Someone was just telling me the other day how he thinks college football is broken. Morally, ethically and competitively, the sport has never been in a worse state than it is right now. The desire of fans and boosters — many of whom never even attended the college that they support — to win at a high level has opened up the doors of corruption to flood what should be the purest segment of competition in the sport.
We all sit around and bitch about Roger Goodell and the rules he has created and enforced in order to do what he feels is best for the NFL — players, coaches, owners and fans. Realistically, Goodell is probably saving the NFL and ensuring its existence for decades and perhaps centuries to come. He drops the hammer at the first sign of something fishy. He goes against everything every barstool lawyer in our country thinks about rights, liberties and being innocent until proven guilty. The end result: a product that makes money hand over fist while gaining and retaining millions of fans every year with minimal corruption or exploitation.
College football could use a Roger Goodell, and Sports Illustrated’s recent cover story on Oklahoma State football is evidence of that.
Sports Illustrated is releasing the expose’ one piece at a time over the next few days, but I can save you a long read that won’t really teach you anything you don’t already know. College football is corrupt. The corruption is due to money, pride and exploitation.
The money is what drives the universities and coaches to do things that are morally and ethically wrong, period. The money from bowls, ticket and merchandise sales and national exposure drives the universities to pay coaches millions of dollars to be the faces of their institutions. The money is what drives coaches to recruit kids who otherwise would not qualify to go to a four-year college. The money is what drives coaches and universities to find loopholes in the system to allow these kids into their college in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage. They’ll stop at almost nothing, as the Oklahoma State article tells us, to win and become relevant in the name of claiming their slice of pie.
The pride is what drives fans and boosters to hand over money to the universities in the form of donations, merchandise sales and attendance. Fans and boosters want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Not only do they want to be part of it, but they want it to be successful. They want to be aligned with something successful, almost as a status symbol. The people who live near the universities, especially in places like Stillwater, OK, Tuscaloosa, AL, and Lincoln, NE, want their hometowns to be known for something other than truckstops and diners. This causes them to cling onto and invest nearly everything they own into a college football team. It’s not about pleasure. If it were, you wouldn’t have radio call-in shows around the country flooded with disappointed fans after every game, win or lose. It’s about pride. It’s about being able to wear your colors to the grocery store with your head held high because the team you support is better than the team I support. The more money you have to fork over, the more lines you’ll cross to feed this pride.
The exploitation is of the athletes. I won’t even entertain the notion of placing the S-word in front of “athlete”, as I am quite convinced that most college fans forget that these kids actually do have a full course load of college classes to deal with on top of their football schedule. College football fans don’t care about the S-word, so why should I?
The athletes are exploited under the blanket of “a free college education” — something that is supposed to make us all feel OK about letting these kids perform in front of crowds of 100,000 people in stadiums and millions on TV. We are supposed to feel OK about the millions of dollars they generate for their universities as well as the cities and states where the universities are located. We should feel OK about wearing a $100 jersey with a kid’s number on it and know that the kid never saw a dime of that $100, even though you bought No. 3 because he’s awesome and didn’t by No. 15 because that dude sucks. We are supposed to feel OK about it all because, hey, they are getting a free college education. Everyone knows that once you have a college degree you are pretty much set for life. A college degree is your ticket to the American dream, right? Once you got one, it’s easy street from there on out. You can walk into any business in the world and demand a six-figure management gig and land it without a struggle, right?
It’s all a bunch of bullshit. Collegiate sports, especially college football and the rules that govern them are a joke and a facade. These are semi-professional teams built around generating revenue for universities and communities at the expense of middle-class kids who happen to be good athletes. It’s been that way for years and you know it. This is why the SI article is a joke as well. They aren’t telling any of us anything we don’t already know. They are just airing it in public. They are going to tell you about boosters paying kids, colleges not giving a shit about how the athletes do in class, pot and cocaine use and harems of female students recruited by athletic departments to help “convince” kids to attend their college. WE ALREADY KNEW THIS. It happens everywhere, we just ignore it. Now we sit back and pretend to be in shock as ESPN and Fox Sports 1 gobble up the story and use it for countless segments the rest of the week and a good chunk of Saturday morning, increasing the amount of cash they charge advertisers to run commercials during those segments.
The cover of the recent SI with the Oklahoma State story shows the silhouette of a football player with the words “The Dirty Game”, as if it is the players who are to blame. The picture on the cover should have been a crystal clear shot of random college football fans and boosters from across the country, perhaps with Phil Knight and T. Boone Pickens (pictured above) front and center. That’s who makes the game dirty, not some 19-year old kid whose only possessions are a backpack, his practice gear and the promise of a $60,000 piece of paper in exchange for shutting the fuck up and coloring.
On second thought, maybe the cover of the magazine should have just been a mirror.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2013
Follow @KIAFootball on Twitter.