Miami scandal exposes the NCAA as much as the ‘Canes

Photo montage from Yahoo! Sports

The time has come for serious reform in big-time college football.

As a matter of fact, the time came and went in 1985 in Dallas, Texas. The time came again in 1989 in Norman, Okla. And again in 2004 in Boulder, Colo., again in Los Angeles a year later, again in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Columbus, Ohio over the last year. (And this doesn’t even consider the Dexter Manleys, the Tony Mandariches, the recruiting hostesses, etc.)

But here we stand in mid-2011, a month before college the college football kicks off, analyzing what may be the farthest-reaching, the ugliestcollege football scandal to date in Miami.

And the NCAA continues to lay down sacrifice bunts despite being behind by five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The worst part? We insatiable fans continue to give those bunts standing ovations.

The time has come for serious reform in big-time college football.

A Facebook friend and long-time family acquaintance wrote on a message board today that this latest scandal out of the University of Miami wrote that it makes the Ohio State scandal look like “a spit ball fight in the study hall.”

I wholeheartedly disagree. To me, it looks like just another piece in a puzzle that reveals big-time college football to be a complete racket.

Make no mistake, college football is a racket.  The owners (Boards of Trustees, university presidents) use cheap labor to rake in money to be viable in the athletic arms race. The owners use public funds (tax and tuition dollars) to hire — and fire — coaches at grossly large salaries to exploit this cheap labor often at the cost of that promised free education.

Each piece of this puzzle is as critical as the next. Without one piece, the picture is incomplete. And it is time for American football fans to deal with this ugly picture in its entirety.

Why? Because as a critical thinker, I see memorabilia for tattoos, then am shown association for money for Mom and help with the car payment. I see recruiting hostesses, then see prostitutes. I see VIP club passes, booze, and then I see drugs. I see steroids, I see violence against women, I see academic cheating, I see illiteracy …

And, why not? The athletes’ sense of entitlement is partially a result of the trickle-down effect.

Watch how coaches act with the media. Watch who coaches and athletic directors schmooze with. Watch how “good men,” like Jim Tressel and Tyrone Willingham, compromise their principles — and I truly believe that, at one point, those guys did hold their principles first and foremost. But the pressure of their own egos, of their love for competition coupled with obscene salaries and unrealistic fan expectations force those principles to the back burner.

There is a lot at play here, but the problems start with fan expectations and they are compounded by greed, by racism, by exploitation, and by a series of damaging myths.

The myth of amateurism is a fan-produced fallacy all in the name of spectacle and greed. The myth that big-time college football coaches care about their players as humans is another. The myths of compliance, of fairness, of “student-athlete”… they are all myths.

The time has come for serious reform in big-time college football.

NCAA president Mark Emmert is correct that the rulebook needs to be overhauled. But that is yet another bunt. Other bunts might include another look at the composition of the Committee of Infractions, of campus-to-campus compliance, of opening the entire process to the media and public, of a dialed-down recruiting process and more.

But still, to squelch the myths, we need extra-base hits. We need to read Rick Telander’s ” The Hundred Yard Lie” and take heed.

Step 1 must be the inclusion of the National Football League. This billion-dollar conglomerate contributes zero dollars to its sole feeder program. No more. So, we start there.

Then, with the NFL’s subsidies — and dare I suggest the financial commitment of ESPN and TV networks –, we distinguish the haves from the have-nots. Non-BCS programs go the way of a Division III-type entity. For the haves, or the BCS programs, we  pay the players. We separate the football programs, but not the facilities, from the universities. We make the education a benefit to the players, not a mandatory commitment.

The racket has been thoroughly exposed.

How many times must we let the opportunity for serious reform in big-time college football come and go?

 

 

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