Silver Bullet Points Breaks Wind

Written September 14th, 2011 by MaliBuckeye

Your weekly update from the Ohio State press conference as well as notes from around the world of college sports- this week, we take a pointed look at the NCAA after the jump.

Usually we reserve soundtracks for TWTW, but someone emailed me a song today that I thought I’d share. They described it as “a warning to South Beach re: Mr. John Simon“… enjoy.

Creating its own hurricane…

Buckeye News

  • Injury Updates- At the presser today, Coach Fickell mentioned that one of the reasons Braxton didn’t play on Saturday was that his prep was impacted somewhat by being dinged up last week. Today, though, several Buckeyes reported that Brax seemed healthy and ready to go.  They also reported that Nathan Williams practiced healthy, so it would be difficult to imagine him missing out on Saturday.  Jamaal Berry is back on the kick off return team, which must mean that his hammy is better.  At this point, though, there’s no word on how “Philly” is after leaving the game with a leg injury- although Coach Fickell said that he “didn’t look good”.
  • Captain, My Captain- Only two captains this week; Florida native Mike Brewster and sixth hear senior Tyler Moeller will serve as game day leaders.
  • Getting Personnel- Obviously the story of the day is that the Charity Cases are going to be available for this week’s match up, but lost in the shuffle is the news that Corey Linsley will return from a two game suspension for a violation of team rules.  This provides important depth for a thin area- the offensive line- and will give another body to potentially be the “next man up”.
  • “Mumbo Jumbo”- In addressing the “headset-gate” scandal regarding Braxton’s engagement into the offensive gameplan and overall development, Coach Fickell talked about working to make sure that he could focus on the field and not on the chatter that was happening between the box and the sidelines-

You know, to me, I think it’s important for Braxton to grow. He’s continuing we want him to be visual inches anything on the sideline. To me, that’s how most of those guys learn, the more you can stress them to be a visual learner. That’s what I think they are used to. We are really trying to push them along visually to see what we want them to see, as opposed to just listening here and sometimes when you listen here, you know what’s going to happen, so you stop paying attention at times and really processing it in your head.

  • Isn’t that Special- Being fully aware that the kicking game was a nightmare in last year’s matchup, Coach Fickell talked about how it would be a focus for this week’s prep work, including his hopes for Drew Basil’s FG woes.  He said that Drew has been “handling it the right way”, though, so there was no significant concerns regarding long term effects.
  • Speed? Yup. Size? Yup. One of the things that Miami is bringing that the Buckeyes have not faced at this juncture will be the size of their offensive line, which Coach Fickell said was a difference maker in last year’s game. Missing LT Seantrel Henderson, the Hurricanes are still more than capable, though, of creating chaos on the ground and providing quarterback Jacory Harris all the time he needs to make decisions.

Public Enemy Number One... for this week

College Football News

  • You Can Talk Until You’re Blue In the Face- about Ohio State’s soft schedule, Brian Kelly, but when you then go on to schedule Akron we know that you’re really trying to do whatever you can to save your job.  Here’s a helpful hint- teach your DB’s to turn to the ball when the receiver does. If you need a clinic on how to do that- watch DB-U on the last Saturday of November when they play the team that Notre Ame hasn’t beaten in three straight attempts.
  • South Idaho State University- Well, the jury has reached a verdict, and the Blue Broncos athletic department was handed their sentence today from the NCAA Committee On Infractions, which included three years of probation for their football program and a loss of three scholarships over that time (incorrectly identified as three over three years = 9, but it really means that BSU will be at 82 for the coming three seasons). This is fewer than the institution recommended, but still comes at a cost.  Interestingly enough, the COI’s report referred to several previous cases and precedents, which I thought the NCAA didn’t use (taking each case on its own merits)- ht Conquest Chronicles

NCAA And Money

Today was an interesting day for me, beginning with the “Nike Announcement” and ending with the NCAA’s decision on the “Charity Cases”.  Both impacted Buckeye fans, but for me there was another thread that I couldn’t help but notice… I was reading about all of these things at the same time that I was hitting “refresh” on my favorite source of Conference Expansion news and also reviewing this amazing article in the Atlantic about the current state of affairs in College Sports.

There aren’t many “damn, I wish I’d written that” moments in my life, but reviewing this was definately one of them; it covers the history of the NCAA, the constant struggle against commercialism, wrestling with the academic mission fit in college sports, and the copious amounts of cash that have been a part of the landscape ever since Harvard alumni built a stadium for the Crimson without using any University funding.  While I feel pretty strongly that the NCAA is in need of overhauling and significant reform, it’s also my opinion that they’ve been destined for failure from the beginning- trying to fight a flood with a slotted spoon, as it were.

While I think the entire thing is worthy of a read, I want to use some of author Taylor Branch’s work to frame the rest of today’s updates.

Onward-

In 1991, the first Knight Commission report, “Keeping Faith With the Student Athlete,” was published; the commission’s “bedrock conviction” was that university presidents must seize control of the NCAA from athletic directors in order to restore the preeminence of academic values over athletic or commercial ones.

  • Uniformity? Today’s announcement that this year’s Nike branding for the Buckeyes will be, in part, to honor the 1961 National Championship team was intriguing, for a couple of reasons. First, this undefeated team was denied an opportunity to play in Pasadena due to the University’s concern that they were becoming a “football school” and were losing their academic focus.  And we honor them by commercializing student athletes in order to help make money for the program an it’s sponsors.  Another aspect of this that is curious is that few recognize the ’61 team as “National Champs”, deferring to Alabama for that honor based on the UPI/AP Polls.  However, any Tide supporter should be able to tell you that agreement on national titles is often optional.

By 2010, as the size of NCAA headquarters increased yet again with a 130,000-square-foot expansion, a third Knight Commission was groping blindly for a hold on independent college-athletic conferences that were behaving more like sovereign pro leagues than confederations of universities.

….

The greatest threat to the viability of the NCAA may come from its member universities. Many experts believe that the churning instability within college football will drive the next major change. President Obama himself has endorsed the drumbeat cry for a national playoff in college football. This past spring, the Justice Department questioned the BCS about its adherence to antitrust standards. Jim Delany, the commissioner of the Big Ten, has estimated that a national playoff system could produce three or four times as much money as the existing bowl system does. If a significant band of football schools were to demonstrate that they could orchestrate a true national playoff, without the NCAA’s assistance, the association would be terrified—and with good reason. Because if the big sports colleges don’t need the NCAA to administer a national playoff in football, then they don’t need it to do so in basketball. In which case, they could cut out the middleman in March Madness and run the tournament themselves. Which would deprive the NCAA of close to $1 billion a year, more than 95 percent of its revenue.

The late Myles Brand, who led the NCAA from 2003 to 2009, defended the economics of college sports by claiming that they were simply the result of a smoothly functioning free market. He and his colleagues deflected criticism about the money saturating big-time college sports by focusing attention on scapegoats; in 2010, outrage targeted sports agents. Last year Sports Illustrated published “Confessions of an Agent,” a firsthand account of dealing with high-strung future pros whom the agent and his peers courted with flattery, cash, and tawdry favors. Nick Saban, Alabama’s head football coach, mobilized his peers to denounce agents as a public scourge. “I hate to say this,” he said, “but how are they any better than a pimp? I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None.”

Saban’s raw condescension contrasts sharply with the lonely penitence from Dale Brown, the retired longtime basketball coach at LSU. “Look at the money we make off predominantly poor black kids,” Brown once reflected. “We’re the whoremasters.”

  • Show Me The Money, If by “Me” You Mean “Not Athletes”- The news this week was about research that looked at the value and worth of college athletes to their institution’s athletic departments, particularly at large level institutions. At Texas, a football player was estimated to be worth $513k and Duke’s hoops players come in at about $1 million, with the average for each sport being $121k and $261k respectively. Granted, some of the figures may be a bit off, and certainly only apply at those institutions which manage to balance their athletic budget or build a surplus, but the point remains- athletes are valuable… and what value do they receive in kind?

This danger helps explain why the NCAA steps gingerly in enforcements against powerful colleges. To alienate member colleges would be to jeopardize its own existence. Long gone are television bans and the “death penalty” sentences (commanding season-long shutdowns of offending teams) once meted out to Kentucky (1952), Southwestern Louisiana (1973), and Southern Methodist University (1987). Institutions receive mostly symbolic slaps nowadays. Real punishments fall heavily on players and on scapegoats like literacy tutors.

A deeper reason explains why, in its predicament, the NCAA has no recourse to any principle or law that can justify amateurism. There is no such thing. Scholars and sportswriters yearn for grand juries to ferret out every forbidden bauble that reaches a college athlete, but the NCAA’s ersatz courts can only masquerade as public authority. How could any statute impose amateur status on college athletes, or on anyone else? No legal definition of amateur exists, and any attempt to create one in enforceable law would expose its repulsive and unconstitutional nature—a bill of attainder, stripping from college athletes the rights of American citizenship.

  • Another great article this week from the Columbia Journalism Review wonders if we’re asking the right questions when we look at college athletics.  Instead of wondering if the guidelines and bilaws are working and are being instructed and complied with while at the same time existing as a media entity that looks to break the latest story, shouldn’t journalists be asking more formative questions about the purpose of the NCAA and the system itself.  If there are this many problems keeping the rules, is it the rules that are broken or the inherent machine that created them? It looks closely at the Ohio State investigation and George Dohrmann’s coverage of it, but also acknowledges that the media’s coverage has created a climate where Sports By Brooks, Busted Coverage, and others can seek, in part to be the TMZ of sports now that-

a once sober journalistic enterprise has in many ways become a source of entertainment, parceling the failings of intercollegiate athletics into the simple, binary terms sports fans can appreciate: winners and losers, sinners and saints.

Something Completely Different

The best way I can think of to re-configure my faith in college athletics is to remember the young adults whose lives are being changed by these opportunities.  With that, here’s the latest tune from Buckeye Evan Blankenship (nice shirt):

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