Don't get me wrong, it was a great game to watch, filled with pendulum-like momentum changes, sorrow, heartbreak, joy, anxiety, cocky, privileged athletes, and of course a sweater vest. I had absolutely no problem with what happened on the field Tuesda night in New Orleans. It was the off-field shenanigans and hypocrisy that I am upset about. Let's go back to the beginning, Quentin Tarantino-like, and set the stage for my grievance(s).
In June 2010, the NCAA lowered the boom on the University of Southern California for "lack of institutional control" stemming from the Reggie Bush improper benefit saga. You all know the story; the Trojans were penalized big time for their egregious infraction.. They were banned from post season play for 2 years, gave up 30 scholarships, and had to forfeit their 2004 National Championship. Bush voluntarily forfeited his Heisman Trophy so as to prevent the huge mess and headache that would ensue if the trust were to try and take it from him. A precedent was set.
We all thought the governing college sports body was setting an example. Yet here we are two-plus years later and the NCAA is allowing players and schools to get away with murder. Cam Newton played the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" card and let his dad take the fall for a pay-to-play scheme. I cannot stand to see that huge grin on Newton's smug face, knowing that there was an obvious violation from his camp and yet he is still allowed to play. We all know what happened, so there is no need to rehash it here. The point is there was a huge loophole that was found through the Cam and Cecil Newton case that shouldn't have been there in the first place. All of the sudden the serious, sheriff-like, punishment-dealing NCAA that ate USC's lunch became the soft, docile, lenient person who wants to be cool with their friends and therefore gives them what they want, even at their own expense. The NCAA ruled that because Cameron was not aware of the transgressions of his father, then he was not in violation and therefore was allowed to play (even though initially they ruled him ineligible). Think about it this way-Any cash or sustenance that his dad received would directly benefit Cameron, i.e. purchasing needed school supplies, books, food, clothes, helping pay rent, spending money, and/or transportation. Therefore, they are improper benefits, regardless of who is directly receiving them.
Next came tattoo gate. Five of Ohio State's top players were getting free or cheap tattoos in exchange for autographs and memorabilia. Not just that, but quarterback Terrelle Pryor and a few others had sold their Big 10 championship rings and some gold pants (that they receive for beating Michigan). Read all about it here. Remember, Georgia's star wide receiver A.J. Green was suspended for the first four games of this season for selling a game-worn jersey. Here's where things get tricky. To stay consistent, the NCAA suspended Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, and Solomon Thomas for five games. Great. The problem is they were still allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl two nights ago. In other words, the suspension was suspended until the beginning of the season next year. What? There were obvious violations that these Buckeyes were involved in and yet they were still allowed to play in the biggest game of the season? Asinine. The reasoning behind the delay in suspension is "the acknowledgment the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred." Right...
Here's the deal-Had the Buckeyes not been in a BCS Bowl and had Auburn not been in contention for the National Championship, the NCAA would have dropped the hammer on both of those teams much like they did the USC Trojans in 2008. There is a clear double standard here. Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president of academic and membership affairs, has no problem penalizing players and teams for violations that took place a long time ago, when those players are no longer at the university in question. But if it's a current situation where him and his college governing entity are at risk of losing money, they go easy or delay the consequences. Everything is done in a way that will benefit them and their cash-cow sport. That is what has me so upset.
I know that had Arkansas won last night, they would have wanted to do it against a prepared and full strength Ohio State team. The Razorbacks would have rolled easily if their opponent had been missing those 5 key players. Then the NCAA would have had another Fiesta or Orange Bowl snoozer on hand with a lopsided score and the audience tuning out by halftime. There go the ratings. The NCAA can't afford that, nor did they want to even risk it. The game was very entertaining and for that I am happy, but knowing the sketchy, NCAA-allowed condition of some of the players involved seriously taints the overall feeling and joy of such a contest. I don't have an answer for this, but how do the Arkansas players feel about it? If the anti-playoff BCS system is already robbing fans of a true college football championship experience, then the NCAA and their double standards are polluting the best part of the sport. The only thing that we have left to call our own are those glorious fall and winter Saturdays, sitting on the edge of our seats, living and dying by the on-field, in-game successes and failures of our favorite team, letting the amateur kids decide the winner, all for the love of the game. I don't know about you, but I have no desire to let the NCAA take that away from us.