In a story that's likely to gain momentum as the college football season winds down, LeGarrette Blount has been reinstated by both the Oregon Ducks and Pac-10 Conference. Blount, as most fans need no reminding, is the gentleman who sucker-punched some trash-talking clown from Boise State after the Broncos rocked the Ducks' world in the season opener.
In fairness to said clown, Blount drew first trash-talking blood.
The reinstatement can be (and is being) received in a variety of ways.
Some will argue that the kid has paid a serious penalty and Oregon did right by waiting until after its big tete-a-tetes with conference rivals USC and Stanford. Others will counter (as the FOX writer did) that it shows where the school's real priorities lie, especially in the wake of yet another upset loss. This time, the Ducks got ambushed by the mighty, mighty Cardinal—there's only a hint of sarcasm in there as Stanford is having a great year and it's my alma mater.
Regardless, the isolated turn of events isn't what disturbs me about the decision.
In truth, I think there's merit to both sides of the argument, but I think concentrating on LeGarrette Blount is missing the forest for the trees. When the youngster puts cleat to turf in his return, it will leave yet another indelible stain on the NCAA governing body.
Because Dez Bryant will not get that chance.
The Oklahoma State Cowboy wide receiver has been suspended for the year because he lied to NCAA investigators about a visit he made to Deion Sanders' house. According to one more kid caught in the wrong kind of limelight, he did nothing outside the voluminous NCAA rule book while under Neon Deion's double-edged wing—Bryant says he simply panicked and lied in the heat of the moment.
Similar to the Blount situation, I don't know who is right between the two sides. I don't know if Bryant lied because he was making improper flirtations with the NFL or if he really did just crack under a pseudo-interrogation. Both seem entirely plausible given Sanders' rickety credibility and the unilateral investment made in these athletes' development.
As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter.
Now that Bryant's appeal has been denied and Blount will take snaps again in 2009, what the Cowboy really did is beside the point.
At worse, Bryant was guilty of getting a jump start on his professional career, so let's go with that. Yes, meeting with agents or whatever is against the rules. But I'm sure that same rule book uses some very firm and admirable language in describing the NCAA's commitment to the STUDENT-athlete.
Take a look at those graduation rates for some of the biggest football and basketball programs—you know, the ones that also happen to generate the toweringest of dollar-bill mountains by astounding coincidence. Now tell me again how seriously the powers-that-be consider a breach of those rules.
And does the book not mention anything about cold-clocking an opponent for the entire civilized world to see? Then going bonkers after the punch lands, ultimately needing to be restrained by teammates?
Live and in high-definition.
Furthermore, what if Bryant is being honest? What if all he did was lie to the investigators about an innocuous trip? To my knowledge, there haven't been any specific allegations of error beyond the deceit.
Lie to holy NCAA investigators and get bounced for an entire year. On the other hand, commit assault and battery (were it not on a football field), sit a spell, cross your t's, dot your i's, and all will be forgiven.
Anyone else see a problem with that policy?
To me, it looks like Bryant's offense possibly threatened the NCAA's stranglehold on its student-athletes and the cash that comes with it, while Blount's definitely threatened the physical safety of a fellow competitor.
For those even remotely familiar with NCAA policy and execution, it's not surprising the organization landed on one with both feet and seems to be nodding along as the other returns. This is, after all, an organization that shelters under a tax-free umbrella because of its dedication to the academic maturation of its athletes while turning a blind eye as many of its biggest revenue producers miserably fail in that mission.
Nevertheless, the disparity is disgusting.
One last time for the cheap seats—I don't pretend to know whether LeGarrette Blount's reinstatement is right. Nor do I know if Dez Bryant's year-long suspension is wrong.
But put the two cases side-by-side, and one thing is painfully obvious.
The NCAA suits have yet another reason to be ashamed of themselves.