NCAA–College Football’s Judge & Jury

College Football has a major problem–check that.  The NCAA has a major problem.  In the wake of several big investigations, including Oregon, North Carolina, Auburn, Ohio State and USC, Yahoo! Sports’ release of their story of the Miami Hurricanes and the cash, jewelry and other debauchery funded by convicted Ponzi Scheme artist Nevin Shapiro is the most recent problem the NCAA will have to review, and ultimately, impose sanctions.

Unfortunately, it is the college programs facing the heat, when the NCAA continues to make extremely questionable decisions.  Case in point, the NCAA’s handling of Auburn and Ohio State’s programs last season, and their ultimate decision to let Heisman quarterback Cam Newton play in the final games of the 2010 season, which included the lucrative BCS title game against Oregon.

What was even more disturbing was their decision to not impose the five-game suspensions on Ohio State’s athletes until this fall, allowing the suspended OSU players to play in last year’s Sugar Bowl.  A Sugar Bowl without Ohio State stars Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, among others would have resulted in a minimally hyped bowl game with less cash to collect.  The NCAA wanted to make sure that they and the game’s sponsors got to cash their checks before they hammered OSU and their program.

Make no mistake about it.  It all has to do with money, and the NCAA hauls in more than its share–they reported budgeted revenues of $757,000,000 in 2010, the majority of that revenue coming from college football.  The BCS games and fees the NCAA collects for using their logos on many items and games, including the ever-popular NCAA Football games produced by EA Sports have generated the machine that operates the NCAA.

The NCAA allows EA Sports to use their logo and players who have the same size, skill sets and jersey numbers as the actual football players from each school that is represented in the game.

Essentially, the NCAA’s message is loud and clear:  It is against the rules and there will stiff consequences for exploiting college athletes….unless the we ( the NCAA)are the ones making the money off playing the role of pimp for the student-athletes.

The real question we should be asking is where are the checks and balances here?  Who does the NCAA have to answer to?  If it is okay for the NCAA to push nearly $1 billion for exploiting these kids, then how are they any different from the boosters, agents and runners that have created so much damage to schools like USC?

College Football is in a different place, economically and culturally, than it was when many of the NCAA rules were written and instituted, and until there is a committee or governing body reviewing what the NCAA is doing, the playing field will not be balanced, and they will continue to be judge and jury.  If the NCAA is going to deposit the checks from the juggernaut that is college football, then they should have to answer some of the questions and more importantly, they should have to recognize that they must adapt with the changes and nuances that come with a billion-dollar-plus machine.

And if the last 18 months have shown anything, it is that the current system is not working.  Unless something changes, 18-22 year old athletes will continue to drive millions and millions of dollars to their respected schools and the NCAA, but the kids will be punished for reaping a fraction of the monetary benefits they generate.

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