Congratulations to the people who are running college football these days. Just when you think they couldn't have a bigger mess on their hands, something else surfaces.
It's the kind of mess you wouldn't wish on anyone — unless that someone was the NCAA or the BCS. It's exactly what you hoped would happen to them, and it's exactly what they deserve.
A system of elitism is blowing up in their faces, which is what needs to happen to disrupt the status quo and foment the kind of change that would bring equity to the game. The more trouble the better, and trouble has come calling with regularity lately to the extent that you must wonder if the trouble is deeper and more systemic than a few errant coaches, players and schools. The whole thing is rotten.
Let's review the recent damage to the game so far:
Football powerhouse Ohio State is under NCAA investigation since learning last December that five players had been trading memorabilia for cash or services (tattoos, for instance). This week it was learned that the investigation will extend as far back as 2002 and will involve dozens of players. Stay tuned for more severe NCAA sanctions that could cripple the program for years.
Ohio State's prim and proper Jim Tressel, one of college football's most respected coaches, resigned this week after it was discovered that he had lied about having any knowledge of the players' indiscretions.
Another powerhouse school is already being penalized. The NCAA recently denied an appeal by USC of heavy NCAA sanctions brought against the school last summer for illegal payments made to star running back Reggie Bush in 2004. They are some of the most severe ever brought against an institution, including forfeiture of 14 wins and a loss of 30 scholarships over three years.
The NCAA is still trying to decide whether to vacate USC's 2004 national championship (and, thus, the game reaches rock bottom — NOBODY wins the national title).
Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush returned his trophy last fall — a first in the 75-year history of the award — after it was revealed that he and his family had received lavish gifts during his playing days at USC.
Cam Newton, Auburn's best player last season, was under NCAA investigation last season, but was allowed to win the Heisman Trophy and go playing in (and win) the national championship because it determined he knew nothing about his father's attempt to get cash for his son's services.
The Justice Department recently asked the NCAA why there isn't a playoff system for football (the NCAA's reply: Don't ask us, silly; talk to the BCS, which high-jacked the game via a group of greedy school presidents). This could be the first step in a full-scale investigation.
The Fiesta Bowl fired executive director John Junker last month after an investigation discovered the bowl was paying for strip club visits, lavish parties, exorbitant salaries, gifts, junkets and donations to politicians. The BCS fined the bowl $1 million and called it good. Meanwhile, it was reported that the Orange and Sugar bowls are doing much the same thing as the Fiesta Bowl. The bowls are living it up while players are being suspended for trading trophies for tattoos.
When it was discovered last December that five Ohio State players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, had been trading memorabilia for cash or services, the hard-line NCAA suddenly softened. Instead of suspending the players immediately, the NCAA allowed them to play in the Sugar Bowl and delay their suspension until next season. It was just a little too convenient, and later it was learned that Sugar Bowl director Paul Hoolahan urged Ohio State to lobby the NCAA to allow the players to play in the bowl. As Hoolahan explained it, "I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year's game, we would greatly appreciate it," Hoolahan said. "That appeal did not fall on deaf ears."
Great. Preserve the integrity of a game, but not The Game. Ohio State won the game; now there is speculation that the school will be asked to return the Sugar Bowl trophy.
College football. Why would anyone think the game needs to be changed?