Looking at what has taken place at some of the premiere college football programs in the country, one thing has become crystal clear. NCAA football is at a crossroads. While the sport is seeing record revenues thanks to giant television contracts and merchandise sales, there is also a cancer that is permeating what is rapidly becoming America's pastime.
The influx of money has added to a brand new kind of pressure on head coaches to win and because of this more and more of them are doing things they know are wrong, know are against the rules and sadly they know the schools they work for will only get a slap on the wrist if they are caught.
In the past year, coaches from two of the premier programs in the country were found to have done things that were so obviously against the rules that they had to lose their jobs. Most recently was Butch Davis at the University of North Carolina but the more famous of the two has to be Jim Tressel at Ohio State.
In both cases, it appears that not only did the coaches know there were all kinds of shady goings on, but that when they found out about them, they worked pretty darn hard to cover them up.
More than losing their jobs for these apparent indiscretions, what both coaches seem to have in common is that by throwing themselves on the sword and taking full responsibility, they may be saving their schools from what is today's severest punishment in losing scholarships and bowl game visits.
While the investigations by the NCAA aren't finished yet, those in the know seem to believe that thanks to the programs getting rid of their coaches, the worst punishments have already been metered out.
Here's the problem with that approach: college football programs are notoriously forgiving when it comes to coaches they believe can lead them to the promised land and I guarantee that within two years, both coaches will have new jobs inside the coaching fraternity should they seek them.
While I'm all for second chances, there needs to be some sort of stigma that can be strapped to these coaches that will go a ways towards keeping programs from wading into these kinds of piranha pits. That stigma would be slapped on, and hard should the NCAA meter out the kind of justice it has shied away from since SMU.
I understand why the NCAA has not come close to dropping this particular hammer on a program since then. SMU was so crippled by their death penalty that they are just now climbing out of the hole it caused, nearly three decades after having the sentence delivered.
There is certainly a reason the punishment is called what it is, but in an era where corruption may honestly be more rampant (or at least have record dollar amounts attached to it) than ever before there needs to be an ultimate punishment that schools have to fear. The NCAA has become a toothless organization that allows the inmates run the asylum thanks to back room deals and promises that they will NEVER do it again (until the next time.)
Much like a large dysfunctional family, when the kids lose respect for their parents, the only way to get it back is to show they actually mean business.
If coaches know that looking the other way when players are committing all sorts of different infractions means that the program could go down for the count and if universities know that if they look the other way while their coaches oversee corrupt programs they will lose those programs for a number of years, then maybe everyone will stop looking the other way.