College Football = Cheating

Posted: June 8, 2011 in BCS, NCAA, sports
Tags: , , , ,

Imagine being in any business and discovering a competitor has been cheating.

A contractor has been stealing jobs from you because he was handing out bribes. A stock trader has been taking your clients because she has been using insider trading. A plumber has been beating your price because he is using nonstandard parts. A retailer is killing your business because he is selling fake name products.

Wouldn’t you turn in the cheater?

Would you, after the cheater has been caught, publicly praise the cheater’s character and hope he gets a chance to redeem himself?

Imagine an outpouring of sympathy for Bernie Madoff from the world of financial advisers.

“Bernie’s really a great guy who’s done a lot of good. He just got caught up in trying to help people and he made a few mistakes.”

Where am I going with this? To be specific, I’m talking about Ohio State’s recently fired football coach Jim Tressel. (Yes, I know he technically resigned, but if you believe he wasn’t booted out the door then I’d like to interest you in a land deal east of Jax Beach.) In a broader sense, I’m talking about the business of big-time college sports.

Rare is the college coach who’ll turn in another coach for cheating. We’ve somehow labeled doing that as being a rat, a snitch. And when a coach such as Tressel is caught for cheating and lying – not a one-time thing, mind you, but for an extended amount of time and on many occasions – his colleagues practically line up to offer condolence.

Alabama’s Nick Saban couldn’t say enough nice things about Tressel. Ditto for ex-Florida coach Urban Meyer. The list goes on.

Listen, I understand part of the reason is these coaches want to sound classy. They don’t want to throw more gas on a burning man.

But, unfortunately, there’s another reason. A bigger, less classy reason. They live in fear one day they’ll live in Tressel’s shoes. There’s reason to believe all college coaches bend the rules and most break them. The difference is they haven’t been caught.

Many who defend these coaches, including fans and media types, like to point the finger of blame at the NCAA. It is true that you’d need a wing of the Harvard Law School to house the volumes of NCAA rule books; and a stadium full of lawyers to interpret the rules; and a wing of the FBI to adequately investigate the suspected violators.

But who is responsible for that? The NCAA, which is nothing more than an organization made up of its member schools, keeps adding rules because the coaches keep finding loopholes in them.

No one in his right mind can seriously object to a coach or school representative buying a prospect a hamburger. But what about 10 hamburgers? How about hamburgers for his entire family for life? Okay, instead of a hamburger how about a filet mignon? Or a dozen Maine lobsters?

No one really objects to giving an athlete a ride across campus on a rainy day. But what about a free flight to Miami or Las Vegas? Or how about the use of a car for the day? Or for the month? What the hell, just give the athlete the car.

Getting the picture?

There are a thousand angles to this story. Yes, big-time college sports have become big business and have made a sham of the word amateur. It is broken beyond repair. I can live with that. This ain’t your daddy’s college game. Yes, the athletes are getting ripped off to a degree.

But this story is about the men hired to recruit and coach the athletes; the men who insist their athletes follow the rules they lay down. They demand the athletes follow their rules or it’s off to the bench or worse.

This story is about the men who run the schools and publicly talk about education and graduation being the No. 1 priority for the student-athletes and the men who coach them. Right. Trust me on this: graduating all of your players and having a losing record gets coaches fired; graduating some players and winning championships get coaches rich contract extensions.

Privately, coaches say they fudge on the rules because the competition is breaking them. I sympathize with those coaches. My advice to them is simple: Don’t get caught.

Maybe if coaches policed themselves we’d put a stop to this madness. Maybe if a coach who cheats was shamed by his colleagues and booted out of the business the madness would slow down.

Don’t hold your breath. The Madoff Rule doesn’t apply in the business of big-time college sports.

 

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