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The recent scandal at the University of Miami in some ways does not surprise me. Miami was, for years, considered one of the dirtiest programs in all of college football. The phrase “thugs in uniform” was often assigned. Through its glory days in the 1980’s and early 90’s, the Hurricanes were the championship team everyone loved to hate. I was far from shocked to read about the case of a booster who claims he provided the team extensive "extra favors". If true, some have even asserted that these infractions are so massive and damaging that the team may receive the death penalty, or the inability to field a team for a full season.

I shake my head at this development, because it shows the lengths to which the sport has degenerated over the years. Granted, players have been paid under the table for years. Precisely who got caught and who did not is currently a job responsibility of coaching staffs and others on salary specifically hired to keep these sort of thing from becoming public knowledge. Babysitting service is one of their many hats worn.  Some have gone public five to ten years after the fact, well after the long arm of the NCAA can mete out punishment. Sometimes rogue boosters talk out of bitterness, which is the source of this Miami mess. Whether the story is completely true or not, I know enough to believe that many of these allegations are entirely factual.

I will freely admit that I take the game too seriously. I may well be part of the problem, not the solution.  The culture in which I grew up placed its hopes and dreams upon a group of 18-22 year olds in shoulder pads and helmets. To this day, nothing quite describes the way I feel as the players storm through the tunnel on their way to the playing field, the blaring fight song introducing the formal beginning of the game. I grew up bleeding Crimson (Tide), an Alabama fan from the womb, seemingly. When I look beyond, I think about my priorities and development at the same age as the players, and recognize how far I was from being capable of making good decisions. When boosters dangle sex, drugs, and money in front of players, I honestly can’t blame them for accepting the offer. Many have devoted their lives to playing the game and have no fall back of which to speak.

Though usually not discussed, there are distressing aspects of class and race present. Most of Alabama’s players are black, usually hailing from backgrounds that could never be described as affluent. The very best players among these seek to stand out on the playing field in such a way that they eventually enter the elite ranks of the NFL. Many are called, but few are chosen. One can choose to interpret this racial component as one will, but even now, the best way out of bad situations for a person of color is still to pursue a career in sports or entertainment. Some players have been known to leave college without a degree specifically to send money home. It isn’t all about narcissism, but the amount of attention, hype, and expectation focused upon a group of overgrown boys fresh out of high school makes me wonder how anyone can manage the pressure.

We are all rogue boosters of a sort. We may not be directly involved in the process, but we do not speak out against the problem. When the face value of tickets doubles in ten years, we fork out whatever it takes to buy season tickets. When even being able to receive tickets first requires thousands of dollars in donations to the university, we dig down deep and write a check. When we acquiesce to a double standard by which athletes can be treated like royalty, and average students have to do their own study without tutors, we are complicit in the system. When we forget that, at bottom, what we observe every Saturday in the fall is nothing more than a game, we do no one any favors.

Collegiate athletics is awash in revenue, but football has become its most reliable source. It may be too late to undo the precedent that has already been set. What we have before us now is an odd amalgamation. On one level, it is a semi-pro league, more like minor league professional football, but yet it is treated with all the same fanaticism and obsession of every NFL game. I am more and more inclined to believe that players need to be paid, since it seems futile to stop something that has been around for years.  When universities and colleges make the decision to spend whatever it takes to hire the best coaches, knowing that successful teams produce consistent streams of revenue, we cannot ignore where they place their priorities.

Many arguments on this subject are predicated on a concept of fairness. Fairness ceased to exist decades ago. When college athletes were made to believe that they were important, special, and celebrities of a sort, equality went out the windows. What we have now among athletes is a kind of honor code arrangement that they will not stray. With much profit to be made, personal integrity only goes so far. I defend athletes because should they not manage to cover their tracks, the entire program suffers as a result. Not all offenses are the same and the university can be penalized in any circumstance, for any reason. I do not despise the NCAA, but I often feel like its policies and threats of punishment are based on assumptions that do not play out in reality.

Changes must be made. Sanity must be restored. We must concede that the sport itself rests upon multiple ironies and double standards. Whatever decisions are made will not provide a neat, tidy, concise resolution. Whenever money is involved, what is decreed will be messy. The past cannot be undone, but responsible actions can prevent growing corruption. The scab has been ripped off and everyone is sickened at the sight. What we cannot do is ignore the problem and hope that it goes away. The roots of this took hold long ago. We may not have created this monster, but we must intercede.

Originally posted to cabaretic on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Wide World of Sports.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I lead you in, some one else would lead you out. - Eugene Debs.

    by cabaretic on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:23:05 AM PDT

  •  As Someone Who's Worked At a Major (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnieR, PsychoSavannah, Cedwyn

    -training facility- university, in a hometown of a famous author who parodied this problem in the 1920's, ummm, yes. The 1930's were past time for this reform.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:25:22 AM PDT

    •  My husband went through the college football (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PsychoSavannah, Cedwyn

      recruitment process in 1970, and it was the trips and the meals, the girls and drugs, offers of cold hard cash.  It's probably been this way since there was college football.  I didn't have a clue until he told me about his experience, and certainly don't know it can ever be changed.

      The GOP will destroy anything they can't own.

      by AnnieR on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:44:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Apropos: I blogged on something similar recently (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnieR, Cedwyn

    I propose a solution to the BCS in one of my recent blogs.  I think championship reform would help as well because it would remove one source of potential corruption.  A cleanup would probably include a playoff system.

  •  College football makes me nauseous (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnieR, buttcracksandwich

    I know, I'm a pearl clutcher. But the insanity of it is no fun. It's no fun, for me, watching adolescents playing an overly vicious game for crazed fans in order to get a ride to college they'd otherwise never get, and in turn get, in most cases, a totally fake "education."

    I don't see the fun in it.

    And yes, i watch a couple NFL games every weekend, but even the excessive violence in the pro game makes me ill.

    Too each their own, but I'd rather play football with my friends in the snow, or shoot hoops or shag flies than watch sports all weekend.

    •  It's a tough thing to watch sometimes (0+ / 0-)

      I hate to see these kids get hurt and it can be corrupt depending on the school,  but I think it's a generally positive thing.

      Kids do get to go to college who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to.

      College football provides a lot of jobs.

      The kids and coaches love this stuff.  If college football wasn't available, they would play anyway, maybe some minor league would form.

      The players on the team that do well are really some of the best young men in the country.  Some of these guys get a 4.0 in engineering or equally difficult majors while keeping up with the rigorous discipline required by college athletics.  It's not all basket weaving these days.  There are special awards for players who achieve academic excellence.

      I say that College football is one of the best things ever.

      BTW, Go Cocks!

      •  Ah, you're a Gamecocks fan. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        No wonder you're in the "football good, grunt grunt" camp.

        •  Well I wouldn't put it that way (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I hope I'm not so mindless just to say "football good, grunt grunt."

          I guess I'm attracted to excellence and these kids and coaches work their butts off and I just feel it is something to be admired.

          I love democracy, but it kicks a lot of people in the ass sometimes.  Should we give it up?

          Again, though, Go Cocks!!  

      •  I worked at an Engineering school (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        we NEVER  had even a half a dozen 4.00 graduates per year.  I know, because I was the one who prepared their awards.

        None of them played varsity sports, and the school did not have a football team.

        I'd be interested to know who you know who plays D1 football and has a 4.00 cume in ANY major.

        It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

        by sayitaintso on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 09:18:14 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here's one... (0+ / 0-)

          Greg McElroy, starting QB of Univ. of Alabama, graduated from Alabama in three years with a degree in business marketing, and is a graduate student in his second year. As an undergraduate he had a 3.85 GPA, receiving only one B, and applied for, but did not win, a Rhodes Scholarship in 2010.

          Roll Tide...

          "My presences is a present, now kiss my ass..." - Kanye West

          by lcj98 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 10:07:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Read this, I don't have time to read it for you. (0+ / 0-)

          These guys are the pinnacle of excellence.  Read my comment above, not just engineering, but equally difficult majors.

 Probably running for 5th district CT.

          by buttcracksandwich on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 11:06:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  How do you know? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geek of all trades
    even now, the best way out of bad situations for a person of color is still to pursue a career in sports or entertainment

    1. What evidence do you have that this is 'the best way'?

    2. If this is in any way true, how is it different for persons not of color?

    •  What are the odds? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clem Yeobright

      It is certainly a glamorous and popular path. It makes a good myth.

      But think about how many people of color from a poor background graduate from medical school or law school each year compared to how many get drafted by the NFL?

      "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

      by Geek of all trades on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 10:11:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bullshit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geek of all trades
    We are all rogue boosters of a sort.

    You can speak only for yourself there, as you pay your overpriced ticket prices and watch this bullshit on tv every weekend.  Some of us have known for DECADES that college football is dirty and dangerous and have refused to participate in any way.  Don't drag me and my family into this in any way.

    •  At the school I went to (0+ / 0-)

      the only people who cared about the football team were people who liked to play football and their friends.

      Then again, I picked a school that clearly had other priority besides football. All student-athletes were students first and athletes second.

      "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

      by Geek of all trades on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 10:13:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Football revenue? maybe Profit? No (3+ / 0-)

    The millions of football revenue you describe are  real.  But revenue does not mean profit.  I learned that at Rutgers, in a basic (very basic) finance class.

    Rutgers Boosting Athletics at Expense of Academics

    Hundreds of millions are spent on college football.  A very few schools show a positive revenue stream,  and when you look at those books,  you find how many millions of hidden subsidies are really there.

    Big-time college sports is not a money maker for higher education.... it must be for someone... but they are not on any campus you know.

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:53:24 AM PDT

    •  Yep. I teach at one of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the top football universities. If the football team were a stand-alone venture, it would be hugely profitable. But the athletic department overall is subsidized by the academic side because it doesn't pull in nearly enough money to cover all of the sports. I'm surprised that there are even 7 schools (per the linked article) that run profitable athletic departments.

      With every goddess a let down, every idol a bring down, it gets you down / but the search for perfection, your own predilection, goes on and on and on. . .

      by cardinal on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 07:20:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The only way you can reform it is when college (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    football stops being a league to develop NFL talent, meaning I don't think you can reform it. Its always been the wild west. When there were no scholarship limits the big schools like Alabama, Oklahama, Michigan, etc. used to give players scholarships with the promise of playing time knowing damn good and well they wouldn't get any. They just wanted to keep those players from going to a rival school. Just look at the size of the contracts for college sports. The sec has a 2 BILLION (not million) dollar contract with the sec to televise various sports over the next 15 years. When you are dealing with that sort of money, you can forget reform.

    "I smoke. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your fuckin' mouth." --- Bill Hicks

    by voroki on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:53:44 AM PDT

    •   the sec has a 2 billion dollar contract with espn (0+ / 0-)

      that is

      "I smoke. If this bothers anyone, I suggest you look around at the world in which we live and shut your fuckin' mouth." --- Bill Hicks

      by voroki on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 06:57:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  or when you change the goal of reform (0+ / 0-)

      after all.  Who says these teams need to compete with each other nationally on a level playing field?  Stanford's academics are vastly superior to Oklahoma - but Oklahoma is not whining about Stanford's admission standards.

      Really the players should be compensated above their scholarship.  Not as employees, but academic departments compensate PhD candidates who add value in teaching - so universities know this.

      Moreover, players should be encouraged to contact agents and representatives and set up their affairs.  The need to police amateurism is at the heart of everything.

  •  College Football is a microcosm of life. If you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    buttcracksandwich, emal

    want it to change, change society in general.

    "Because I am a river to my people."

    by lordcopper on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 07:01:04 AM PDT

  •  My fix (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geek of all trades

    1--Prohibit athletic scholarships
    2--Prohibit special admission for athletes
    3--Pay athletic directors no more than deans
    4--Pay coaches no more than professors

    •  Disagree #1: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Prohibiting athletic scholarships would decimate all other college athletics which are valuable and functioning as they should.  And by other athletics I don't mean the big 4.  Things like rowing and swimming.  

      •  Put the money into general need based scholarships (0+ / 0-)

        the people who want to row/swim/run/jump/play b-ball still will, and their education will no longer be dependent on their staying on the team.

        "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

        by Geek of all trades on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 10:15:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not about the money. (0+ / 0-)

          Individuals with great swimming talent, for example, need a great program to excel.  Destroying the quality of the programs isn't a good thing.  The athletic scholarships is a means of fostering competition between those programs for talent while strict academic achievement (when enforced) enforces that this still academics.

          Yes, this system no longer works right for the big 4 sports.  But it works just fine for everyone else.

          •  Why should colleges be spending money (0+ / 0-)

            on trying to train first class swimmers?

            Why should programs be competing using scholarship offers for swimmers instead of just the quality of the coaching and the quality of the school?

            From what I have heard, it does not work well for the above mentioned people who are recruited via sports scholarships and change their mind on the sport.

            "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

            by Geek of all trades on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 01:24:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I am a fan of my SEC alma mater's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    program, and I think the money is obscene.  The schools are being used by the NFL as free farm teams, and money is being made legally by everyone except the players.  Why not pay them a stipend?  When I was in school the band got a stipend.  Why not the players?  Why not pay the families a small stipend also?  At least enough for the families to attend a few games.

    It's ugly.

  •  You are completely ignorant about the U (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Do some research before you go slamming another university.  You'll find out quickly that nothing Miami did off the field was even remotely bad as you portray.  As for on the field, yeah they celebrated and had a good time but roll the tape on those games and take a look at the teams now and it's no different.

    It's interesting how you've immediately believed some jailhouse interview (not under oath mind you) from some bitter guy who's spending a long time in jail.  I'll tell you what, if this is true this guy is the worst businessman I've ever seen.  While this guy was throwing money around to players the teams got worse and worse.  It defies logic.  But because it's Miami, the NCAA charters a jet to investigate.

    You're trashing a team that went 7-6 last year yet Auburn won a National Title even though Newton's father clearly violated SEC rules and should not have been eligible.

    Glass houses and stones my friend... be careful.

    •  Don't let your Cane pride blind you... (0+ / 0-)

      If these allegations aren't true then there would be no problem with proving Shapiro's allegations wrong.  However, Shapiro hasn't been the only Cane booster caught doing this type of stuff recently, so being offended and claiming unfairness by the NCAA just makes you a petty fan.

      Roll Tide...

      "My presences is a present, now kiss my ass..." - Kanye West

      by lcj98 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 10:24:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  More baseless claims (0+ / 0-)

        By recently do you mean 20 years?  You have no evidence to suggest that this is widespread.  On the contrary there's plenty of evidence that the state of Alabama is completely corrupt along with their Universities.

        The NCAA loves to drop the hammer on crappy teams all the time to show how just they are and how much control they have but they consistently throw their ethics out the window when a 10+ win team gets into trouble.

        I'm sick and tired of diploma-mill SEC twerps trashing my school while the same garbage and worse happens all the time at their institutions.  Miami was squeaky clean for almost a decade prior to this allegation yet all we ever hear is Thug U.

        I'd be perfectly happy if we killed the Football team or moved to D1AA so I didn't have to deal with the likes of you.   I and the 160,000 living alumni to the University of Miami are proud of our school and the work we put into our degrees.  I paid my way through $30k/year tuition and graduated early by joining the US Navy.

        So no I'm not just a petty fan.  And yes I do take it personally.

        •  ... (0+ / 0-)

          If you do stupid shit and get caught then you deserve to get into trouble.  All of the shit that has been going on at "The U" for 30 years and you have to audacity to say they "Miami was squeaky clean for almost a decade"?  Dude, really?  When former players come out and say they were acting knockle-heads, you have no room feigning outrage.  When the coaching staff and the athletic department knowingly let this shit happen, you have no room feigning outrage...  If you truly went to Miami then you should be throwing flames at your alma mater for continuing to allow this shit to happen.  So don't come on here pissing and moaning about other schools.

          The NCAA loves to drop the hammer on crappy teams all the time to show how just they are and how much control they have but they consistently throw their ethics out the window when a 10+ win team gets into trouble.

          Get out of here with that petty bullshit.

          "My presences is a present, now kiss my ass..." - Kanye West

          by lcj98 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 03:34:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Class of 2003 (0+ / 0-)

            Actual Alumni.  And as I explained earlier, if this is true, we deserve it.  However I've been putting up with the Thug U mantra for over a decade now.  So maybe put yourself in my shoes for a second...

            30 years... no.  Post me the link to prove it and I'll retract.

            20 years ago kids were getting Pell Grants they shouldn't have.  Luke Campbell says he had paid players for big hits but there was never any PROOF.  You had OU players dealing cocaine but never heard a word.  It was all about the U then, it's all about it now.  Meanwhile we received a heavy bowl ban and scholarship reduction for it.

            Question, which school was on probation last... Alabama or Miami?  

            In fact while Miami was on probation in 1995, Alabama received probation in 1995, 2001 and 2009.  In fact the University of Florida has more arrests in 2007 than Miami and Florida State had in that decade COMBINED.

            If you are so bold to take off your crimson and white goggles for a moment and read the link below there are a few holes in Mr. Shapiro's story.  There probably are a few that will take down the Canes for a few years but it is nowhere near as far reaching as advertised (or that you were hoping in any case).

            •  Once again... (0+ / 0-)

              this isn't about Alabama or Oklahoma or anybody else.  This about the stupidity of Miami, that's it.  They brought this upon themselves, now deal with it.

              "My presences is a present, now kiss my ass..." - Kanye West

              by lcj98 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 05:06:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And what happens if Miami is cleared? (0+ / 0-)

                The 72 players in the Yahoo article has basically been proven to be down to 10.  Many players who were recruited or transferred from Miami that were implicated have already been cleared by the NCAA.  The NCAA has been investigating for 5 months and hasn't suspended anyone, nor has Miami.

                And seriously, in the age of iphone cameras, twitter and Facebook, you mean to tell me that all of this stuff went on at Miami and the players didn't once make it to the media?  You are seriously naive if you think they could keep this under wraps for 8 years.

                And where did the article break?  ESPN?  NY Times?  Wall Street Journal?  Miami Herald?  No... Yahoo Sports.  

                So before you go off giving yourself an orgasm over the thought of Miami getting severely punished, quite possibly death, why don't you wait until something actually happens.

                Then come rub it in my face...

                Otherwise enjoy the probation you're currently on.

                Go Canes.

      •  Read Below... (0+ / 0-)

        Lots of reasons to doubt much of Mr. Shapiro's story.  Also there are many reports that the first day Randy Shannon became coach he told everyone on his coaching staff they would be fired if they were seen with Shapiro and players were to stay away from boosters.

        I'm sure all the Bama boosters stay away from players and vice versa right?

  •  I am sick and tired (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of professional football (and basketball, too) using our institutions of higher learning as their personal farm systems. This is rediculous. Let them set up a farm system like baseball and hockey do. Those sports have college teams, so it would not reduce the rah-rah-go-team part of Friday nights at college, but it would put some of the responsibility back on the sports. And it would present a B-path for those guys who aren't good enough for the pros, but still want to earn a bit of money doing what they love for a couple of years.

    Sometimes there is so much writing, you need a bigger wall.

    by pucklady on Thu Aug 18, 2011 at 11:03:51 AM PDT

  •  The real problem is the NCAA, which is almost (0+ / 0-)

    an entirely superfluous organization.  There is no real need for governance in this area.  After all, universities have different missions - we accept this.  So why should they have the same athletic mission?  The conferences can solve their own problems.

  •  The NCAA's attack of amateurism is the problem ... (0+ / 0-)

    get rid of THAT and the rest of the problem can go away on its own.  

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