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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is college football really more pure than its professional counterpart

I have heard the argument time and again, mainly from Ohio State fans who have no allegiance to a team in the NFL.  They would rather watch football on the collegiate level, if only because they believe that players who are not paid compete for 'the love of the game.  They go on to say that this desire to play for love of the game makes college football a more pure sport.

Recent trends in college football would beg to differ.  The latest episode in a sport rife with scandals in which athletes accept some sort of compensation to play football with a certain school has players accepting discounts on cars.  Of course, university officials and dealer reps claim these sales are all 'by the books'--that is according to NCAA Bylaws--but what else are they going to say? The university of course knows it could face sanctions from the  aforementioned athletic governing body, and the dealership is afraid of an IRS audit.

This is nothing new, however. In the past five years, players have gotten into hot water for accepting a house from boosters(Reggie Bush), selling their services to the highest bidder (Cam Newton), and selling memorabilia to a tattoo parlor for discounts(Terrelle Pryor & Co.).  Additionally, coaches such as Jim Tressel have gotten their programs into even more trouble by hiding that they even knew of such violations.

That this goes on should not surprise anyone who reads this blog.  Heck, this has been going on for decades, with the first really big scandal taking place at Southern Methodist University in the 1980s.   Most people take it for granted that this kind of behavior goes on somewhere,  just not in their own backyard.

Yet with the explosion of the current media to include social networks such as facebook and twitter, universities no longer have anywhere to hide.  And this means that sooner or later, if your school is breaking the rules, the NCAA will find out.

The irony here is that while fans of college football believe it to be more pure than the pros, it really isn't.  Sure, more than 80% of athletes who play Division I college ball will never make it to the pros.  But that doesn't mean they won't take advantage of the system if they can.  They understand they're BMOC's, and, without the ability to get even a part time job, they have to make ends meet.

Even the NCAA has gone to great lengths to ensure fans understand the amateur game is pure, rolling out commericals that support their point.  But the bottom line is that many university athletic departments thrive on football programs much like USC and Ohio State, where the athletes are treated like rock stars.  If such a team gets into hot water with the NCAA, it is because these so-called 'celebrities' were just trying to make ends meet in lieu of a part-time job.

So at the end of the day, on the surface, since universities are not technically allowed to pay these athletes, it may seem like this game is more 'pure.'  The reality is, however, until the NCAA develops a comprehensive compliance program that  not only every school understands but willingly follows, college football is no better than the NFL.

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