It all started on Nov. 6, 1869: On an inglorious Saturday afternoon in New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers defeated Princeton, 6-4, in America’s first college football game. On the following Monday, the NCAA placed both schools on probation.
(Okay, you know I’m kidding — sure, Rutgers is capable of anything, but Princeton doesn’t cheat.)
Now, 142 years later, we’re told that college football is broken and needs to be fixed. It’s not broken; Social Security is broken and the tax code is broken and Washington is broken, and all need to be fixed. College football needs to be rocketed into outer space, shattered into a billion unrecognizable pieces.
In 2011, here is what we’re finding out:
●Reggie Bush did some bad stuff, stripping him of his Heisman Trophy and Southern Cal of its 2004 national title.
●Jim Tressel and his players did some bad stuff, forcing him to resign at Ohio State.
●Cam Newton’s father did some bad stuff, and someone somewhere likely will pay a price.
●In addition, Alabama, Auburn, Boise State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee — among others — all have done some bad stuff.
Leaders and legends, my butt.
(If you took all the schools being punished or investigated by the NCAA, you could form a new super-league that would land the biggest TV contract in history. Speaking of which, what was originally the Pacific Coast Conference morphed into the Pacific-8, then the Pac-10, now the Pac-12, soon-to-be the Pac-16 en route, I believe, to eventually becoming Pac-NATO, with member schools in 28 nations.)
Things got so bad, NCAA President Mark Emmert last month got together 50 or so NCAA leaders in Indianapolis for a summit meeting, a.k.a. “Mardi Gras for Escort Services.”
Heck, the University of Miami alone reminds me of an drug-and-arms dealer running a storefront operation on the middle of Main Street from 9 to 5 while local law enforcement cruises the block looking for parking-meter violators.
(This year’s “Captain Renault I’m-Shocked-Shocked-To-Find-Out-That-Gambling-Is-Going-On-In-Here Award” goes to Miami President Donna Shalala, who crawled out from under a pylon of cash to state, “The allegations alone raise serious concerns. . . . We will do everything possible to find out the truth, learn from any mistakes and take measures to prevent any such behavior from happening again.”)
What’s the solution here? The same one that’s been staring us in the face forever: We stop this star-gazing, myth-making ruse. We admit that they are not student-athletes; they are athletes who pretend to be students for the sake of appearance, which allows these institutions of higher earning to continue to roll in TV dough.
So we either make them real student-athletes — ain’t gonna happen — or we just hire and pay athletes to wear school colors. I mean, if a university were to open, say, a comedy club on campus, it would hire standup comics to come in and perform while charging customers and making money. Colleges wouldn’t recruit “student-comedians” and give them scholarships to do a nightly 60-minute routine while paying them nothing.
(“Can you believe Texas A&M just signed Jeff Foxworthy? What a TV deal they’re going to get!”)
But schools have no intention to ever pay their athletes a fair wage, so the usual under-the-table payments and rampant cheating will continue. What will happen is this: They’ll slap a wrist here and there, then all put a hand out in some backroom to divvy up the loot.
The money is staggering. How else does Alabama pay Nick Saban $7 million a year, Texas pay Mack Brown $5 million or Oklahoma pay Bob Stoops $4.3 million? Heck, my forever-misguided alma mater, Maryland, is paying Ralph Friedgen $2 million this year not to coach.
Why would anyone upset this apple cart? Besides, most college football fans don’t care about the impropriety as long as Tennessee-Florida is on TV on Saturday.
(By the way, I like Stanford this week as a touchdown favorite against Arizona; as student-athletes go, Andrew Luck is unstoppable.)
Q. I paid $29 for four beers at the ballpark; my buddy noted that I don’t spend that for a 30-pack at home. Is stadium money similar to casino money? (John Swope; Irwin, Pa.)
A. You have peeled away another layer of that part of the U.S. economy that flourishes.
Q. Glad to see you back as we’re adrift and rudderless without your wisdom. Just one question — how do you know when you’re on vacation? (Glen Popple; Waterford, Wis.)
A. I sit on the other end of the couch.
Q. It is well-known you have your finger on the pulse of Las Vegas. Who should I see about a refund on my 2004 Bowl Championship Series championship game bet? (Jim Ondrey; Chardon, Ohio)
A. Send me your losing ticket and I’ll handle it.
Q. Now that Peyton Manning’s consecutive-games streak is over, is your consecutive-days-married streak the next to go? (Barry Josowitz; Pittsburgh)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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