Friday, August 19, 2011

College Athletics CAN NOT Be Fixed

It is pretty simple, really. College sports is broken beyond repair. I mean, it still works in the main aspect, but in reality it is all a sham.

Just look over the past week. The University of Miami is in the middle of a storm that some say could force the NCAA to bring back the "death penalty" (which shuts a program down completely for a few years). A booster/jock sniffer told a reporter in jail that he has basically been funding both the program and the players in it. There's too much to get into on this, but to be brief, Miami is in a bunch of trouble.

This comes a few days after Texas A&M decides they were leaving the Big XII for the SEC. That was news to the SEC who had to release a statement saying they are cool with the current 12-school membership.

For now.

Oh ... and remember that our defending national football champion has a stink of scandal all over them after word that Cam Newton's dad wanted some cash for his son. The team they beat in the BCS title game, Oregon, is now embroiled in a recruiting scandal.

College basketball? UConn won the NCAA Tournament last year despite their coach's impending smackdown. We can travel to USC, North Carolina, Ohio State, Memphis, Georgia Tech ... so forth and so on.

None of this will change. It won't. The NCAA can think they are on the ball with this but it is obvious they aren't. If they were, no one would be trying to do these things. They know they can and, honestly, the risk of penalty isn't all that bad on the bottom line. Sure, loss of scholarships, TV appearances, bowl money and all of that sucks ... but if you succeeded on the field during that time, it pretty much paid for itself. I mean, the Reggie Bush era will be a black mark for the USC football program forever. But the team did win and the program re-emerged into elite status which is well worth it.

It is that fact ... and the fact that the world isn't what it once was to you baby boomers (more on that) ... why college sports will not change "back" into what it was once viewed as.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a new thing. Rewind back 20 years ago and we had UNLV's hoops team in a hot tub with a known fixer, Miami was under heat, Tulane suffered the death penalty in basketball, SMU was coming off of it in football, Free Shoes University, NC State (among other teams) had point shaving scandals and teams all over the country starting switching conferences.

Go back 50 years and we had the CCNY scandal, Kentucky basketball scandals and the same kind of corruption of young, broke kids by wealthy adults.

The difference today is the money is SO big, the opportunities are SO vast and the information is SO quick. We know a lot more information and lot quicker than we have ever been able to do. More people want to shine and are willing to (a) buy their way into the spotlight and (b) roll over on everyone when the get the chance. Kids are more famous quicker (seriously, did we have any kind of recruiting knowledge 20 years ago? Now John Wall is a legend before he graduates high school) and the hangers-on are more prevalent.

And in a time where money is tight everywhere, those who have money to burn are gods.

See, that won't go away without some drastic change. By that, I mean the "death penalty" may need to make a comeback. That is the kind of deterrent that makes ADs and chancellors make sure who they have running the program and who is around it.

Right now it is a joke. John Calipari ... who has never been fingered in anything but seems to have smoke following around him everywhere he goes ... is beloved in Kentucky because he wins. He has brought the swagger back to the Wildcats. Sure, if a guy gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar, it really won't cost the program much. Again, the risk pales in comparison to the reward. A death penalty would really damage a program's ability to survive as well as damaging their reputation.

But it won't happen. Not anymore. Throwing the death penalty on, say, Miami would sting the ACC and open up all kinds of cans of worms. I mean, the ACC wouldn't be able to hold a conference championship game with just 11 teams competing (it is a rule). Miami is one of their most well-known football programs and the entire conference would take a huge hit. Could networks then cry foul since they paid for league rights with the thought of the Canes in it? And if the ACC sees it happen one of their teams then you better believe it would be willing to smack down someone else. Since the commissioners of these conferences are essentially calling the shots, the death penalty stays in the closet.

So when the next incident gets a light shined on it ... don't act surprised.

And, honestly, don't get mad. What, if you were an 18 year college athlete you wouldn't accept gifts, parties, girls and money? Especially when you are reading about all these schools who are jumping ship and breaking traditions so they can bunk up with some of that fat television money. Who cares if you are TCU and you will have to drag your kids from the Dallas area to New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, New York and West Virginia every year. Who cares about lost classes then, eh? That's okay because it is worth it when they bank a ton of money from being in a BCS conference.

And that is your lesson, kiddies. It is only cheating when you get caught ... and in college, you usually don't get caught until you are long out of school.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

ACC's Football Expansion Has Been a Failure

With the college football season coming up, we'll get to see a lot of old faces in some new places. Nebraska is in the Big Ten. Utah and Colorado is in the new Pac-12. Boise State moves to the Mountain West and BYU is an independent.

Now there are rumors that Texas A&M is set to bolt the Big XII for the SEC. Though the SEC has said they aren't looking to expand right now, it still may off another chain reaction that could force conferences and schools to look for bigger better deals.

Remember that this started less than a decade ago when the ACC saw the future as being football and decided to raid the Big East. Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College all eventually joined the ACC making the historically hoops conference into a hopeful football power. Miami and Virginia Tech join Florida State as top tier football programs. Boston College joins Clemson and Georgia Tech as schools who have a nice football history.

The ACC had dreams of Florida State and Miami meeting for the ACC title. They felt they were ahead of the curve by making this bold move. And they were.

The problem is that the ACC was trying to become a big dog in the world of college football. Once conferences that already had that clout starting waving it around last summer, a whole new landscape was formed. One that will both pass the ACC by and actually force the conference to become weaker.

Two of the schools being mentioned in a possible move to the SEC (joining Texas A&M) is Florida State and Clemson. Neither improves the SEC's footing in either area (Florida and South Carolina may have some beef with this move) but both have rabid fan bases and bring two solid programs who've won national championships to the SEC.

What that would do to the ACC could be catastrophic. Obviously the ACC would have to look outside to find a couple of replacements. Staying a 10-team conference would be stupid since the whole point of all this mess was the ACC's attempt to gain a 12-team league and football clout.

But where would the ACC go for two new teams? There is no way any SEC, Big Ten or, obviously, Pac-12 team would join. Of course no Mountain West or WAC team would join. That leaves the Big East, which the ACC has a rocky relationship with already with that whole raid thing several years ago.

West Virginia? Syracuse? Rutgers? South Florida? UConn? Who would they go after and more importantly would any of them even want to come.

See, the Big East offers the same thing as the ACC, if not better. A historically awesome hoops conference who has a seat at the BCS table. But the Big East deal is better since on the basketball side of things, the conference is so powerful and deep that they get tons of teams into the NCAA Tournament. On the football side, there is no championship game to get through for a shot at BCS glory. I mean, Cincinnati, Pitt and UConn all made BCS appearances in recent years. In the ACC, you still have to get through Miami (for now) and Virginia Tech (for now) to get a league title.

The ACC pre-expansion was a great basketball conference that was very tight knit and a decent football conference. Now, they are a weakened hoops conference with a decent football side.

To me, a lifelong ACC fan, this has been a disaster. Expansion watered down the basketball side of things (though UNC and Duke have won a total of three titles since the expansion started).

I'm not saying that all this wouldn't be happening to the ACC had they not started raiding the Big East a decade ago, but it would be less embarrassing and we'd still have basketball.