For Love of the Gain

Patrick ShieldsCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2008

While what happened to Brett Favre sickens me, it is far too easy to write an article chastising the Packer's front office. Instead, I will write on something and someone that sickens me far worse.

Sammy Villegas was given one of the greatest gifts a man can receive, the ability to play NCAA Division I Basketball. Only a handful of individuals in this country are blessed with the talent, drive, and academic proficiency to make the leap from a high school gym to the college hardwood, and Sammy was one of them.

So did Villegas take the most of this opportunity, push himself to grow, and attempt to make yet another jump into the NBA? No. He shaved points. He disgraced himself, the University of Toledo, and NCAA basketball as a whole.

College basketball isn't supposed to be like this. It is supposed to be pure, unadulterated competition as kids, yes they are still kids, compete against each other in hopes of winning an NCAA championship. There isn't money involved, at least that the public knows about, and there aren't any endorsement deals hanging in the balance. It should simply be a game being played by those who love it most and can perform at the highest level.

Yes there have been point shaving scandals in the past, but this one really hurts. Sure, some individuals will claim that since Villegas did not attend North Carolina, Kansas, or any of the other elite programs in the country, that his actions aren't that big of a deal, but these individuals are sorely mistaken. You don't have to play for a perennial national title contender to see your actions have nationwide ramifications.

In a time when we see the NBA's reputation being tarnished by on-court brawls, referee betting scandals, and a growing number of league substance abuse policy offenders, we should be able to turn to the college game and get away from all that controversy, but now we cannot.

The same doubts that will be placed on NBA referees in the coming years will now be placed on college athletes. Was that just a bad shot, or was that basket missed on purpose to help cover the spread? Did he mean to throw the ball away or was it simply an errant pass?

What Villegas has done is instill a sense of doubt in every fans head that will stay with us throughout the season. While I will not go around accusing every player who misses a shot of point-shaving, there will be a lingering thought in my mind when a typically dependable player makes an uncharacteristic mistake late in a game.

So thank you Sammy Villegas. Thank you for taking the opportunity the NCAA gave you to play at the highest collegiate level and throwing it in their faces. Thank you for placing your love of money above your love of honor, sportsmanship, and the game. Thank you for hampering my own, as well as millions of others, excitement for the upcoming season.

But hey, you were just doing it for love of the gain, right?