Where have all the good guys gone?
Perhaps they're still there; we just can't see them through all of the haze created by those few who bring nothing but disillusionment and embarrassment to themselves, their universities and the game of college football.
In this day and age, it seems as if we college football faithful are subjected to scandal after scandal. We can't get from one season to the next without some new case of improper benefits, undue influence or downright cheating.
Who are the worst offenders? This is our list of the biggest embarrassments in the college football world.
OK, so not Tim Tebow. Not exactly.
Tim Tebow's inclusion on this list isn't because he himself is an embarrassment to the game. Quite the opposite. Tebow exemplified everything that's right with the college football game.
His scholarship at Florida gave him a vehicle to do bigger and better things in life that he would never have been able to accomplish had he not attended college, lead a top college football program and win a Heisman Trophy.
Tebow is first on this list because he is the anti-embarrassment. He makes those who are embarrassments look so much worse than they already do, simply because Tebow proves that college football players can follow the rules and live their lives for more than fleeting glory on autumn Saturdays.
For a kid who played just one year at Ohio State, he certainly racked up a long list of embarrassments.
First, Clarett was embroiled in an academic scandal, accused of getting high grades in a class with no effort—and hardly ever attending class.
His friend in Youngstown was killed, and he was ticked off that Ohio State didn't pay for a plane ticket for him. (Do you really need to fly from Columbus to Youngstown? It's seriously a 175-mile drive.)
He was seen screaming at an Ohio State assistant coach on the sidelines during the 2002 game at Northwestern.
After helping Ohio State to the BCS title that season, Clarett felt he could do no wrong. That led to his eventual suspension from Ohio State after filing a false police report claiming more than $10,000 of merchandise had been stolen from a car he was borrowing from a Columbus dealership.
So Clarett decided to head to the NFL. The only problem was the fact that he wasn't two years out of high school yet, in violation of NFL draft rules. Clarett sued the NFL to gain entry into the draft but failed.
He was eventually drafted a year later by the Denver Broncos but never played a single snap—not even in the preseason.
After more run-ins with the law, Clarett found himself in prison, serving more than seven years on gun charges.
To his credit, Clarett, now a third-string running back for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL, has been working hard to get his life back on track. He even volunteers regularly for the Boys and Girls Club of Omaha.
At 27, his prospects of making the NFL seem slim, but even if he does, he'll likely be remembered for his single year at Ohio State and the precipitous fall that followed.
Fortune seemed to smile on Jeremiah Masoli.
After transferring to Oregon from the City College of San Francisco, he quickly became the starter due to injuries to those in front of him on the depth chart.
Masoli was given the early chance to showcase his skills most JUCO quarterbacks can only dream about.
He accounted for 23 touchdowns (13 passing, 10 rushing) in 2008 and set an Oregon record with 714 rushing yards—the most for a Ducks signal caller.
When the 2009 season began, Masoli's name was mentioned as a possible Davey O'Brien Award winner. After an early setback against Boise State, the Ducks rebounded and won the Pac-10 championship, earning a Rose Bowl berth.
Rather than building on that success and preparing for the 2010 season, Masoli decided he'd rather turn to crime than a charmed life as a beloved quarterback and top NFL prospect.
Just a few weeks after Oregon's Rose Bowl defeat to Ohio State, Masoli and a teammate were arrested on felony burglary charges. In March, Masoli pleaded guilty and received one year of probation. Head coach Chip Kelly suspended Masoli for the entire 2010 season.
If the story had ended there, Masoli may have been able to salvage some sense of his former life. But wishing for a thing doesn't make it so.
Over the summer, Masoli was convicted on misdemeanor drug charges. Kelly dismissed Masoli from the program.
Masoli finished his undergraduate degree, but with a year of eligibility remaining, he sought out other opportunities to play in college and found himself at Ole Miss.
After initally being denied eligibility by the NCAA, Ole Miss appealed the decision, and Masoli was allowed to play.
Unfortunately, Masoli and the Rebels had a lackluster 2010 season, and combined with his earlier legal issues, Masoli was left undrafted by the NFL.
While not the most serious offender, his stunningly poor choices at Oregon destroyed a promising career and who knows what else for Oregon's 2010 season.
So full of promise. So full of anger.
Marcus Vick, the younger brother of Michael, was one of the top quarterback prospects of his day. After all, with a last name like Vick and the talent to back it up, every team who needed an all-around quarterback needed Vick.
He was fast, strong and very much appeared to be like his older brother.
While the elder Vick attended Virginia Tech and took it as far as any Hokies team had been, the younger Vick didn't seemed wholeheartedly convinced and issued a lukewarm commitment to Tech.
After arriving on campus, Vick redshirted his first season in Blacksburg. His freshman playing season saw him split playing time as he eased into Frank Beamer's system. Vick showed amazing promise in his redshirt freshman season and was expected to be the starter as a sophomore.
Then the trouble began.
Vick was convicted of several minor offenses over the offseason. Virginia Tech had dealt with more than its fair share of player control issues in the 1990s, and the athletic department had a comprehensive plan in place for players who had run-ins with the law.
Perhaps the most notorious incident occurred in January 2004, when Vick was arrested on charges of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl—a year younger than the age of consent in Virginia.
The girl was underage but admitted that she had lied about her age, and the sex charge was dismissed. Vick was, however, convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and a $2,250 fine.
Later that summer, Vick was charged with reckless driving and possession of marijuana. He lost his driver's license and had to perform community service and enter drug counseling.
He was subsequently suspended by Virginia Tech for the 2004 fall semester. He was reinstated for the spring 2005 semester and told that any further incidents would lead to his expulsion from school.
Vick won the starting role in 2005, but by October, he was in trouble yet again. After flipping the bird to WVU fans in Morgantown, he concluded his season with “the stomp.”
After a play, Vick stomped on the leg of Elvis Dumervil of Louisville. Vick contended it was accidental, but anyone who has ever seen the replay clearly knows differently.
Just before the Gator Bowl against Louisville that year, Vick found himself in trouble with the law again, this time for driving on a suspended license. From the time he arrived in Blacksburg to January 2006, Vick had nine traffic arrests on his record, plus the charges from the 2004 party.
It didn't take long for Virginia Tech to expel Vick after the new arrests with the stomp on top.
But what makes you shake your head at the whole situation is Vick's response to his expulsion. A local newspaper quoted him as saying, “It's not a big deal. I'll just move on to the next level, baby.”
Hey Marcus—how did that work out for you, baby?
Not well. He was a member of the Miami Dolphins practice squad for one season, played in one regular season game in the fourth quarter, recording no statistics of any kind, and never returned to the NFL.
He also had numerous other run-ins with law enforcement after leaving Virginia Tech (including one just three days after his expulsion).
At least his older brother was able to pull himself up after his legal troubles.
Craig James was one of the famed members of SMU's Pony Express in the late 1970s and early 1980s. James was pretty much the model player and had always kept his nose clean while turning in stellar performance after stellar performance for the Mustangs.
But all of that success came crashing down after James departed SMU.
While James was never personally implicated in the massive pay-for-play scandal that led to SMU's death penalty, he was a star player at SMU during the height of the scandal. It's difficult to see how James wasn't part of or at least knew about the scandal going on around him at SMU.
James went on to a fairly brief USFL and NFL career, which was shortened by injury. James was selected as a Pro Bowler in 1986 as a member of the New England Patriots.
James returned to the Fort Worth area after retiring from football and became a radio announcer for SMU's reinstated football program. He began appearances with ESPN in the network's early years and has since landed full-time as an ESPN analyst.
James' son, Adam, was embroiled in a controversy at Texas Tech during the 2009 season, and Craig James' actions during that scandal, as well as his continued one-sided argument against non-AQ programs, are what land him on this list.
After allegedly being injured in a Dec. 16 practice, Adam James was supposedly told by a doctor not to return to practice due to a mild concussion. The next day, James contends that coach Mike Leach ordered him to stand in a garage next to the practice facility while the rest of the team practiced.
Texas Tech claims Leach was ordered to apologize in writing to James, but Leach (through his attorney) denies any such order existed, according to the Huffington Post. Texas Tech suspended Leach, but the coach sought a court injunction that would allow him to coach in Tech's upcoming bowl game.
Texas Tech's response was to fire Leach—and it fired him just one day prior to Leach receiving an $800,000 longevity bonus. Ouch.
The termination letter was handed to Leach as he was entering the courtroom to hear his motion to coach in Tech's bowl game, which was moot now that he had been fired. Double ouch.
So how does Craig James fit into this mess?
Leach claimed to the Associated Press (h/t Huffington Post) that Craig James constantly lobbied for more playing time for his son and was upset that Adam wasn't getting it. Leach claimed Adam was lazy and walked around with a sense of entitlement because of who his dad is.
The resulting dust-up between James and Leach lead to a defamation lawsuit against James. While ESPN has gleefully reported much of the controversy from the perspective of Texas Tech and Craig James, there has been shockingly little from Leach's side of the situation.
So much so that Leach decided to write a book in an attempt to air his story.
In short, the elder James is accused of railroading Leach by personally contacting high-ranking administrators at Texas Tech, and James also allegedly used the public relations firm that represents him to put pressure on Tech and discredit Leach.
Leach has also gone on record as saying his biggest regret at Texas Tech was not cutting Adam James. It's also worth noting that ESPN reportedly suspended one of its best writers, Bruce Feldman, when it became known the Feldman contributed to Leach's book.
Curiously, an ESPN press release said that Feldman was never suspended but that Feldman had “resumed his duties.” Wait a tick. How can he resume his duties if he was never suspended?
Why would he need to resume if he never stopped? Is there any doubt who at ESPN was the loudest voice calling for Feldman to be suspended in the first place?
If even half of the stuff that has come out about Craig James in all of this is true, he doesn't look very good.
What's more, James has pretty much made his bread on being the ESPN guy who ridicules TCU, Boise State, Utah and the other BCS non-automatic qualifying programs.
Watching the weekly installment of the BCS rankings countdown show, you almost feel sorry for people like Jesse Palmer, who week in and week out are subjected to verbal attacks by James simply because they have arrived at the conclusion that after years and years of continued success, those teams deserve a shot.
Based on the way James handles himself on screen with his coworkers, it's not a stretch to see how much of what is in Mike Leach's book could be true.
It would probably be better for ESPN, not to mention the world of college football, if Craig James simply went away already.
There is probably no single person who presents a bigger threat to the game of college football as we currently know it than Willie Lyles.
Mr. Lyles began as the owner of a scouting agency that collected and sold and/or disseminated scouting information on high school football prospects. Many, if not most, top programs across the country utilize such services, and there's nothing inherently untoward about that.
After all, a relatively few college football coaches cannot be expected to identify every quality prospect, and these services do nothing more than provide background research on the prospects.
But Lyles apparently offers more services.
Lyles is under NCAA investigation for what amounts to selling influence or access to the prospects the Lyles recruits. Some people have even gone so far as to call Lyles as “street agent” or “shadow agent” for the high school players.
Some top programs have become ensnared in the growing scandal, most notably Oregon, LSU and a number of others. Texas A&M has now reported that Lyles asked it to top an $80,000 offer for one recruit.
Lyles went from initially denying everything to now saying that Oregon paid “for influence and access” to recruits Lyles had been scouting.
Since Lyles is outside of the NCAA hierarchy, it's doubtful anything can happen to Lyles directly, although it's pretty clear he's persona non grata in college football circles these days.
That's not the case for the programs, though, particularly Oregon and LSU, the two biggest programs implicated in the pay-for-play scandal that's developing surrounding the players Lyles was apparently “handling.”
While it's unclear what will eventually come of the NCAA investigation, one thing is certain: A person in Lyles' position definitely knew that he was facilitating violations of NCAA rules.
Lyles' actions place the entire system at risk, and for that, he really ought to be ashamed of himself.
Cecil Newton, behind his son, Cam
Speaking of pay-for-play scandals, Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton, makes our list for his much-publicized “selling” of his son's talents to the highest bidder.
It's not clear if Cam knew anything about his dad's activities, so Cam is spared an inclusion on the list.
It's also not yet clear if Auburn actually paid Cecil (or Cam) for Cam coming to Auburn, but it's likely that will come out sooner or later in some kind of investigation yet to take place by either the NCAA or some media outlet.
The situation became so bad last year after Mississippi State informed the NCAA that Cecil Newton had asked for upwards of $180,000 for Cam to come play for the Bulldogs that Cecil did not attend his son's Heisman Trophy ceremony, nor did Auburn provide Cecil with a ticket to the BCS National Championship Game.
Like Lyles, Cecil Newton acted in a way he had to have known was in violation of NCAA rules and in doing so not only put his son's future in jeopardy but also placed the entire college football system at risk.
Charley Pell made a name for himself as the head coach at Clemson. He completely turned the program around and was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1978 for his efforts.
It also appeared that Pell skirted the bounds of the rules at Clemson, and after he left for Florida, the Tigers were placed on probation for two seasons because of things that had occurred under Pell.
Pell's departure for Florida didn't end matters. In fact, things got worse. After learning of the violations of the Clemson program under Pell, the NCAA began looking into Pell's handling of the Florida program.
In less than six seasons, the NCAA found that Florida under Pell had committed no fewer than 107 major violations of NCAA rules. No, that's no typo. That's 107 major violations.
Florida was placed on probation, endured a postseason ban as well as a ban on televised games and lost 20 scholarships over two seasons.
Pell was fired midway through the 1984 season.
After leaving Florida, Pell battled depression and even tried to commit suicide before receiving treatment.
He later became a spokesman for the disease and helped remove the stigma from the affliction. His fund-raising efforts at Florida also had lasting results, many that can still be seen in Gainesville today.
During his tenure at USC, Pete Carroll had been called many things. But what lands him on this list is what he was called at the end: a rat fleeing a sinking ship.
Carroll presided over one of the greatest times in Trojans football. That time span also turned out to be one of the most embarrassing in USC history.
With the way coaches are ingrained in the everyday life of their players these days, especially the Heisman-caliber star players, it's almost impossible to envision a scenario in which Pete Carroll didn't at least know what was happening with Reggie Bush.
While it's probably unfair to classify Pete Carroll as a primary offender, it's clear that he at least condoned the violation of NCAA rules by his players, and it's possible he even supported such rule-breaking.
Once the NCAA began its investigation in earnest, Carroll (and the rest of the USC staff) threw up roadblock after roadblock in front of the investigators, frustrating the NCAA's efforts and probably delaying their findings by at least a year—possibly more.
Once it became apparent that USC was in big trouble, Carroll found the nearest exit and bailed out for the NFL, leaving USC holding a very large bag.
It's also worth mentioning that the NCAA cited the lack of cooperation from the football program under Carroll when handing down the harshest penalties since SMU in the 1980s.
USC also lost a Heisman Trophy claim and a national championship in the process.
While Pete Carroll certainly deserves some blame, the reason for all of the problems rest no further than Reggie Bush.
What Bush did wasn't the most horrible thing ever. In fact, many worse things happen every day in the world. But what Bush did was not only violate NCAA rules—he also lied about it. And lied. And lied. And lied.
He lied so much and for so long that the NCAA had no choice but to come down hard on USC. The problems weren't limited to Bush either, but he was the front man for the Trojans, and when a calamity of this magnitude occurs, the front man usually takes the brunt of the punishment.
In this case, Bush deserved pretty much everything he got—which was the proverbial slap on the wrist.
There are probably a good number of people who have never heard of Harvey “Scooter” McDougle, and probably with good reason: He played for Toledo.
The fact that he played for the Rockets—rather than the Buckeyes or Wolverines or Longhorns—kept this scandal from rocking the college football world and kept McDougle from being at or near the top of this list.
He's accused of paying his teammates and Toledo basketball players to fake injuries to miss games so he could beat the spread with his bookies.
Toledo was once an up-and-comer in the MAC, but not after this scandal. The FBI even got involved, and McDougle pled guilty in a Detroit Federal Court and likely faces six months in federal prison for his bribery conviction.
Terrelle Pryor is another player who appears on the list because his less than horrendous offenses caused a precipitous downfall of one of the nation's top programs.
Terrelle Pryor was clearly a star. There's no question he was absolutely beloved in Columbus and the state of Ohio.
Of course, in the Buckeye State, anything in scarlet and gray is beloved simply because there's some sort of mass dementia or contaminant in the water or something else that makes people go crazy for the Buckeyes while simultaneously looking down their noses (for no actual) reason at the rest of the nation.
It's probably because Ohio State is the only game in town, and there's not much else to do in the Rust Belt in the fall.
So what was the sin that brought down Goliath? Pryor and his buddies sold a few trinkets and old jerseys so they could get some tattoos.
At the end of the day, though, it was a violation of NCAA rules. But like USC, Ohio State put up as many roadblocks as possible in front of the NCAA to stave off harsh penalties.
Ironically, if Ohio State and the players involved had just initially fessed up, it's likely Pryor would still be a member of the Buckeyes, Ohio State would still have all of its wins from last season, a Big Ten championship and a Sugar Bowl trophy and the players would have to serve out a likely lesser suspension than five games.
But as is so often the case in these matters, it's not the crime—it's the cover-up.
Since the “Tattoogate” scandal blew up in the faces of everyone in Columbus, it has come out that selling memorabilia may have been the least of the violations committed by Pryor and others around him.
In three seasons, Pryor drove eight different vehicles. There are people in their 40s who have worked all of their lives who haven't had eight different vehicles. A kid supposedly making no money had eight cars before he was 22?
One good thing for Ohio State: Pryor is gone. That means there won't be anything worse he's done that will come out later to pile onto the already massive heap.
What is there left to say about Miami?
When the June 12, 1995 cover of Sports Illustrated bears the title “Why the University of Miami Should Drop Football,” you know you have a serious problem.
The Miami program could basically be described in three words: out of control.
There were drugs. There were guns. There was sex. There was violence. There were cash handshakes. There was outright payment of players. There was a Pell Grant scandal (as in stealing your tax dollars). There was taking off your helmet and beating a guy with it on the field.
All of this resulted in suspensions, probation, 55 lost scholarships, postseason bans and the disintegration of a once proud and nationally prominent program into a massive embarrassment for the university and its enabling alumni.
Southern Methodist University appearing on this list can't shock anyone.
The program had been enduring investigations into its recruiting practices by the time Eric Dickerson and company came along.
Even as NCAA investigators were looking into SMU's recruiting, news broke about a slush fund for the football program set up by alumni, with the full knowledge and support of the SMU administration and football staff, in order to pay the players a salary.
This scandal was so big that it reached far beyond the SMU campus and into the halls of power in Austin.
SMU was once one of the great institutions in the Southwest Conference, right alongside Texas, Texas Tech and the rest. In the end, even the governor of Texas and many members of the state legislature were implicated in the scandal.
When the NCAA levied charges against SMU, the football program amazingly continued to pay the players from the illegal slush fund because it was under contract with the players to do so, and it was afraid of being sued by the players or their families.
The NCAA had no choice but to shutter the entire program for a year. SMU subsequently decided to cancel the following season as well, and the following 20 years of football in Dallas have been a collective exercise in futility.
The Senator. Mr. Integrity. Slimeball. Liar. Cheat.
There are all words that have described Jim Tressel.
Over most of his career as the head coach of Ohio State, Jim Tressel talked the talk, and it appeared he was also walking the walk. He believed in the game, he believed in his players, he believed in the system and he believed in the university.
In the end, it turned out he was cheating everyone.
Tressel jealously guarded his reputation as the personification of integrity and was pretty much universally beloved by every Ohioan. What was there not to love?
Not only had he compiled a 94-22 record at Ohio State, he had also won at least a share of seven Big Ten championships in his 10 seasons and had a mind-blowing nine wins against Michigan in 10 seasons (now eight wins with Ohio State vacating all of its 2010 victories).
There was also the 2002 BCS title, three BCS championship game appearances and eight total BCS bowl berths (something no other team can claim).
But Jim Tressel committed the ultimate crime in college football.
No, it wasn't the rule violations—any of them—that did him in. It was the simple act of lying not only the university, but to the NCAA as well—and stupidly doing so in writing.
Tressel signed a statement submitted to the NCAA that he had no knowledge of the actions of the “Tattoo Five” prior to the story breaking. Email and phone records later proved that to be false.
Making matters worse, Tressel said at a press conference that the reason he didn't report it was in part due to the fact that he didn't know to whom he was to report the suspected NCAA violations.
It's not in any way possible that a coach with 25 years of head coaching experience in the NCAA didn't know that any report or suspicion of rule violations, no matter how small, is to be reported to the school's NCAA Compliance Office in the athletics department.
Tressel had finally crossed the threshold. He no longer had any credibility.
As more reports began to surface regarding Tressel's career, both as a head coach and his time as an assistant at Ohio State in the 1980s, it became clear that Ohio State could no longer continue to employ Jim Tressel as a football coach. Tressel was forced to resign.
Amazingly, Tressel's resignation letter had the tone of a man who was making the ultimate sacrifice for the good of the university and the program. He was maintaining his integrity by falling on the sword so the program could maintain its integrity.
Are you freaking kidding? Who believes that nonsense?
From start to finish, the mounting scandal at Ohio State proved one thing: Jim Tressel was a slimeball.
Why? It's not because he did something no one else had ever done. Far from it. But Tressel did everything he did while constantly preaching integrity and honesty.
Hypocrites are the worst type of offenders and, in this case, cause the most embarrassment possible.