Tuesday, July 12, 2011

scandals and sleaze and the best summer ever

In a year that's seen a veritable conga line of NCAA enforcement scandals, at schools previously believed to float innocently above the fray, I've managed to keep my soapbox shut well away in the closet.  It's not like I'm breaking the next big story, and you don't need any more harrumphing about what scurrilous bastards the rest of the world is.

But what the hell, I'm no better than anyone else.  Prepare to be harrumphed at.  With a twist.

The other day I read a column in my local paper here in Detroit, the gist of which was entirely predictable: "what a huge black eye for college football this offseason has been, we need to get to the games in the fall before anything else bad happens."  The media seems to think this way.

The truth, I think, is 100%, 180 degrees the opposite: this has been the best offseason college football has ever had.  Yes, there's the old marketer's saw that there's no such thing as bad publicity.  And no, my Michigan fandom + Ohio State's liberties with the rule book is not the equation that adds up to the Best Ever conclusion.  (It helps a little, though.)  That ain't it, though.

You would naturally think this is the worst offseason ever and a "growing image problem for the sport" if you were surprised by any of the numerous allegations.  But to be surprised by any of the allegations you'd have to have begun hibernating around 1970.  The list of alleged or suspected NCAA infractions against the various programs under the spotlight - and these are just the football ones and just the ones the NCAA has investigated or begun investigating - is more or less as follows:

- Players getting money from shady program hangers-on
- Players getting benefits from shady tutors
- Players getting money from agents
- Program paying shady "scouts" to steer recruits to their school
- Program paying a player's father to steer recruits to their school
- Coach lying to cover up eligibility issues
- Coach acting as a runner for agents

Does that sound to you like anything you didn't already suspect went on at dozens of schools?  Or haven't already actually seen happen?

Probably the only actual surprise on the list is that a coach would be so brazen as to openly, or nearly so, act as a middleman for an agent and steer players in his direction.  But even that doesn't shock if you find yourself reading up on the history of the coach in question (John Blake, formerly of UNC.)

So being that college football fans aren't surprised at all about this, the fact that it's all coming out somewhat in the open now is great news, not bad.  This is the stuff that's been going on for ten, fifteen, thirty years, and outside of a couple instances here and there, it goes almost completely unpunished.  College football already has its image problem.  Seeing a whole bunch of schools get whacked for their transgressions isn't what's causing it.  Instead it's a welcome development.  This isn't the summer that fans were dreading (except for those of the programs under scrutiny), it's the one that fans couldn't wait to see and probably don't want to end if it means more NOAs.  And college football badly needed it.

(Besides, it's hella good theater.  What would you rather watch: 56-3 curbstompings of Akron on opening weekend, or the squirming of lying administrators?)

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