Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sports Rant, Part 2

The recent decisions by the NCAA regarding players receiving unfair benefits have strained any sense that they have any credibility what-so-ever. First there was Georgia player AJ Green being suspended four games for selling his game worn jersey from last year’s bowl game. A jersey which he was given. Now Georgia sells replica jersey’s bearing Green’s number, and many universities also sell game worn jerseys, so the problem appeared to be that Green was cutting in on their take. After all, it was Green’s jersey, shouldn’t he be able to do with it what he wants? Apparently not, because that money belongs to Georgia and the NCAA.

Then there was Reggie Bush deciding to return his Heisman trophy because his parents had received material rewards for his time at USC, which is what the majority of the charges surrounded. Then Cam Newton was implicated in several issues, the main one being his father supposedly requesting $180,000 from Mississippi State for him to play there. The NCAA found his father guilty, but said they had no evidence “at this time” that Cam Newton knew anything about it and so he was going to remain eligible to play.

Now personally I find that story a little hard to believe, but let’s assume that Cam did in fact not know anything about it, can’t the NCAA still punish the father? Colleges have the right to deny people entry to college athletic events, but the NCAA did absolutely nothing. Apparently it’s fine if parents do these things as long as the athletes don’t. But wait, that was not the rule applied to Reggie Bush, so maybe there is something else going on here.

Had the NCAA stripped Cam Newton of eligibility then Auburn’s season would have fallen apart and they would have lost a lot of money, especially for what they will get for playing in the national championship game. The television networks also would have lost a lot of money. Now by keeping him eligible everyone stands to do very well for themselves, except for most of the “student” athletes involved.

One person has speculated that he would not be surprised if the NCAA were later to come out and find that Cam Newton did know and strip him of his eligibility, but here’s the thing. It won’t matter later because everyone will still have made all their money. USC and ABC did not have to give any of the money they made off of the 2006 Rose Bowl back to anyone. They got to keep it all, even with Bush stripped of his records. So keep that in mind as we move forward with this story.

Now we get into complete insanity. The NCAA found that five players at Ohio State were selling or trading some of their memorabilia, in particular in trading it, and their signatures, for tattoos. Again, by rules, this is a violation of NCAA policy. What the players told the institution and the investigators is that they did not think they were doing anything wrong because the items, such as rings and bowl paraphernalia was given to them and it belonged to them and so they should be able to do with it what they wanted. It is their property after all.

The NCAA disagreed because they said that by selling it they were clearly getting something that would not be available to other students. No one remarked about them getting these items in the first place. Weren’t they already violating at least the spirit, if not the letter of the law, by receiving these items? If I as a regular student wasn’t also being given a Big 10 Champion ring, then the players are already getting something not available to the average student, which is what the rule is about.

To show you the shear hypocrisy and absurdity of the situation, here is a list of the items being given to players who participate in this year’s bowl games. As you will see IPods and game systems, along with sunglasses, are pretty prevalent. Doesn’t this also constitute athletes receiving things not available to normal students? How is this different? And, if players were to take these items and to sell them, since they probably already have them anyways, would that be a violation? I’m sure the NCAA would think so, although if the coaches or boosters who might also receive some souvenir items would do the same thing they would not get into trouble. How does this make any sense?

Now the most ludicrous part of this whole thing is the penalty enforced by the NCAA. Rather than being suspended this year, when they actually did the “crime,” and being kept out of the Sugar Bowl, instead they will be suspended for five games next year. This is clearly about the money. If the NCAA had suspended five of Ohio State’s best players for the bowl game, including their quarterback, you can be assured that the Sugar Bowl would have paid the price in attendance and ratings, and that is not good for anyone with a financial investment in this game. And so instead the NCAA let them play.

This is so blatant that I am honestly surprised that more reporters are not doing their jobs and calling the NCAA out about this. The only one I have seen is Michael Wilbon who is consistently on the NCAA for the stupidity of their rules and their enforcement. What is even more shocking about this decision is how it compares to the Cam Newton ruling. Apparently asking for $180,000 to play is okay, but getting a free $100 tattoo is not. Or as one tweeter said, what the players should have done was to give the items to their father, or to Cam Newton’s father, and had them sell it because then it would have been fine.

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