June 10, 2010 is when it all started. That was the day the NCAA handed down some of the stiffest and most stringent penalties of all time in its sanctions against the USC football program. That was when I became skeptical about the integrity and questionable motives of the NCAA as an institution.
Looking back, if this extreme punishment had signaled a new direction for the enforcement arm of the NCAA, or if they had made a conscious decision to use USC’s case as a springboard for a new era of zero tolerance, it might have been different.
If that were the case, I could chalk up my resentment towards the NCAA as a manifestation of the dejection and disappointment felt by a die-hard fan as the Trojans struggled under the enormous burden of such harsh sanctions. Even though it would be like pulling teeth, I could rationalize and understand that sanctions were imposed for the greater good of amateur athletics. If that were the case, it would be easy to scoff at former Athletic Director Mike Garrett’s suggestion that the NCAA’s actions were based in jealousy and envy.
The bitter pill would be much easier to swallow if only the NCAA had begun to display even a semblance of consistency or reliability in their actions following June 10. Instead, we have watched as NCAA President Mark Emmert and his band of cronies continue to run one of the most hypocritical organizations in America.
When it comes to the NCAA’s many head-scratching decisions, where should I begin? The lack of investigative prowess has been well on display, glaringly apparent in the incompetent inquiry into whether or not former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton had any knowledge his dad, Cecil Newton, was auctioning off his son’s services to the highest bidder.
The double standard is downright offensive to anyone with a moral or ethical inclination. The most glaring example of hypocrisy, though, would have to be the late Paul Dee serving as chairman of the committee in charge of levying sanctions towards USC. Yes, the same Paul Dee who, as athletic director of the University of Miami, failed to notice booster Nevin Shapiro and Miami athletes running wild with drugs and strippers. Talk about a lack of institutional control.
The vitriol against the NCAA has come from a variety of different media. Whether it be a lawsuit headed by Ed O’Bannon or a column from ESPN‘s Jay Bilas, the NCAA is certainly being taken to task for its woefully reprehensible actions. Even with all the outrage surrounding the NCAA, my outright animosity hadn’t been cemented until the past two weeks.
The complete indignation stems from two issues that have revealed themselves recently. Though it has always seemed ridiculous to me that athletes are forbidden from benefiting from their refined skill set, the true inanity did not dawn on me until this week. If I weren’t allowed to capitalize on my own abilities while in college, I would question the legality of the situation in a free market society.
The fact that athletes’ talents put them in a position to prosper on an extremely elevated level exacerbates the issue even further. As a new college student, I cannot even begin to comprehend the feelings of exploitation and irritation student athletes must feel as they bring in millions in revenue to athletic departments without even getting a slice of the proverbial pie.
Now, if one wants to make the antiquated argument that players should maintain their amateur status, as the NCAA does, it would seem to me that they would want to crack down on illicit benefits to players, say in the form of cash for autographs.
Yet, it is abundantly evident in the case of Johnny Manziel that the NCAA either doesn’t have the resources or — more likely — shirks the responsibility of truly investigating such matters.
I am not condemning or criticizing Manziel for capitalizing on his unique talents — more power to him. Under the current rules set forth by the NCAA, however, his alleged wrongdoings seem to warrant more than a university-imposed half-game suspension against a less than stellar opponent. It seems ridiculous for the NCAA to preach from their moral high ground about the need for amateur athletics and the purity it brings, while completely ignoring the illicit deals taking place right under their noses.
The NCAA’s blatant hypocrisy and complete lack of a moral backbone have crystallized before my eyes as both a college student and major college sports fan. Even so, I am certainly not the first enthusiast to notice this disturbing trend and that’s where the true problem lies.
Maybe O’Bannon’s lawsuit will change the dynamic, or Todd McNair’s crusade to restore his unfairly besmirched name will expose the NCAA. But the truth is that we can cry out until kingdom come about the NCAA, and yet most of us will still be planted in our seats gleefully anticipating kickoff on Saturday.
As fans, our lack of meaningful protest ultimately hurts the players and, to a lesser extent, puts out a diminished product. Yet that diminished product draws us in week after week, year after year, and, when the sanctions end, it will all go back to normal for the outraged fan base.
So really, when will we hold the sham of an institution the NCAA marauds itself to be accountable for its actions? And who will be the catalyst for that charge? Maybe the fact that the question has no answer is the actual problem with college athletics.
“Davidson’s Direction” runs every other Wednesday. To comment on this story, email Jake at email@example.com or visit dailytrojan.com.
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