Volumes have been written about corruption within the NCAA, especially regarding their basketball and football programs. Recruiting violations, like those surrounding 2011 #1 NFL draft pick Cam Newton, literally date back to the 1920's when Ivy League schools paid athletes to attend colleges such as Princeton and Yale strictly for their prowess on the gridiron. Today, there are reportedly only about 40 NCAA investigators for the entire nation. They possess little power, lacking basic law enforcement investigative tools such as the ability to subpeona individuals. It has been said by myself and others that if the NCAA was serious about policing the recruiting practices of its major basketball and football programs, all of them would be found guilty of violating the rules.
The fiasco at Ohio State which led to the resignation of longtime head football coach Jim Tressel is also nothing new. While I'll admit I don't quite understand the rule behind a student athlete not being able to sell his jersey, ring, or other swag the University gave to him (you can't sell your own personal property? Or in this case, trade it for a couple of tattoos?), this scandal is minor in the grand scheme of things. Athletes have been improperly selling their "complimentary" tickets for decades. This, too, breaks NCAA rules, but when's the last time a student athlete has been busted for that?
The incident at OSU brings up a pet peeve of my own: so-called investigative reporting in the sports media. In their June 6th issue, Sports Illustrated ran a "Special Report" entitled "How Deep It Ran" about the above mentioned violations at Ohio State. Here's my problem: the story already broke months ago, the athletes involved were suspended, and Coach Tressel resigned now Sports Illustrated does their big investigative piece? How about being proactive for once? How about choosing some other major football program that hasn't been front page news because of scandal (take your pick: Wisconsin, TCU, Florida, etc.) and investigate them? Because I promise you, if they did it right, they could literally break the program. All are guilty of one major NCAA violation or another. None of them are clean.
Take for example Yahoo Sports investigation of the University of Miami (if you don't have time to read the article, just watch the video below. It gives you the same details in a quicker, more entertaining fashion):
If you don't think what happened at "The U" isn't occurring on every other campus with a major basketball or football program, you're more than naive. What's interesting to note is that even though players and coaches were involved (spanning nearly 10 years) and that local businesses knew of the booster's practices no one said a word about what was happening. I have heard the argument too many times that "so many people would have to be involved, someone would speak." Um, not in this case. In fact, the only reason the booster spoke to Yahoo is because (a) he's already in jail for a multi-million dollar ponzi scheme and more importantly (b) he felt "betrayed" by the athletes he thought were not just friends but "family" after he had provided them with so much. Had A and B not been true, this story would still not have seen the light of day.
But to me, if you read the Yahoo article, the frightening part is one could easily replace the phrase "sports agency" with "point shaving" and the the piece would read the same. This just goes to show you how easily it is to get close to these college athletes and build a relationship with them - when you're throwing money and women at them.
As if the NCAA investigators weren't busy enough looking into the recruiting practices of the major programs, the idea of them digging into potential game fixing and/or point shaving is nonexistent. The very recent scandal that erupted surrounding the University of San Diego basketball program proves that fixing is alive and well. The USD scandal also proves that it's not the NCAA that catches these incidents, it is law enforcement. But law enforcement agencies such as the FBI are not in the practice of actively seeking out incidents of game fixing or point shaving. The USD probe into point shaving stemmed from an investigation into a marijuana ring (and the investigation into Cam Newton's father "selling" his son wasn't revealed by the NCAA either. That developed from another FBI investigation; this into bank fraud). To fix a game at the college level requires little more than the will, a connection, and a few thousand dollars.
Meanwhile, the NCAA continues to sell its soul to the highest bidder. ESPN now basically owns the BCS in college football, paying $500 million for four years worth of exclusive coverage beginning in 2011. You want a playoff system in college football? Don't expect one until ESPN's deal is up. As it was reported on ESPN.com in 2008: "The BCS will thrive on ESPN," ESPN president George Bodenheimer said. "Our slogan is 'College Football Lives Here' and the BCS will now top college football's best regular-season and studio coverage, the sport's top awards shows, Bowl Week and other national championships all carried on our family of networks. This is a proud day for ESPN and an exceptional day for this great sport and its passionate fans."
With ESPN now in the driver's seat for college football, the NCAA bowl system is literally in their hands. This article at the Big Lead explains how pathetic it has become.
On another front, the NCAA has been profiting by exploiting the likenesses of its athletes--both former and current--by selling them to video game manufacturer EA Sports. The athletes, simply by agreeing to play sports for their respective schools, have not received a dime of this money (nor do they receive any money from the sale of replica jerseys with their name and number on them, despite the fact that its is those two properties that lead to those sales). Led by former players Ed O'Bannon and Sam Keller, a lawsuit was filed in 2009 againt the NCAA, the Collegiate Licensing Company, and EA Sports, seeking compensation for the use of the players' likenesses in EA Sports games. In May 2011, a judge ruled that EA Sports could be dismissed from the case, as that company had not conspired against the athletes. As of this writing, the case continues against the NCAA and Collegiate Licensing Company.
To perhaps best describe this hypocrisy, take 20 minutes or so and watch this May 2011 episode of South Park. Though offensive in their usual way, the message in this episode is very, very clear.
A Little Madness for You
...And this has nothing do with the bad calls at the end of the 2011 Big East tournament game played between St. John's and Rutgers in which Big East commissioner John Marinatto stated, "The Big East Conference acknowledges that two separate officiating errors occurred at the conclusion of the St. John's vs. Rutgers game. Both missed violations should have caused the game clock to stop and a change of possession to occur prior to the end of the game. Neither error is reviewable or correctable under NCAA rules."
So what's the point of having a "limited" replay system in college basketball again? Oh yeah, maybe to ensure New York's St. John's team gets to play another game in NY's Madison Square Garden. But that's another story...as is the final few seconds of the Butler upset over Pitt in the now "3rd" round of the NCAA Final Four Tournament, or the five-second violation against Texas, or Syracuse going over-and-back.
No, what this little piece is about is advertising. How much time have you spent watching this season's NCAA tournment? How many different networks and start times did you have to traverse to do so?
And how much advertising are you seeing...and how is it affecting the game on the court? How greedy, in fact, is the NCAA?
A fan of this site sent this to me and I thought it was worth posting. He wrote, "The Men's NCAA Tournament has too much stoppage time. The games are LITERALLY being altered by greed. Teams who play a "half court" style benefit from this. Not to mention fans have to sit through at least 24 and 1/2 minutes of commercials (and that's if neither team calls a timeout and excludes half time)."
As a case in point, he provided the following breakdown of the UConn v. Cincinnati game from Saturday March 19th.
Tip off for this game was at 6:56 pm PST.
Time Out Called By
Length of TV Commerical Break
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
TV Time Out
Game Ended at 9:05 pm PST.
There was a grand total of 36:18 minutes worth of advertising in this game.
*Note the 7 whole seconds of game time that passed before the network decided to squeeze in another round of commercials.
Does this affect game play? Certainly. Does it affect teams equally? Perhaps not.
But what I do know is that not one dime made during that 36+ minutes went to any of the kids working their tails off on the court, nor did a single cent of the network money paid to the NCAA to broadcast these games.
And people wonder how/why a college athlete would take a dive or shave points in a game....