In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens scribed “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This single line can sum up the bipolarity of college football as we know it.
The scope of influence that a dollar bill can have on college football is alarming. The power that money projects results in either great times or bad times but when it doesn’t project power, no one notices. Only until the great times does the college football audience notice the power that a dollar bill can project. Then, the worst of times will eventually result due to the negative consequences that a dollar bill can project over college football.
Just ask SMU, Miami, Southern Cal, Alabama, Ohio State, and the dozens of other schools where the influence of money has resulted in downtrodden results after an upswing in financial contributions, known and unknown.
The NCAA has the power to implement the “Death Penalty” if it needs to. SMU, the only school to ever receive the “Death Penalty,” took the opposite trek of going from “ashy to classy” when they were bombarded with the most severe penalties that the NCAA can impose following a long rash of NCAA violations in the 1980s.
After suffering from the “Death Penalty,” SMU has never been the same. They went from classy to ashy. The downfall of the empire that SMU held on college football resulted from the good times that emerged after money corrupted the very institution in which it was supposed to preserve. At the time, many folks speculated that something odd was going on at SMU but only until years of trial and sanctions did the NCAA finally drop the hammer on SMU. They haven’t recovered since.
The University of Miami is another school to suffer from the calamity that a dollar bill can wreak on a college football program. Directly or indirectly, the projection of power that money has on college football has wrecked many major college football programs over the years, including but not limited to Alabama, Southern Cal, and more recently, Ohio State.
While all situations may appear to be different in their own right, they are indifferent in that the main interest which resulted in the NCAA violations revolved around the exchange of money. Even schools such as Boise State, Oregon, and Auburn are singing the blues after being caught or accused of violations stemming from recruiting trips where money supplied potential recruits with goods, from meals to sexual favors.
The issues stemming from the influence of money have always haunted college football. For an institution that prides itself on amateur competition, the fact that the college football domain has made billions of dollars off of the backs of athletes that play football in exchange for an education taints the very idea that something can be done about the projection of power that money has on the game.
Even so, not every college football player receives a full-ride at every school. There are some of those that have to pay in some capacity.
A moral obligation, a transformation so-to speak, must occur in order to limit the projected power of money in college football.
The lies, deceit, and resulting controversies must give way to a new institution which can provide oversight on behalf of the fans, under the umbrella of the NCAA, and independent of the schools. From implementing an independent body to oversee the competition which occurs in recruiting players, maintaining the lifestyle of student-athletes on campuses, and ensuring that a fair playing field truly exists among all schools is vital. By not doing so, maintaining an oligarchy of two dozen or so college football programs will continue.
Then again, would the NCAA be willing to implement such a body? After all, many speculate that the NCAA should be held as complicit accomplices to the schools who do violate the rules and policies by not consistently adhering to the established procedures that guide the overall system.
Is it a conspiracy? No. Do economics play a role? Yes. After all, like anything else, the NCAA needs money to operate. Therefore, the projection of power that money has on college football inundates the suits in the offices of where the NCAA operates from.
Having powerful schools dominate the scene on an annual basis is good business. We all know that the television ratings tumble when “outsiders,” such as Boise State or Utah, climb into the BCS Bowl Games. To the contrary, television ratings are superb when schools like Ohio State and Southern Cal duke it out in front of a national audience. Television ratings equal money. The more the better, the less the worse.
Money even projects itself into the campus, in plain sight of public view. Anyone who has ever been on the campus of a major college football program knows that the student-athletes who reside on campus live a plush life, especially if they are stars. They have the most elaborately furnished dormitories, the most technologically-advanced common areas, and usually get a “little help” from boosters alike that want to ensure that their stay on campus is as comfortable as possible, after all, these student-athletes are bringing in an enviable amount of money.
The NCAA doesn’t mind. After all, it is primarily the college football programs that keep other NCAA-sanctioned sports afloat financially. So, when the NCAA penalizes a school for violations on a level less than expected, nobody seems to really care because at the end of the day, college football is about money, even if it leaves a bad taste in your mouth afterwards.
So, next time you think about complaining about the influence that a dollar bill has on college football, remember, the NCAA doesn’t particularly mind. By turning a blind eye on most occasions or not imposing fair sanctions across the board, the NCAA is maintaining the status quo.
The bottom line is money and its projection of power across college football teaches us one lesson—life is not fair and neither is college football. Love it or leave it.
Pete Dymeck is a freelance sports journalist. He is a former ACC Correspondent for College and Pro Football Weekly, as well as the owner of the blog Third and a Mile.