A few days after NCAA president Mark Emmert reached for his talking points and attempted to assure the masses (suckers) that university presidents were “focused on what really counts, and that’s sustaining the collegiate model,” we must ask two questions:
What is that model and when did it mutate? Because all wonderful sound bites about integrity, academic standards and returning to the mission of college athletics notwithstanding, somebody just ran to the ATM again.
Texas A&M reportedly intends to leave the possibly crumbling Big 12 for the ivory towers of the SEC, with an announcement coming as soon as Monday, after banks open.
It’s understandable why A&M would want to escape Texas’ shadow in the Big 12 and come to the SEC, where member schools split a record $220 million in a revenue-sharing plan this fiscal year. I’m not quite as sure why the SEC wants A&M, because other than getting its toes into the state of Texas — assuming College Station counts — this is like a high-end mall expanding to add a Walgreens.
The bigger issue, however, is the continuing conflicting messages being disseminated by the hypocritical suits that run college athletics. They say it’s about academics, but they sign off on 12-game regular seasons, late-night kickoffs and “special edition” school-night games because, well, the checks cash. They say they’re about the big picture, but really they’re about only the picture that they’re in.
Tradition is gone. Perspective is gone. Any sense of tradition, doing what’s right or maintaining some semblance of the fabric of what has made college athletics so great and unique has been obliterated by the potential of the next TV deal.
There is no common good in college football, any more than there is in boxing. There are only independent contractors — college presidents, athletic directors, conference commissioners, bowl pooh-bahs — scrambling to fill their own pockets. Squint, and they all look like Don King.
University of California-Riverside chancellor Tim White, one of the NCAA’s chosen mouthpieces at last week’s presidents’ “retreat” in Indianapolis, referenced “the ecosystem of university life.”
It kind of makes sense. They’re just redefining “going green.”
White touched on “integrity” and “academic reform” and concluded, “We want to make sure that the entire ship is doing well, that the students are not being taken advantage of inappropriately, recognizing they’re student-athletes, not athlete-students.”
And then he jumped onto his unicorn and rode away through a field of towering yellow and purple flowers toward a rainbow.
Texas A&M’s move would be a significant domino to fall. That’s ironic considering the Aggies won their lone national championship in football in 1939 and have two bowl wins in the past 20 years (those in the Alamo and Galleryfurniture.com Bowls). Florida State, Clemson, Missouri, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech all are swirling in the SEC expansion rumor mill.
We’re on a path toward an Orwellian landscape. Three college football superstates: Oceania, Eastasia and Eurasia (with Notre Dame as an independent).
College administrators say they embrace the ideal of the student-athlete. If that were true, they wouldn’t base every decision on the potential for a new indoor practice facility.
The gap between the ruling class and the commoners is wider than ever. How does it go over in the rest of the Big 12 when Texas and ESPN partner to form the Longhorn Network?
The NCAA dumps on kids for selling a jersey or an autograph or taking cash from an agent. But they won’t give the quarterback a share of his jersey sales in the campus bookstore?
Presidents talk tough about raising academic standards for bowl and NCAA tournament teams. To borrow from Penn State president Graham Spanier, “We are unanimous that we need to bring a higher level of integrity to the conduct of intercollegiate athletics.” But every move they make screams, “We’re here for the money! Which way to the next Fiesta Bowl golf junket?”
The SEC has refrained from commenting on expansion plans. But they see what expansion did for the Big Ten’s and Pac-12’s TV deals. They’ll welcome anybody that can help fill the coffers. It’s not about nurturing, improving and improving college athletics. It’s an arms race. The collegiate model isn’t being sustained. It has been detonated.
By Jeff Schultz