Monday, April 11, 2011

College Sports: The End Of The World As We Know (Allegedly)

Watch your heel crush, crushed.
Uh-oh, this means no fear cavalier.
Renegade steer clear!
A tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies.
Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives and I decline.
It’s the end of the world as we know it…

And we don’t feel fine.

When asked, most folks say what they love about collegiate sports is the purity, the competition and the tradition.

So few say the crime, the money and the blatant breaking of rules, but recently that is exactly what dominates the headlines.

For several generations, the world of intercollegiate athletics was seemingly this wondrous place of charm and epic battles.  For a kid, it was like watching Lord Of The Rings with no death, cheerleaders and a scoreboard. That spell was broken the night Maryland’s Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose, and, since then, it has spiraled into darker and darker places year after year.

Stephen Garcia (Andy Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
For example, here are the headlines Saturday morning from Yahoo! Sports college football home page:
  • Missouri's Pinkel gets 2-year extension
  • Shot NIU player's condition improves
  • Orange Bowl CEO got $150K raise in 2009
  • 2nd UConn stabber gets 2 1/2 years
  • Ex-QB Schlichter has bond set at $1M
  • Gamecocks suspend QB Garcia indefinitely
  • ND seeks meeting over student death fine
Mind you it’s the offseason for college football when only the most fanatic fans find spring practice and the spring football game particularly entertaining so the news is bound to include many non-football stories.  That said, every SINGLE one is about money, crime, money, crime, crime, bad behavior (probable crime) and death.  And that’s just a random April Saturday morning…


When we aren’t distracted by the games – wonderful games conducted by dedicated and talented kids played in many spectacular settings  surrounded by tradition and unbridled zeal – we are inundated with the dark, ugly side of college sports.

Of course, college sports is big business – REALLY big business, and every big business has an ugly underbelly, but for all the Suits In Indianapolis’ (formerly Kansas) piousness and sanctity things appear to be rapidly spinning out of control.

Let’s review.

Butch Davis (Steeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Starting out locally and recently we have Yow v. Williams, a feud between an athletic director and a National Championship winning coach that now spans two states and two different schools over what was (allegedly) said or not said to various unknown parties.  Absurd at best.

Then there is the North Carolina football scandal that to date Butch Davis has survived remarkably well.  The Heels’ defensive team?  Not so much.

School and NCAA suspensions caused more than a dozen UNC players to miss games last season.  The severity of the infractions and what the coach did or didn’t know seems to be in direct proportion to one’s rooting interests.  Give North Carolina credit on this one, they did manage to get (allegedly) out of the conversation. 

Jim Calhoun (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
On a national level, both football and basketball national champions – Auburn and Connecticut – have been scandal plagued in the past season.  Recently it was revealed that a former Auburn player is claiming he was (allegedly) given money and sex while he was being recruited.

This doesn’t generate huge howls of protest from Auburn’s rivals (yes, Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, etc. we mean you) for the primary reason that they are terrified that one of their young student athletes can make similar, and just as believable claims.

Add that to the Cam Newton scandal which alleges that Newton’s father was looking to (allegedly) sell the future Heisman trophy winner to the highest bidder…Evidently $180,000 is the current price tag.  The Suits In Indianapolis believed the Cam was unaware of this so he could conveniently participate in the BCS National Championship game.  Shocking, we know.

Then you have the UConn basketball team and Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun.  While his Huskies were winning eleven straight games and his third NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship, Calhoun was fending off questions about an (alleged) recruiting scandal.  Thankfully, it didn’t involve any of the current players or the Suits In Indianapolis may have had to suspend somebody for a game or two next season against the Sisters of the Poor and the Sisters of the Poor State.

Bruce Pearl (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Speaking of basketball and violations, how about Bruce Pearl?  He lied to the NCAA  about having some players and recruits to his house for a BBQ.   Who can blame him?  Kids gotta eat.

Apparently, his A.D. who torpedoed him and his teams’ chances in the NCAA tournament with some poorly timed remarks about Pearl’s future (or lack thereof).  Tennessee fired Pearl, and, quite frankly, the AD’s car should have been the next one out of the parking lot…

Let’s go north.  Ohio State’s bespectacled vest wearing Jim Tressel looks like a nice enough fellow.  Some of his knuckleheads decided to break some NCAA rules by (allegedly) selling and exchanging memorabilia for…drum roll, please…tattoos.  Not a misprint: TATTOOS!  It’s so ridiculous, and yet it makes so much sense.

Jim Tressel (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
(If you are a parent and you have ever had a young child complain about the fact that he or she can't vote, this is a good one to remember.  Kids, you can't elect the leader of the free world until you are old enough to know that exchanging a signed football jersey for a tattoo is firmly entrenched in the pantheon of bad ideas...especially when you are literally on scholarship.)

Tressel knew this and kept this embarrassing fact to himself.  Except for the emails he sent about it which eventually got him busted.  You’ve heard of “sneaky smart,” well that was “sneaky dumb.”

And speaking of things Tressel’s Buckeye’s can’t win – a BCS bowl – enter one former Fiesta Bowl president John Junker. 

John Junker
A recent investigation revealed that Junker may have misused some of the bowl’s funds submitting as much as $1.2 million a year in reimbursable expenses.  Junker allegedly spent $65,000 to fly legislators (Alarm! Alarm! Alarm!) to Boston for a Boston College v. Virginia Tech football game.  Really?

In addition, he (allegedly) spent $33,000 throwing himself a birthday party at Pebble Beach and thousands more on “security meetings” in a place of business we won't mention here (strip club).  We won’t bore you with Junker’s excuses, but Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated recently described them as “comical and wildly unbelievable.”  We would have been disappointed (and surprised) had his excuses been anything but that…

Now with all of this as preface, we remain somewhat surprised that Southern University recently fired their athletic director former NFL tight end (there’s a joke in their somewhere…not literally “in there”…you know what we mean…) Greg LaFleur after his arrest for (allegedly) soliciting a prostitute while in Houston for the Final Four (oh yeah, there’s a bunch of jokes “in there” too!).

Greg LaFleur
LaFeur allegedly offered $50 in exchange for sex from a female cop posing as a hooker. (Dude, you need to hang out with Junker he seems like a $5,000-hooker-kind-of-guy.)  LaFleur had been Southern's athletic director for the last six years.  The university's chancellor said dismissing LaFleur was in the school's best interest and he recommended the women's basketball coach become the interim AD.

If she’s smart, she will turn down the job.

Hey, we hear, Bruce Pearl is looking…

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes,
an aeroplane.
Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn,
world serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

And we don’t feel fine.

But we continue to watch...

Go figure.

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