Convicted Ponzi-scheme proprietor and current inmate Nevin Shapiro is talking, and the NCAA is listening.
Shapiro is giving accounts of benefits received by dozens of Miami recruits, which include everything from prostitutes to cash.
These violations are not being taken lightly, and if Shapiro possesses the proof he claims to possess, the “U” could be in for the infamous “death penalty,” akin to the one Southern Methodist University received in the late '80s.
With the recent exposure of Ohio State’s dalliances into “Tattoo Gate” resulting in the resignation of head coach Jim Tressel, an unlikely circle is now complete.
The two national-championship finalists which met in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl are now two programs in states of flux that may take generations to overcome.
Perhaps the devil has cashed in his marker for giving Ohio State the championship on the phantom pass-interference call in double overtime.
Whatever the case, Miami has joined powerhouses Ohio State and last decade’s juggernaut, USC, as the disgraces of NCAA football.
This begs the question, “Is this the immediate future of college football?”
Which is the NCAA's bigger problem
It doesn’t have to be.
Let’s assume that these three institutes of higher learning are not the only ones with violations on their résumés at the current time.
How can the NCAA regulate amateur competition, keep a level playing field, and rid itself of the backroom dealing that everyone on the planet seems to be aware of but is only addressed in a punitive manner rather than a resolving one?
I’ve read ways to fix the NCAA ad nauseam, but none of the proposed theories ever seem to be practical.
They range from paying players outright to imposing much stiffer penalties to the schools, but the reality of the situation is that when a player is on the take, he stops being concerned with the good of the university and any punishment generally will not affect him in a meaningful way.
Sure, Reggie Bush may cry himself to sleep once in a blue moon, but he does so on a giant pile of money surrounded by many beautiful women.
I believe the answer lies with the NFL.
In order to involve the NFL, we must first admit that NCAA football is no longer an amateur sport and should not be treated as such. It is an enormous cash cow that, along with NCAA basketball, keeps all college athletics afloat, thanks to Title IX and a myriad of other rulings.
The NCAA and the NFL can combine their efforts by enacting a clause, which all recruits would have to sign, which states that any admittance or finding of a gross violation of NCAA rules—receiving of monetary compensation in excess of “X” amount of dollars or gifts in lieu of money which exceed what would be deemed a minor violation—would require that recruit to forfeit his right to play in the NFL for “X” amount of years.
I say that it would have to be a gross violation because there are occasions in which the punishment would not fit the crime, like getting a free haircut or a concert ticket vs. lump sums of cash or cars and such, which are blatant and flagrant violations.
You would of course go after the agents/boosters who are violators also, but there are assuredly more of those waiting in line for a chance at a future cash grab or personal glory.
Fixing the issue at the player level would have a much more immediate and beneficial result.
The NFL could offer more scholarship opportunities and support of students who sign the agreement in a form equivalent to a Stafford loan; the player could pay the money back when he signs professionally, and if the player goes unsigned, the money would be forgiven.
The NCAA could also institute a reward program in which athletes of any sport could anonymously report unscrupulous persons and receive a monetary reward upon completion of a degree.
I do believe that there should be a way to compensate athletes.
I don’t believe they should get checks from their universities, but if the NCAA mandates that scholarship athletes are not allowed to work, then the NCAA could at least substantially increase their stipends, per diems, or whatever they're called (i.e. meal money, laundry money, etc.) to a livable amount.
Non-athletes are allowed to work and go to school.
Athletes bring exposure to their schools, which brings in money, and they are held to a higher standard by not being allowed to work part-time like any other student. Consequently there should be considerations.
Sure, they’re getting a free education, but for the billions of dollars college athletics is worth to our secondary institutions, the tradeoff is not even.
These violations may seem ridiculous to some, but when someone waves cash in front of an athlete, depending on that athlete’s financial situation, it must be extremely difficult to turn away.
Other than for the goodness of the team and the school, which should be enough, the athlete sees no benefit in turning money down. It has little to no effect when that athlete reaches the pros and the school is the one left holding the bag.
Incentivizing the reporting of violators could be a big step in cleaning up this tarnished piece of Americana.
The NFL’s support could be another.
Or they could do what I assume they’ll do, which is nothing and continue to watch the titans of college football fall until the regular season is as big a joke as the postseason.
But that’s a whole different discussion.