LOUDLY, CLEARLY and at last, the warped world of high-dollar college football has been whistled for gross misconduct right at its national championship top: Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. -- where money not only talked, but cursed nearly every standard of amateur collegiate athletics.
Penalties -- the most serious in two decades to be handed to a football program by the NCAA Committee on Infractions as well as the Atlantic Coast Conference -- stem from 69 charges levied against Clemson in a bill of particulars that lists more than 150 violations. And because no one close to campus football today believes for a minute that Clemson has played this game alone, the message of discipline deserves amplification on campuses everywhere.
The charges, which are administrative, not legal, and on which guilt is determined by the intercollegiate athletic authorities, included money for signing up with the school, for cars, clothes, TV sets, phone calls, dentist bills, airline trips, meals, for college entrance exam fees -- and on and on. So much for amateur athletics as a part of the educational process. As columnist Dave Kindred has noted, today's big-time college athletics is "a professional enterprise generating billions of dollars."
You even see this in the penalties. Clemson's football team is barred from bowl games this season and next; it is banned from television appearances; and the university's football scholarships have been cut from 30 to 20 a year for the next two seasons. These are big-business decisions, estimated to clip the university's revenues by $2 million.
With that kind of money on the line, is it any wonder that institutions of higher learning have been known to stoop, to commit white-collar crimes in the robes of academe?
We wouldn't pretend that athletics will ever, or even should be, subordinated to family-affair scrimmage level. It can be good for the students, the alumni and maybe even to the coffers of a college-- as certain academic accomplishments can be and have been. But the recruiting, teaching and athletic training of students should be subject to sanctions when it gets grossly out of balance -- and when suiting up for a football season includes greasing every palm before a kickoff.