What’s that, North Carolina? Worked up that half your team had to sit this season after it was discovered they’d found a way to make the fruits of their labor pay off for them?
What’s got you so upset, Dillon Baxter? Worked up that some Trojan contemporary lusting to be the next Josh Luchs offered you a lift and cost you a game in a college career already neutered for two seasons because of someone else’s past indiscretions? Perhaps you should’ve slipped your cabbie a fiver before taking the ride.
Bitter you had to sit out early in the season, Marcell Dareus? How about you, A.J. Green? Too bad. Sell a sweat-soaked jersey you wore in a bowl game, or let the wrong person buy you drinks, and you’ve become some cash-mongering monster bent on desecrating all that college football stands for.
In other words: In a system that is built on maximizing profits for the staid powerhouses and keepers of the faith at the expense of the little guy pigeonholed by dint of geography, you’d best ASK FOR MORE if you want to walk away without a scratch.
Apparently these guys should have tried to take the money and then run, before the first snap. Or at least let dad do the dirty dealing. It’s easy to talk about the “loopholes” being exposed and the “Pandora’s box” being opened (the two phrases being choked out ad nauseum by the paid big-boy writers on the national sites) by the NCAA’s ruling in the ongoing Cam Newton saga. But first, let’s recap this all:
The kid, a highly sought recruit out of high school, becomes a Florida Gator. He sits… and sits… and sits… and sits, relegated to clipboard duty despite his talents because of another incumbent prodigy. Kid gets jades and leaves Gainesville in a blaze of bad will forged by possession of stolen merchandise and the most sophomoric degradations of academic integrity. He goes to junior college, gets regular playing time for first time in a while, leads his school to JUCO national title. Once again the kid is a highly touted recruit, open to return to top-tier football after his exodus in the collegiate hinterlands.
They say the first time you marry is for love, the second for money. The kid who still professes himself a Gator leaves it up to dad to pick his new school. So dad enlists a coyote — a predatory headhunter middleman with visions of grandeur, a bumbling style and a few old teammates from his playing days in the Rolodex (because you know a character this shady can’t yet have found time to digitize). The middleman solicits dinero through his old intermediary friends with dad in tow to lay out preferred installment plans. Consider it lawaway for a dual-threat superstar. All the while, apparently, the kid is left to throw pigskins through a tire or run wind sprints or something.
The kid prospers in his new environment. His team wins… and wins… and wins. They run the table, one sticky situation after another skirted. But the winds blow and eventually the story erupts like wildfire. The kid’s new school professes innocence, the kid plays dumb (seeing but a spinning tire off at the cusp of his throwing range, no doubt) and the one organization deigned to be there to protect the integrity of the rules bumbles through an investigation that found the player ineligible anyway.
“But wait!” the kid and his new school cry. “We didn’t know anything about this. We didn’t get loaded from this deal.”
And the overseers bought the story, took the bait, bit down and capitulated hard.
What does this tell us? Quite simply something we damn well already knew. When it comes to big-time college football, the FCS and especially those schools in the six BCS conferences, there is no real oversight. The Tar Heels fiasco enlightened us to the reality that the staff the NCAA enlists to patrol compliance across the country is but a half-dozen people deep.
But if you love college football, you know that the NCAA has absolutely no control over the bloated cadre of ten dozen teams at the top of the pyramid. They control national championships at every other level. Not here, not in the rarified air occupied by the Auburns of the world.
There are those in the SEC that are fond of saying, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” And Mike Slive missed his opportunity to reassert his iron grip on the conference he controls. But he, too, dropped the ball here. No real shocker… the guy is more worried about landing/lobbying his teams into BCS title games and ballooning the SEC’s coffers with more of that money they make off kids’ sweat and toil.
But these men, the ones with the power to accept or reject a plea for clemency, have tipped their hand too far. The next Newton imitator must be as shrewd mentally as he is sound phyically — but with an enforcement body best known recently for its meekness and incredible willingness to defer all matters (save the ones with the evidence readily accessible) to the cartel that is the BCS, no other kid is going to have fear of recrimination. In the end, the only gospel truth that came out of the NCAA’s ruling was to witness the final step in its transformation as a eunuch.
Sure, mister, I didn’t see a thing! Nah, I would never ask my pappy about such matters. Yes sir, no sire, please and thank you… and could you please buff up that Heisman extra glossy for when I get to hold it that first time?