Remember all of the pre-draft cries about lack of experience, a potentially unstable left knee, the he’s-just-not-quite-ready-for-prime-time label that’s carelessly used when talent evaluators and execs have no better way to prove that a college player shouldn’t make the jump to the professional game?
Well, my gosh, here’s $1,000 and an O.J. that says Mark Sanchez couldn’t be happier with his decision to go against the grain, and the advice of his nationally-acclaimed coach, and leave USC after his junior season to enter the NFL Draft.
We don’t need to mention the university’s seemingly abundant moral shortcomings to see how well this move worked out for Sanchez, but they certainly put the frosting on his green and white J-E-T-S cake.
Florham Park, New Jersey, the site of Jets minicamp, is more than a few Hail Mary’s from Los Angeles and the campus of Southern California, and who would have thought Sanchez, who was a favorite among Hollywood hot shots during his time in L.A., would find heaven and liberation wrapped all in one when he stepped out of his comfortable place amidst campus frenzy ?
Sanchez isn’t taking any backseat to the media attention as he prepares to compete with Kellen Clemens for the Jets starting quarterback job when camp opens in August, as New York provides its own stratosphere of flash bulbs and microphones.
But when we all thought his biggest media hurdles were ahead of him, its now clear that they would have been much worse staying in Los Angeles.
We won’t know this for sure, of course, until Sanchez takes the field in the Meadowlands and begins hurling spirals in his new regalia. It all depends on the success of the Jets given the criticism-cauldron nature of Manhattan.
There were never questions regarding Sanchez’s character—that remains impeccable, by all accounts—and that was a large reason why Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum decided to go forth with his draft day audible and trade up to the fifth spot in the draft and select Sanchez.
On Wednesday, Sanchez drowned any possible notions of prima donnaitis by signing a five-year deal worth approximately $50 million, $28 million guaranteed, and could potentially be worth up to $60 million if Sanchez reaches all incentives.
There will be no ridiculous holdouts or pompous public feuds between player and team. All there to do now is play football, exactly how Sanchez wants it.
And that’s where we will truly see the answered prayer of Sanchez, who didn’t leave USC with the most distinguished college career, by any means. He had a solid junior season and a great Rose Bowl performance to hang his chinstrap on.
For USC, though, it’s about everything but playing ball.
One of the most prestigious American universities now operates in a cesspool of fraud and dishonesty.
One of the most opulent athletic departments is now the perfect illustration of irrepressible avarice and moral indifference.
And one of the most tradition-rich collegiate sports programs now confirms The Next Big Thing on the gridiron or hardwood is far more important than protecting the virtuous standards of academia.
Heritage Hall has been turned into Hinky Hall.
What a grand plan to attract the attention of mothers and fathers who would have to write approximately $200,000 in checks if their child is to obtain four years of a USC education.
Would any of these previous sentences look great in big bold cardinal and gold print on the front of a campus brochure? Didn’t think so. Guess reality isn’t always as sparkling as a BCS National Championship trophy.
These stories of risky business and cutting corners are present in the underbelly of thousands of schools in the United States, not just USC. But if you want all the glamour and fame during the good times, you are going to have to wear the pink tutu that comes with the embarrassment of the bad times.
This isn’t just an athletic department thing, a coach thing, a player thing, an agent thing. This is a university thing.
Nobody stops the lies because the lies lead to millions of dollars and great television contracts.
The lies lead to endless publicity and promotion.
The lies lead to bloated bank accounts and softer pillows for administration.
But, please, lets leave it to Master P, Young Buck, DJ Quik, et al., to preach, “If it don’t it make dollars, it don’t make sense.”
We often forget that athletic programs lick the university’s table clean, not the other way around.
Sure, in this era of big business that is major collegiate sports, we would be ignorant to argue that a university would be the same without its sports teams. Taking away athletic programs would be taking away irreplaceable streams of revenue while substantially damaging campus life. That much is undeniably true.
BUT...let's remember something in the aftermath of these scandals.
Without basketball and football, there would still be a University of Southern California (albeit, admittedly, a severely shrunken and less prosperous version, but a standing institution nonetheless).
Without USC, there is no beautiful Galen Center, iconic L.A. Coliseum, Heisman Trophy winning Trojan running back named Bush, or any of these figures making news for the wrong reasons.
So, yes, Tim Floyd is at fault for running a squeaky basketball program before bolting to his Mississippi cottage due to the idea of having to face allegations regarding the supposed $1,000 or so that made its way from his fingertips to the palms of O.J. Mayo’s coddlers.
Pete Carroll is at fault for not being more aware of Reggie Bush’s family allegedly accepting free rent and other gifts from certain conniving prospective agents.
Mayo and Bush are at fault because, after all, it is their careers and they must learn to take responsibility for their name.
USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett is at fault for blindfolding himself and kissing the feet of Carroll and Floyd in return for high-profile bowl games and March Madness appearances.
And university President Steven B. Sample is at fault for merely sitting at the top of this mess and allowing his university to be defamed by the actions of his employees.
Fair or unfair, this is a tsunami that drenches from the very top of the university all the way down. This is the most daunting full-court press USC can face, and it is up to the university as a whole, not just the athletic department, to repair its image.
It won’t be easy. This isn’t fourth-down territory for USC. This is fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-down territory for the Trojans because all future athletes will be unfairly marked with the negative connotations that suddenly accompany being a Trojan.
An 18-year-old will have to prove that he or she didn’t except any free money or benefits, rather than be given the benefit of the doubt and the privacy that an amateur athlete should be entitled to. How disgusting is that?
And many thought that Mark Sanchez would be better off returning for his senior season, leading the Trojans to victory at Ohio State, and winning a National Championship before heading to the draft with a legitimate case to be the first quarterback chosen instead of Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy.
The bright lights of Manhattan never seemed so comfortable from afar.
You can reach Teddy Mitrosilis at email@example.com.