Revelations expose farce of college sports system
It's not easy to cede moral high ground to a runner for an agent who is breaking NCAA rules and maybe some laws by funneling money to college football stars.
In today's NCAA, the idea that high-end college football and basketball remains an amateur operation is open to ridicule. The lowest ground is occupied by the structure itself. Agents and their runners can move around, sometimes freely, just above it.
Agents are paying players. Is anybody shocked? One of the players named in a Yahoo.com report is Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. Would any Eagles fan suggest Cox should sit down for a week to pay for alleged violations of NCAA rules? Please.
The Yahoo report is extremely well sourced, full of documentation, and it most definitely deserved to see the light of day, to remind everyone how the system works all too frequently.
(And nobody, anywhere should say it can't happen here.)
Last week, Sports Illustrated came out with its own expose, putting the sins of Oklahoma State on its cover. A five-part series dove into the cesspool of major college sports, with reports on the deadlier sins - money, academics, drugs, sex. SI went after it all, rolling out one subject a day on its website.
Some have suggested that the magazine chose the wrong target, didn't go high enough, should have picked an established powerhouse. Wrong - this was a perfect target, a school that rose athletically after an infusion of $165 million from corporate raider T. Boone Pickens, who isn't implicated in the story, which is interesting in itself.
An academic institution receives $165 million, but not for academics? The football coach is the highest paid employee on campus (until he leaves for more money). It's all become farce.
There have been complaints that Sports Illustrated used disgruntled former Oklahoma State players as primary sources. Well, no kidding. Boosters handing over big bills. Coaches involved as middle men. Counselors misrepresenting academic credentials. Happy campers aren't talking about this stuff.
Sure, you can argue this has been going on for a century. You can argue the system itself should be the target. But the best hope for systemic change is for everybody to see how the system actually operates.
That is not an argument for simply paying players. Most schools lose money at sports. How are Temple and Villanova supposed to pay football players, when they lose millions playing football? Who gets paid, just the starters? What about other sports? What are the Title IX ramifications?
Scholarships and admission slots are tangible benefits. Maybe Johnny Football down at Texas A&M can make money from his signature, and maybe he should. Maybe boosters should be unleashed and we should find out what the open market for top college players really looks like.
But the NCAA can't legislate pay scales since the NCAA won't be able to police those pay scales. That much we can be sure of, based on recent investigational fiascoes.
There is no easy fix for a system that makes little sense. Schools can lose money by qualifying for bowl games, but athletic directors and coaches usually get bonuses. Realignment crop-dusts the landscape. The Big Ten decides it needs new markets for its cash-cow network, so Rutgers gets lucky and Maryland won't play Duke or North Carolina anymore.
Yahoo reported that Cox and several Mississippi State teammates received a free flight before finishing their eligibility. Cox declined comment to an Inquirer reporter. He did say the report wasn't a distraction.
Let's assume the Eagles head coach isn't upset at Cox, since Chip Kelly blew out of Oregon just as minor sanctions hit his program for violations under his watch. (That's the same program that has its own sugar daddy, the Swoosh guy.)
Across the landscape, this is all distraction. Oklahoma State fans aren't irate at Oklahoma State, of course, but at Sports Illustrated.
Nobody is questioning Yahoo because the reporters there have proven more adept than NCAA investigators, whom a player said broke laws chasing a Yahoo report highlighting shenanigans at Miami.
It's almost as if the investigations have become part of the entertainment. Step inside and look for the Moral High Ground, under the NCAA Big Top.
And we didn't even talk about Penn State, or mention NCAA president Mark Emmert.
Contact Mike Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jensenoffcampus.