Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fairness and Equality, the NCAA way.

Before a snap had been played in 2010, "pay for play" was the theme of the year. The USC Trojans had been dismantled by the NCAA as a result of Reggie Bush's receipt of improper benefits. South Carolina had dismissed players who lived in a pricey hotel for less-than-marginal rates. North Carolina and Alabama were in the headlines due to a Miami Memorial Day party. At UGA, AJ Green was benched by coaches after word of the sale of his Independence Bowl jersey hit the newswire.

It's hard to say that UNC was a lock to win the ACC in the preseason, but they were sure to field one of the league's most talented roster - until (what was it, 17?) players were removed from competition to open the season. USC lost all steam headed into the 2010 campaign as the opportunity for a bowl and ten schollys per year were yanked away. Georgia's primary weapon, and the one sure target of an unproven quarterback was eliminated for four games - as were the Dawgs hopes for a title. AL did not suffer much from the loss of Marcel Dareus, but how much better could South Carolina have been with the services of NFL-bound Wesley Saunders?

And then, there were two.

The NCAA has taken a great deal of flack in recent days due to their apparent "preferential treatment" of a national title contender and a perennial conference champ. People want blood - but I have to wonder why. Generally, it's because there is an overriding desire for "fairness." These fans believe "my team suffered, why shouldn't yours?" Well, in the case of Auburn and Cam Newton, the reason is simply because there is no proof (exposed as of yet) that is grounds for punishment. Sorry, but hypothesizing about payment is not the same as agreeing to receive payment. If there is no paper trail linking Newton and payments for his services at Auburn, he can not be punished for any wrong doing. It's basic habeus corpus. If there's no body, there's no crime. The evidence is circumstantial.

Now, that brings me to Ohio State.

The problem most people have with the situation at Ohio State isn't so much that the punishment isn't fair, or that it doesn't suit the crime - but that the reasoning behind the specific punishment is unmitigated bullshit. Five games is a hell of a suspension. That punishment essentially cuts the season in half for these players, but it does not kill Ohio State's possible bid for a title in 2010. Now, some will say that the suspension means nothing to players like Terrelle Pryor who could be looking to go pro. They insinuate that all the suspension does is make the decision that much easier - that Pryor will definitely make the jump to the NFL now. Then, this morning, came the news from Jim Tressel that all of the players were forced to make their NFL decisions PRIOR to the bowl trip. According to Tressel, it wouldn't be "fair" for the players to be allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl and then run off to the NFL. With that, the decision was unanimous - all five players will play, and all five will stay. (I'll forgo discussing the fact that Tressell has no way to force the kids into keeping their "pledge of allegiance" should the Bucks lose the Sugar Bowl, and they decide to jump ship).

So, let's see - what we're talking about is a five-game suspension in which Ohio State faces only two teams (Miami and Michigan State) who could possibly cause the Buckeyes to stumble in their pursuit of a national title. Akron, Toledo and Colorado simply don't have the horses in the stable to compete with the Bucks. But, Tressel and Co have nine months to prepare their team for those five games. They aren't going to prepare for the 2011 season assuming Terrelle and the gang are going to play, then make an 11th-hour decision to remove their best playmakers. No, they are going to prepare for life without starpower and then get it back in week 6.

By the way - week 6 of next season is the Nebraska game. Nebraska is probably the best team on Ohio State's schedule. Luckily, the profiteering players will be back on the field. So, OSU has the services of these kids for the Sugar Bowl. They have a win-able schedule during the time when the athletes are off the field, and they get all five back for the home stretch.

Essentially, there is no punishment for the University involved here. I find that amusing, since it was apparently the University's Compliance Department who was at fault in this case. It was Wesley Saunders who was at fault in South Carolina. Dareus and the UNC players were blamed in their respective cases. Green accepted responsibility at UGA. But at OSU, the "education" of the players was lacking. That's the excuse given for not suspending the players for the Sugar Bowl. The University didn't do a good job of telling players they can't receive money for their trinkets. Also interesting is the fact that the University did not self-report any of it during the season, even given the multitude of examples (prior to week 1) that this behavior was frowned upon. Still, the University receives no punishment other than the hit the statbook will take without the finagling five. OSU will be 5-0 to start the season. They will be in the hunt for Big-10 and BCS championships.

Oh, and they just MIGHT have Sugar Bowl rings to go along with it.

And what did it cost? Nothing but the decaying integrity of the NCAA.

- Go Dawgs

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