Posts Tagged 'ncaa'

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.


Why College SuperStars Are Bad for Their Teams and the NCAA

Why College SuperStars Are Bad for Their Teams and the NCAA–by Christian Hon/Contributor. 

What do the following players have in common?  Reggie Bush, Terelle Pryor, Mariuce Clarett, Peter WarrickMaurikce Pouncey, Cam Newton, Rhett Bomar, Lawrence Phillips and to make it interesting – O.J Mayo

Interestingly, they all have several things in common – they were all prized recruits – all, except Mayo, touched or have been within a win of the national championship trophy and all have or will leave their team in worse shape than when they arrived. 

I’m sure you expect this diatribe to steer towards the familiar road of “The Case For Paying College Players” but it won’t.  In fact, you can’t.  The nuances of college sports and what make them great is exactly what prevents you from doing so.  The fact remains however, a super star athlete, especially a superstar football player, at the college level is more often the fuse that ignites a negative PR bomb more than a “get over the hump to greatness” one.

Is USC better or worse off because of Reggie Bush? (google images)

I recently finished reading Tarnished Heisman – How Reggie Bush Turned His Last Year At USC to a Six Figure Job and got to thinking, do I really want my favorite team to get a player like that?  The quick answers is yes.  All college football fans are glued to their TV and computer for national signing day.   Short of our bowl game, it’s the biggest day of the year. 

What ranking we achieve by the recruitment review services is as much of a bragging point with our rivals as our record and/or bowl game finish.  With each star that our recruits receive, more hope springs for the following 4 years.  A thought out answer tells us a different story however. 

Are USC fans glad that Reggie Bush is considered a Trojan?  Will his number be retired?  When you thought of Auburn a year ago, what came to mind versus what you think of now? ( Crimson Tide fans please refrain from answering this one – you skew my point )  Is it coincidence that post Bush, USC have lost their dominance?  If so, what about Phillips at Nebraska?  What about Pouncey at Florida? Clarett at OSU? What about the glaring post Warrick years at FSU

Don’t get me wrong, there are several superstars that are never caught up in these media storms – Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, etc.  But if you look at the averages, you can’t deny that the greatest teams are typified by a crescendo of winning years leading to utter dominance, then severe drop off. 

It’s not because the teams can’t replace the talent, it’s because of the shock wave felt once their gone, both from a media standpoint and a game plan standpoint.  You never wondered if Bush was going to get his yards every game but when Joe McNight took over the starting RB job ( McNight was also the #1 recruit in the nation when he came out of high school)

I doubt the other team had a defense, blitz package and spy designed specifically for him from the first play of the game.  Players like these draw attention from the opposing defensive coordinator just as much as they do from ESPN‘s Game Day.  The fact is, superstars make the other players around them better just as hitters benefit from batting behind Pujols, Cris Carter benefitted from the arrival of Randy Moss and (insert Jordan / Pippen, Kobe / Shaq, Magic / Jabbar reference here)

Adding to the headaches of departed stars are the pitfalls they often fall in to while at their university.  All the aforementioned players had significant stories of misconduct to explain away, some of which added to the challenge of replacing them because of the imposed NCAA sanctions. 

Replacing a star is hard enough, replacing a controversial star is impossible.  Without Bush, USC would likely have won their national championship behind Lendale White and the stable of running backs they enjoyed.  With Bush, they lost scholarships , the best recruiter in the pacific time zone,  a Heisman Trophy, a percentage of their fans and the respect of college fans across the country.  (They got Lane Kiffin back though!)

Lastly – We all know how much the NCAA hates cheaters…once their caught.  ( Pre-conviction, the NCAA is rather fond of the revenues brought in by top-tier teams that dominate)  Their unrelenting pursuit of improper benefits is second only to John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted in regards to “hunting down the bad guys.” 

The NCAA is this strict because anything less than severe punishment of any impropriety is a swing in the direction of college football being a business ( which it is) and they can’t have that.  By trumpeting the “passion of the game” and purity of college athletics” their coffers stay full while they 18-22 year olds kill each other in the weight room and on the field for the glorious payment of free tuition, room and board and food.  And for the really good teams, there are goodie bags of portable DVD players and sweatshirts at the bowl game but you better not sell them or you’ll be expelled!

I root for my favorite college team with true passion and live and die with the scoreboard on Saturdays in the fall.  I, as much as any fan, have my favorite players on the team and they are often the players scoring the most points, making the most tackles and featured in an expose by Erin Andrews

With that said, I fear the day that my team gets a true top-level player that can change the outcome of a game by himself.  The more media attention we receive, first place recruiting votes we garner and appearances at the Heisman ceremony we have, the closer we are to the dark days of “rebuilding.”  Can you hear me post Gino Toretta Miami fans?  Ok, ok…post Charles Woodson Michigan fans…no?  Post Peyton Manning Tennessee fans?

Too Much Fiesta…Not Enough Bowl

With the news of the overspending and overindulgence of former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker, the days of being a part of the BCS could be in the past.  Officials from the Fiesta Bowl were forced to plead their case to stay in the BCS coalition, but the BCS is holding final judgement until a later date and until they uncover any more abuse of expenses.

Junker allegedly spent over $350,000 of Fiesta Bowl funds in the last ten years on campaign contributions, automobiles, a $30,000 birthday party at Pebble Beach and trips to various strip clubs, while he ran the show. 

The results of the investigation could result in the Fiesta Bowl losing its place as a BCS, but Junker’s well-documented debauchery has also led to an investigation into the other three BCS bowls–the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl.

So far, it looks like the Rose Bowl is clean, but the rumors are swirling that the Orange and Sugar Bowls aren’t exactly squeaky clean.  The NCAA and BCS will continue to dig into these allegations, but with spring football in full-swing on most college campuses and summer right around the corner, look for a decision very soon as to whether or not there will be a BCS game in Glendale, Arizona next January.

Should the Fiesta lose its standing in the BCS, several cities, including Atlanta and Dallas have the venues and resources to host a BCS game.

Do Unto Others…

Do unto others what you would have them done to you–the Golden Rule.  It has applied and held true since the beginning of time, and continues to be a part of every day life to this day.  Just ask former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

Bruce Pearl will no longer need his Tennessee Orange sport coat (google images)

Pearl was fired this week, amid an NCAA investigation that he lied and misled the NCAA.  Pearl admitted to lying to the NCAA and has been very up front with the media and fans that he was wrong and any punishment he incurs is due to his mistakes.

If you feel like Pearl got a bad wrap for this recent incident that ultimately cost him his job, think again.  While I have been (and will continue to be) critical of the NCAA and some of their rules and decisions, it could be argued that Pearl got a nice dose of karma over the last year.

To most basketball fans, Pearl is known for the charismatic coach that has a great relationship with the media and has embraced the success of legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt, even showing up at one game in body paint to cheer with the students for the Lady Vols.

A closer look at Pearl’s past, however, shows a completed different side of the former head coach.  Back in 1989, Pearl was an assistant coach at Iowa.  Pearl, known for being a great recruiter, was involved in the recruitment of blue chip recruit Deon Thomas, who was Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois.

When Pearl lost the prized recruit to rival Illinois, without Thomas’ permission or knowledge, Pearl recorded a phone conversation with Thomas that bordered on entrapment.  In the conversation, Pearl coaxed the star recruit into allegedly admitting that he was offered a Chevy Blazer if he signed to play for the Illini. 

Pearl promptly submitted the recorded conversation, along with a memo to the NCAA.  Thomas would later tell investigators that he said the things he said to get Pearl off the phone with him, and after going as far as taking a polygraph, it was determined that Thomas was telling the truth, when he told investigators that he was not offered the vehicle.

Still, the damage was done.  When the NCAA investigates nearly any major athletic program, they’re going to find something.  I mean, let’s face it–any team that is competitive at the major revenue-producing sports of football and basketball is, at the very least, pushing the envelope and testing the grey areas of the NCAA rules.  Illinois was no different.  Although the investigation into Illinois found no violations with this particular issue with Thomas, it uncovered other minor violations, and a major violation in 1990.

Fast forward twenty years.  In case you haven’t been following Pearl’s struggle with the NCAA for the last several months, we will fill you in on why he was questioned by the NCAA in the first place.  Recruiting violations.  

Do unto others….well, you know the rest, right?

Ohio State Black-eye

Jim Tressel will now miss at least five games this fall, but the NCAA may tack on more games when they complete their investigation (google images)

In the wake following the NCAA upholding the five-game suspension of several Ohio State football players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, head coach Jim Tressel promptly increased his self-imposed suspension from two games to five games–at least it’s self-imposed for now.

That could quickly change when the NCAA comes out with their final verdict.  Many fans out of Columbus are applauding Tressel’s move, citing the fact that he will not let his players take a more serious punishment than he is taking. 

Others have to wonder what else could come down.  The players, after all, are being punished for accepting money and tattoos in exchange for giving away clothing and rings that they were awarded for their achievements on the football field.  Tressel, on the other hand, misled and impeded the NCAA’s investigation into the matter.

The real question facing the NCAA is whether or not a head coach should have more responsibility and be held to a higher standard than a bunch of 18-22 year old college kids.  It should also be noted that star Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant was suspended for the rest of his junior season in 2009 for lying to the NCAA about having lunch with former NFL player Deion Sanders

If the NCAA was that harsh with a scared college kid who was afraid because his eligibility (and ultimately, his NFL draft stock) was on the line, what should they do to a grown man who is supposed to run one of the most storied college football programs in the country?

The issue isn’t whether the punishment fits the crime–it is absolutely ridiculous that Bryant lost a season because he had a lunch that the NCAA thinks he shouldn’t have.  It has more to do with the NCAA once again painting themselves into a corner.  By hammering Bryant, and suspending several college athletes for selling clothes and materials that belonged to them, giving Tressel a lesser punishment than Bryant received a couple of years ago will only add to the joke that is the NCAA.

Mustard Stain on the Sweater Vest

Just months after hammering USC for violations, the NCAA didn’t even seem to slap Ohio State on the wrist for its players’ involvement in the selling/bartering of sports memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor. 

Jim Tressel will be without a headset for the first two games of the 2011 season, and it could be more if the NCAA finds anything else (google images)

Instead of suspending the players right away, the NCAA erred on the side of caution–and TV ratings for the Sugar Bowl–and let the violations slide until the beginning of the 2011 season.  Otherwise, the 31-26 Ohio State victory over Arkansas would have likely been a much different outcome, considering quarterback Terrelle Pryor (one of the players who will miss the first five games next season) took home Sugar Bowl MVP honors after compiling 336 total yards in the game.

Today, a new development was uncovered that head coach Jim Tressel was made aware of the violations in an email last April that several of his players were selling signed memorabilia for money and free tattoos.  Upon hearing the news, Tressel did nothing, and admitted as much in a press conference where it was announced that he will be suspended for the first two games of this season for not coming forward with this information to the administration, and more importantly, to the NCAA.

Things could quickly go from bad to worse for Tressel and Ohio State for two reasons.  1)  The NCAA has already taken plenty of heat for the sanctions (or lack thereof) they issued to Ohio State during the Sugar Bowl and 2)  It turns out that the owner of the tatoo parlor, Eddie Rife, is under federal investigation for drug trafficking, which could easily open Pandora’s box on the program.

Tressel is known for his clean-cut, tie and sweater vest image, but this isn’t his program’s first clash with NCAA violations.  In his 10-year stint at Ohio State, his program produced multiple issues and violations with troubled running back Maurice Clarrett after the Buckeyes won the 2002 National Championship.

As the NCAA is forced to peel back more and more layers to what they don’t know and what they weren’t told, you can bet that college football fans (especially at USC) will be paying close attention to any further punishment that is handed down.

Key Week 1 Match Up?…not any more

Well, I was all set to provide my first game day breakdown, and the game I had selected for week one was LSU vs North Carolina.  On paper, it looked like a great match up–the preseason AP ranks UNC #18 and LSU at #21, and our College FootBlog Preseason rankings had LSU ranked #18 with UNC slightly behind at #23.

On paper, this match up looked like a great opener for the 2010 college football season–at least it did a week ago.  That was before it was announced a couple of days ago that the NCAA has expanded its investigation into North Carolina’s program.  What started as an investigation into a couple of UNC players for attending a party in Miami that was allegedly funded by a sports agent has now expanded to a full-blown academic fraud investigation.

UNC coach Butch Davis could be missing eight starters on defense when the Tar Heels open against LSU next weekend (google images)

No one knows how long the investigation will last, but we will find out next weekend which players are involved.  That’s because all of those players will be noticeably absent from the playing field.  And the impact is massive.  Without what is basically North Carolina’s defense, which ranked sixth in total defense last season, the game on paper has gone from being a great opening day match up to a preseason scrimmage for LSU, so much so that Vegas pulled the game completely from the lines yesterday.

Even with what seems to be an imminent beat-down for the Tar Heels on Saturday, a week one loss only scratches the surface of what Coach Davis and UNC fans should be worried about.  If this scandal reaches as far as it appears and affects as many players as it is being reported, this scandal could set the North Carolina program back 3-4 years.

When the NCAA dropped the hammer on USC a few months ago, cutting several scholarships and banning the Trojans from post season play for two years, they established a much more stringent and unforgiving stance on major violations.  Because the NCAA unleashed these heavy sanctions on Southern Cal just months ago, they will have to be just as stern going forward, and they will have to be even more so, given the short time since the USC sanctions were announced.

In three short years, Coach Davis has taken his team from a middle of the pack ACC team to a preseason top 25 team.  Unfortunately for him and UNC, his program could easily drop back to (or beyond) obscurity in less time that it took him to build.  Only time will tell, but we know this much–this Saturday could mark the last time North Carolina will be ranking in the Top 25 in college football for a long, long time.