As you’re reading this, I’m prepping for the drive from Los Angeles to the Bay Area with the Mrs. for Saturday’s game. Given that we got engaged on the Marin Headlands, this song by one of her favorite performers is the obvious choice for this week’s soundtrack. Gonna’ warn you, though… this week’s reflection is… uh… verbose.
This Week In NCAA Shenanigans
In case you missed it, there were a couple of “major” college football stories that broke this week.
First up, Sports Illustrated’s take-down of Oklahoma State, which has been broken into a five part series for your
pageviews enjoyment. Led by world renowned raffle-justice-seeker George Dohrmann, the article is co-authored by Thayer Evans, a media member that Cowboy fans would say compares most closely with Mark May in his ability to be unbiased.
Oh, and Michigan Man Les Miles is prominently featured. Wheee.
Here are links to the stories as we have them, as well as a TL;DR summary
As should be expected, the response has been quick from former players and the University, as well as other members of the national media. One “counter point” that I’ve come to appreciate is the “Pistols Firing” blog, who not only does a good job at presenting the other sides of these allegations but also processing his own thoughts on the matter. I appreciate his ability to not only blast holes in the story but also acknowledge that there are more than likely some truths in the reports- something that I hope we also were able to do during the Tatoo-gate situation a few years ago. As a former student athlete at OkSU, he wants things fixed but the right things and not just something that people are pulling out of thin air.
A lot of speculation about NCAA responses to this story were flooding the interwebs on Monday and today, in spite of the fact that much of it occurred beyond the “statute of limitations” that the Association holds to. Personally, I think they’ve already shown us their response- They didn’t care about South Carolina or Oregon’s “Money” situation, they didn’t even respond to North Carolina’s “Academics” issue, and have been dragging their feet about Miami’s “Drugs and Sex” issues. The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.
That being said, as I read the first two parts, a few things stood out to me.
And this latter point was really brought home late Wednesday when the second “scandal du jour” popped up: Allegations that NFL agents funneled money to players at Tennessee, Mississippi State, and two time champion Alabama. The difference between these two accounts? While SI was playing Encyclopedia Brown in Stillwater, Yahoo! sent Sherlock Holmes (aka Charles Robinson) in to look at the SEC allegations. And, as you have come to expect from Robinson/Yahoo!, there’s proof in the form of phone records, travel documents, and Wells Fargo paper trails with players names on them.
Coach Saban was asked about the situation in Wednesday’s presser, and responded exactly the way that you thought he would.
I’ll let you read through the report, but as you do so you should keep this in mind: Tennessee and Mississippi State are both currently on NCAA probation, and the violations would fall within the window that would categorize Alabama a “repeat offender”. The Tide tends to be on probation about every seven years; this time they just may be ahead of schedule… and if so, it’s possible that the last two national titles would be “vacated”. As if the Notre Dame fans at your office weren’t insufferable enough.
Commentary: Blame Game
It’s been interesting watching the response to these stories as they’ve broken. EDSBS had a great article on Monday asking what the point of the Sports Illustrated report was- are they interested in bringing the Cowboys to justice, tearing down the corrupt NCAA situation, or just getting page views and revenue?
Lost Letterman fell a bit more firmly on the latter option, stating that the OkSU story was an effort by a dying outlet to maintain relevancy.
SBNation’s Jason Kirk posits that the Sports Illustrated story helps us understand how broken the NCAA is, where schools spend millions to ensure kids don’t get an improper dime.
Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel echoes this in his commentary on Robinson’s work, and points out that DJ Fluker (the Alabama start named as receiving improper payments) came from an impoverished background; implying that he certainly could have been excused for seeking financial assistance. Yup, he’s just another victim.
Coupled with the defense of Johnny Manziel’s financial opportunities, it’s easy to see that the tide has turned in the ways that these types of stories are covered. With this latest trend of attacking the idea of “Amateurism” and the NCAA’s seeming disconnect and hypocrisy, my only question is as follows:
What The Hell Took You All So Long?
Look, this goes beyond Ohio State’s problems in 2010-11. Our friend ParagonSC and others in the Southern Cal beat were pointing out the NCAA inconsistencies during the Bush Era (not that one), and we built on their ideas to help point out the problems with both the “system” and it’s guardian as the walls were falling down in Columbus.
But the things we were saying then- that the NCAA is inconsistent, that the game has moved beyond it’s ability to control, that “amateurism” is a lie given the amount of money involved and the processes that universities invest in to ensure that it stays in the right pockets- all of these things are as true now as they were then, it’s just taken a while for the folks in the mainstream to get their heads out of their boardrooms and realize it.
You’d think that we’d feel somewhat vindicated; the work that Eric put into this article is evidence enough that there’s something amiss, if only someone had chosen to look at it. Heck, I’ve spent the better part of the summer in this space trying to point out that the disconnect between “college” and “athletics” is just a shade larger than the Grand Canyon.
Instead, though, I feel as if the money again becomes the driving issue- instead of for the institutions or the players, this time for the “media outlets” involved. The articles linked above point this out clearly… the desire to investigate and bring this issue to the fore is totally due to Sports Illustrated and Yahoo! and others realization that this story will be what helps them create revenue.
Again, it’s not because of “what’s right”, it’s due to “what’s best for the bottom line”.
Which is why this is so frustrating for me- we are where we are in college sports because there’s been a lack of accountability, and part of this is due to the “third estate” being unwilling or uninterested in maintaining that role. Compare the Oklahoma State and Ohio State scandals- OkSU has local media coming to the defense of the program; at Ohio State, the local media acted as if there was blood in the water.
If that level of criticism had existed across the board, rather than merely an investment in copious amounts of cash, there may not be a “system”, or at least not a broken one.
Around The NCAA
Sorry folks, the Oscar Race is over: