn University quarterback Clint Moseley (15) is sacked Louisiana State University saftey Derrick Bryant (36) by during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana October 22, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
The NCAA is weighing a $2,000 increase in the amount universities can give to college athletes for their scholarships. The idea is to help cover the “full cost” of attending college.
Will this solve all the problems? Of course not. The NCAA brain trust needs to rethink all of their idiotic rules, and they also need to consider letting these athletes earn money from their celebrity status. Maybe we need to redefine what it means to be an amateur athlete in the 21st century.
That said, this should help a little. Giving these kids some spending money should lessen the incentive to accept benefits from boosters.