Recent SEC Scandal Is Latest Example of NCAA's Flawed System

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Recent SEC Scandal Is Latest Example of NCAA's Flawed System
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Alabama is the latest to be hit in a long line of NCAA scandals

An amateur is defined as a person who engages in an activity as a pastime rather than a profession, or a person lacking the skill of a professional.

That being said, with the amount of money college athletics reel in these days, particularly football and basketball, it is asinine to continue labeling these kids as "student athletes". College athletics programs are not very different from the NFL, yet are handcuffed and forced to operate on an entirely different level.

The elephant in the room is that the NCAA is the root of many of the problems we see these days. Recent scandals like the one in the SEC or the one taking place at Oklahoma State are not even getting much news coverage for one simple reason: everyone is sick and tired of it.

Until 1984, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that televising college football would violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. There was fear that putting a bunch of games on television would reduce attendance. Once this change was made to institute these extraordinary lucrative television contracts, it was as if athletics programs had won the lottery.

That is the biggest evidence of all that things must change. If the higher-ups are reaping all the benefits and continuing to run everything under the same system as they did before they all got filthy rich, how is that fair at all to the players?

One scandal after another has been brought into the limelight without anything being done to remedy situations other than slaps on the wrist. Some slaps are obviously much harder than others, but if nothing changes why keep doing it?

To quote Rita Mae Brown, insanity can be defined as, "doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."

Moving on from the elementary level English lesson, the NCAA operates under a stale and hypocritical set of rules and boundaries. Here are the main issues that are being brushed aside.

 

Their Inconsistent Penalties Reek of Corruption

Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Much-maligned quarterback Johnny Manziel is undergoing a huge image change since his Heisman campaign

Johnny Manziel has taken the sports world by storm with his outrageously successful freshman campaign as the Heisman-winning quarterback at Texas A&M. Lately, the media has begun tearing down the same monster they created.

Manziel started to generate tons of negative spotlight in the wake of his Heisman campaign. His well-documented debauchery included court-side NBA seats, getting kicked out of a University of Texas frat party and allegedly being hungover at Peyton Manning's football camp.

All his offseason activities reached a breaking point when news broke of him allegedly receiving $7,500 for selling his autographs.

The NCAA brought down the hammer and hit A&M hard by suspending Manziel for the first half of their 2013 season opener against Rice. He threw three touchdowns in the second half, A&M won big, and that was the end of that.

Does this bring about memories of an eerily similar case from recent years? Because it should.

In 2008, Ohio State landed the nation's top quarterback recruit, a dynamic 6'6" jewel of an athlete by the name of Terrelle Pryor. In 2010, he and a few of his teammates were found guilty of accepting free tattoos and selling autographed Buckeyes memorabilia. The total damage was presumed to be around $14,000.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Pryor's legacy is forever tarnished with the way his Buckeyes career ended

The NCAA gave OSU a slightly harsher penalty, banning Pryor and various teammates for five games a piece to begin the 2011 season. However, they were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl following the 2010 season.

They didn't stop there. They then imposed a one-year postseason ban on the program, as well as a year of probation and loss of scholarships because they felt head coach Jim Tressel handled the situation poorly.

Ohio State then rode another dual-threat quarterback in Braxton Miller to an undefeated season in 2012 which would have most assuredly landed them in the BCS National Championship game if not for the ban.

Aren't the cases of Pryor and Manziel extremely similar? The argument could be made that Ohio State's was slightly worse, but the similarities are striking.

Manziel is the most polarizing figure in college football. He has become a marketing dream and brought Texas A&M $37 million to their athletic program just for the season he had. No wonder he only got suspended for a half. The NCAA deemed him to be above the law.

Finally, am I the only one who still feels completely befuddled by the Miami scandal? The program was entirely out of control with boosters streamlining in insane amounts of money to the football team. There were legitimate conversations of slapping them with the dreaded death penalty.

Pryor got five games for tattoos and Ohio State got a year postseason ban as well. Miami had boosters flooding the program with money and luring players to the program with lavish gifts, yet all they get is some player suspensions and forced repayment of benefits.

 

The Rulebook Needs to be Updated

Chris Graythen/Getty Images
D.J. Fluker is surely wrong for accepting his benefits, but a new system must be put in place to prevent these scandals from occurring so frequently.

Here are a couple of infractions committed by NCAA programs that will bring you a nice chuckle:

South Carolina was once sanctioned because head coach Steve Spurrier's wife sent Christmas cards to incoming freshmen recruits.

Boise State got three years of probation and nine lost scholarships because incoming recruits shacked up and spent nights with current football players when they came to town during the summer before their first semester for voluntary team workouts.

Dez Bryant, then of Oklahoma State, was famously suspended 10 games for simply having dinner with Deion Sanders.

A line needs to be drawn in the sand. CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel put it beautifully with this excerpt.

"Show me a leader who chooses the rules over what's right, and I'll show you a bad leader."

The NCAA rulebook is simply too detailed to keep up with. Without making an irrational generalization, it is likely that if they looked hard enough into any program that they could find a violation worthy of suspending players.

Then of course, there is the famous bagel rule. Programs are allowed to provide bagels to the players, but in no way are they allowed butter or cream cheese.

Heaven forbid they give the players lox. I'd imagine the penalties for that would make Pryor and Bryant's suspensions look like a simple third-grade timeout.

Do you think someone like Nick Saban takes the time out of his day running the multi-million dollar Alabama football program to concern himself with something as menial as cream cheese?

Call me a rebel, but if I was a collegiate athlete I would probably weigh the pros and cons and end up slathering on a nice layer of cream cheese on my bagel.

After all, serving dry bagels is a crime in and of itself. Shame on you, NCAA.

 

The NCAA is Hypocritical

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Dez Bryant was very outspoken about the hypocritical NCAA handling of Manziel's situation

So what if Johnny Manziel made $7,500 selling autographs?

Anyone who would say no to that kind of money for autographs is a saint. There is nothing illegal about making money off of one's own brand. Manziel shouldn't be prohibited from doing so, especially when the NCAA and Texas A&M are making millions off of him.

In the NFL, the players union takes care of its guys. Yes, circumstances like the concussion settlement and moving back the kickoff five yards drew lots of angst among the football community, but they were done with the players' best interests in mind.

What does the NCAA do for its players? As so beautifully pointed out by ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, they market them all over the place without letting the players see a dime of the profits.

Once upon a time, you could go into ShopNCAASports.com and type in the names of certain current big-name players like Manziel, Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater and it would bring their jerseys up for purchase.

Hypocrisy at its finest. The NCAA offered no explanation for why they did this, they just changed it.

 

The Term "Student-Athlete" is Outdated

I recently graduated from a very prominent university with a well-renown collegiate athletics program, which I will not name for fear of inciting NCAA sanctions (you never know who's reading!). While attending, I worked for the school paper as a student-journalist.

On the side, I worked various summer jobs and a few internships here and there as well as the occasional freelance piece that i received payments for. I was able to do my job without the fear of looking over my shoulder and having to worry about drawing unwanted attention to my program by accepting impermissible benefits.

Also, let's be honest. Anyone who went to a big school with a huge athletics program knows that athletes get special treatment.

The school has to weigh their options and sometimes choose to turn the other cheek on such marginal things because they can stand to lose monumental things over the smallest details.

Being a student-athlete is a full-time job. I am not going to regurgitate the overplayed argument about how student athletes should get paid. That is another conversation all in itself. The point is, it is ignorant to think that they are held to the same academic standards as other students.

Let's put it this way. What do you think is higher on the list of priorities for South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, pummeling SEC quarterbacks or his level-200 sociology homework? He is mislabeled as a "student-athlete" even though being an athlete is more important to him.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Not all student-athletes are the same. Jadeveon Clowney is a possible once-in-a-lifetime talent as an athlete, not a student

Clowney is more likely to enter a career in football than he is in anything academic-related. So, why is a once-in-a-decade defensive end talent who brings millions of dollars to his university grouped together with the third-string midfielder on South Carolina's women's soccer team?

It doesn't make sense. An athlete that pursues sports simply as a means of getting a degree has an entirely different incentive than someone like Clowney who has devoted all of his time and energy to football.

I understand the difference between professional and amateur, but just like the NBA has its superstars, like LeBron James, as well as its journeymen bench-warmers, like Luke Walton, in college you will undoubtedly have your Clowneys and your unknowns.

That does not mean they should be held to a different standard. It means that the NCAA is foolish by ignoring the difference between the two.

With big talent comes big temptation.

There is a reason why there are no boosters funneling money into Division-III baseball programs and buying yachts and Rolexes for the backup third baseman.

We live in an American society where it is encouraged to market one's own brand. Just like LeBron took his talents to South Beach, Clowney took his to Columbia, where he is able to put his game on display for the masses.

He should not be penalized for it.

 

The NCAA Has Become a Witch-Hunt

Come on, you really thought Oregon was going to make a meteoric rise to being a football powerhouse without suffering some damage along the way? Those spectacular wardrobes were just too good to be true.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Oregon scandal came out of nowhere, which brings about the question: Without their current success, does any of this even become an issue?

What is discomforting is the amount of schools that are currently on probation. Seemingly half of Division-I is in the midst of some sort of scandal.

Here's something to chuckle at. Last year, one-third of the Big Ten was on probation.

The conference is split into two divisions. With Ohio State suffering their postseason ban due to the aforementioned scandal, as well as Penn State garnering their well-deserved suspension, that left Wisconsin cruising to the Big Ten title game with conference also-rans Illinois, Purdue and Indiana basically handing the division to the Badgers.

The domino effect of this was that an 8-5 team made their way to the Rose Bowl, a black eye on the integrity of the sport, as well as another nail in the coffin for the BCS system.

Because Terrelle Pryor got a free tattoo, an abomination occurred, allowing an 8-5 team in the Rose Bowl. Good job, NCAA.

It is uncomfortable to see the way the media and the NCAA tear down the same prominent athletes they helped create. Once the spotlight shines bright on big-time stars, everything they do gets magnified. Suddenly, all of those minor things that didn't seem like such a big deal become a big deal.

We've seen it too many times. Reggie Bush had to give back his Heisman because he received improper benefits. Cam Newton's magical run to the title with Auburn will always have a cloud over it due to his father's antics. Pryor came to Ohio State as an overwhelmingly hyped recruit, but was torn down.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Cam Newton's legacy is tarnished due to alleged sanctions and conflict during his season at Auburn

We are now seeing it with Manziel and Clowney. With the most recent news, it seems the NCAA finally managed to dig up some dirt on two-time defending champion Alabama.

The media doesn't help with how quickly they turn on these kids and turn the public opinion against them. They take any sign of negativity and run with it. Coupled with the sanctions, it all snowballs and becomes an astronomical black eye on college football in general.

 

Conclusion

The Constitution put in place a system of checks and balances to ensure no one area became too powerful. The NCAA is a grandiose organization that continues to flex their muscles to ensure that they keep everyone else in check.

Players and programs cannot become too big, or they will come down with the wrath of their iron fist to make sure they stay in line.

Worst of all, they are resistant to change. The NCAA has been calling the same plays for decades. By refusing to update their act, they continue to cement their status the sports world's biggest hypocrisy.

Professional organizations like the NBA, NFL and MLB are constantly changing and listening to fans and players and other outside influences to do what they can to improve their brand. In comparison, it took years and years of griping from all parties to finally get the NCAA to rid themselves of the BCS.

It is a flawed system from top to bottom. Where there's smoke there's fire, and these college athletics scandals are becoming old news. If programs weren't so handcuffed and had more freedom to operate, everything would run much more smoothly.

 

 

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