By Gregory Moore
There’s a scene in the movie “The Program” in which Alvin Mack, the middle line backer scolds freshman running back Darnell Jefferson for questioning getting a few dollars from a booster during a recent team dinner, “All you need to know is how to sign an NFL contract… period.”
You may remember that scene.
I know I do and it still is a powerful piece of cinema when you are talking about college athletics, finances and how players use the system and the system uses the players.
Over the years there have been numerous scandals in the collegiate ranks.
In the 1940s and 1950s, there is the infamous City College scandal in which several players ‘shaved’ points for the mob in New York City. Who could ever forget what the SMU Mustangs had done in the 1980s in recruiting top-notch players like Eric Dickerson and Craig James. The program received what is affectionately called the “death penalty” for giving players ‘signing bonuses’ to get top recruits into the Dallas school. How about the famous ‘shoe scandal’ of the Florida State Seminoles?
Recently however schools have been finding themselves in some serious scandals that have rocked their programs to the core. The University of Memphis is still reeling from the entrance exam scandal that embroiled several players and coaches including Kentucky head coach John Calapari and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.
Nothing however comes to forefront of what is systematically wrong in collegiate sports as what has been found out by an NCAA investigation into one of the nation’s most premiere of sports departments, the University of California Trojans.
On Thursday, June 9, 2010, the NCAA unveiled a 67-page report that has put the football program on a two-year probation period for violations that took place during the height of the Reggie Bush era. The names of the accused aren’t mentioned but rather referred to as “student athlete 1” and is referred to by the committee as a ‘repeat violator’ of NCAA rules.
That’s nothing to chuckle about and if there was ever such a thing as a ‘death penalty’ in modern times of college athletics, this is pretty darn close.
Yet here’s the irony in all of this: the principles that caused the downfall are already rich and they don’t care about the school or the players, fans and administrators that came after the fact.
Don’t believe me? Read what Reggie Bush said:
“I have a great love for the University of Southern California and I very much regret the turn that this matter has taken, not only for USC, but for the fans and players,” Bush said in a statement.
“I am disappointed by [Thursday’s] decision and disagree with the NCAA’s findings. If the University decides to appeal, I will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and USC, as I did during the investigation. In the meantime, I will continue to focus on making a positive impact for the University and for the community where I live.”
That’s not the sound of someone who is contrite; that reeks of the arrogance that was USC football under Pete Carroll.
As a matter of fact Carroll said he was shocked at the penalties his program violated.
This isn’t a spoof on Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dumb.
This is the reality of what happens when academics is taken completely away from sports at the collegiate level.
At USC it’s the football team that is important; not the fact that the university is regarded as one the best places to get an education.
For many athletes, they look at the school as a ‘stepping stone’ to the big paydays and that is pretty much what this report makes the institution out to be.
O.J. Mayo certainly didn’t think USC was worth a school to at least fully attend and he knew that if he went to a prestigious school, his draft stock would rise.
Well it rose but like Bush, he did it on the backs of others who were playing by the rules.
‘Student Athlete 1’ and ‘Student Athlete 2’ can deny this report all they want and they can say that their reputations are being harmed but the facts are the facts. In this case, the mere fact that every allegation that was brought up in a civil case against Bush has come to light.
Yet no one involved in this case is punished.
Ditto for Mayo and former basketball coach Tim Floyd.
And while they are making their millions, the future of these programs are not in doubt.
This whole scenario makes what Rick Neuheisel did back at Washington seem tame.
The bottom line is that while former players like Bush and Mayo, and former coaches like Carroll and Floyd, can feign their ‘indigence’ of being caught, they are rich beyond belief.
They’re safe from any persecution.
The people who are going to suffer are the young men of the football team and the look they will get from their peers.
Whether those guys understand what happened isn’t relevant.
Do you know what just happened?
In the end, after four years of milling around, the NCAA delivered a blow that was a Grade A haymaker.
They knocked the Trojans on their collective ass and dared them to get back up and fight.
Athletic Director Mike Garrett is going to fight and he’s going to come out bloodied; which doesn’t hurt my feelings one bit.
This program bred arrogance in its highest form and it deserved to be punished accordingly.
However the people who will suffer the most are the current players on the football roster.
What it shows is that these individuals didn’t care about USC in 2004-05 and they sure as hell don’t care now when the school is at its darkest hour.
If this isn’t a Greek tragedy, I don’t know what one is anymore.