The scandals have lost their shock value, and perhaps a more appropriate question than “Are you surprised?” is "Do you care?"
Do you actually care that student-athletes are being paid under the table and that dirt is being dug up on schools from a decade ago, or are you simply trained to care because this has been deemed newsworthy—albeit in a frustratingly repetitive cycle with no meaningful conclusion—in the sport you care deeply about?
A week that was supposed to be an oversaturation of Alabama and Texas A&M storylines, matchups and Sabanisms has instead been overrun by a tag-team college scandal exposé.
Sports Illustrated kicked off the week with George Dohrmann and Thayer Evans’ five-part series on Oklahoma State football—a series that will conclude next week—focusing on money, academics, drugs, sex and “The Fallout,” a post-program look at where some of these players have ended up.
Part 1 focused on the money, an alleged flow of handouts from boosters, jobs (that really weren’t actually jobs but paid like it) and bonuses for on-field performances. This information came from eight separate former players in the program, and the reports have already been denied by a handful of former Oklahoma State players.
In the midst of this Oklahoma State chaos, however, Yahoo! Sports' Rand Getlin and Charles Robinson dropped a bomb of their own, reporting that five SEC players (some former and some current) received improper benefits while in college.
These players are former Alabama lineman D.J. Fluker, former Mississippi State players Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis, former Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, who is currently on the team:
The identities of these players were revealed in a web of financial and text message records belonging to former Crimson Tide defensive end Luther Davis. The records were turned over to Yahoo Sports by a source with ties to the NFL agent community who alleged that Davis was acting as an intermediary between several high-profile college football stars and multiple NFL agents and financial advisers.
Unlike recent NCAA cases—look no further than the quarterback who will take over your television on Saturday—Yahoo! provided ample evidence. This could serve as a potential game-changer when it comes to NCAA action, and it's often the valuable missing link in these cases.
There are text messages, receipts and financial statements that will require some sort of explanation. The investigation is remarkably detailed and thorough, which is to be expected given Robinson’s involvement. He likely won’t be getting any invitations to campus banquets in the near future.
In fact, if he’s at your school, it’s best you run.
But while the work and incredible detail from Robinson—and anyone else who sets voyage on this elongated investigative chase—is respected, the outrage, backlash, shock or any other assumed response just isn’t coming. Not anymore.
I’ve grown numb to the scandals in college football because the term “scandal” is no longer appropriate, at least not in the instance of a few players acquiring a little extra scratch. “Scandal” deserves something more, something meaningful, something beyond a student-athlete accepting $100 for a touchdown or a plane ticket. In the grand scheme, the word loses all significance.
As school after school lines up to empty its closet, the shock value trickles away, bit by bit. The guilty parties are not just the ones getting caught; they are just the ones who slipped up along the way.
The writing is on the wall, and the schools creating headlines through these various violations have silent company.
The bigger issue, of course, isn’t that players and schools have dirt. It’s that this is all somehow considered dirt, and the archaic governing body that rules on such insignificant matters—better known as the NCAA—is still trudging along.
Yahoo! Sports' Dan Wetzel, a frequent foe of amateurism and the blatant hypocrisy of it all, took aim at the topic yet again once his colleagues posted their latest investigation:
The real scandals don't involve money; they involve academics or drug-test fixing or other real-world issues. Systematic academic fraud—one that keeps borderline students uneducated – is what should generate the harshest penalties, the loudest condemnations and the most aggressive NCAA investigations. These are, after all, supposed to be institutions of higher learning. And the schools are very capable of looking into this stuff themselves.
That isn't how the system is set up though.
While amateurism will continue to take on its adversaries—including, perhaps, a trip to the courtroom—the scandals will continue to surface. Of course, it should be noted that Robinson’s crown jewel, the investigation into Miami, still doesn’t have a ruling from the NCAA more than two years later.
Still, more allegations will surface. They will involve new schools and new players (both past and present), and they will serve as headlines on large websites, including this one, a familiar link in the cycle.
Despite the collective, momentary public gasp, however, the interest in these stories will continue to dwindle. It’s newsworthy when someone breaks a rule, and our infatuation with chaos cannot be overstated. But when the rules are no longer respected and the “controversies” become assumed, the infractions lose their appeal.
Players are being paid, and there’s a blatant disregard for college football’s ancient structure of guidelines. The surprise isn’t that this has gone on and will continue to go on, but rather that we are able to stay surprised, investigation after investigation, even after all this.