C.R.E.A.M. ( Cash Rules Everything Around Me )

June 10

This week tells you everything you need to know about college football.

M-O-N-E-Y.

Those who run college football like to continue the charade of the student-athlete. Professional sports long since dispensed with all semblance of altruism, but big-time college sports remain the biggest sham around, and we’re all guilty for participating. Myself included.

I’m wearing a UCLA hat as I write this, so I have bought into the college football mania, even though it lost its innocence a long time ago. I have not disguised my glee over the giant hammer that fell on Tommy Trojan today. Among other things the sanctions mean UCLA was actually 11-1 in 2005. The NCAA says Reggie Bush was ineligible in that 66-19 win over the Bruins.

( Now, if we can find some violations in the Arizona football program, we can wipe out the 52-14 loss to the Wildcats and be UNDEFEATED, BABY ! )

USC is taking a whipping now, but let’s face facts : nobody is on a high horse, Trojan or otherwise. SC got caught because Reggie Bush didn’t pay off the sports marketers who got him everything from a rent-free home to new threads. They got caught because nobody was keeping tabs on sports marketers handling Bush and O.J. Mayo.

This has happened with other college athletes; just not as obviously and not on such a brazen, grand scale. USC is not alone, just a bigger target. Big tree fall hard.

If USC had any scruples, it would fire Athletic Director Mike Garrett and anyone else who had their handprints on this. Don’t expect that anytime soon, and coaches Tim Floyd and Pete Carroll have already fled. The ones who are penalized are those on campus now — but this was a four-year investigation, so everyone who signed on at Troy had to do so with their eyes open.

USC is in its own Spin Zone right now. It plans to appeal some of the penalties as too severe. Carroll says he’s “shocked.” This is not a joke.

In the end, it’s all a band-aid, anyway, because USC is still on television. They lose scholarships but still get exposure. Why? USC means ratings and revenue.

The NCAA could have hijacked Traveler II and shut down the Coliseum and it wouldn’t have solved the problem. The problem is, again … M-O-N-E-Y. And it’s everybody’s fault.

It’s the fault of the NCAA and greedy schools and school presidents. It’s the fault of alumni who identify themselves with 19-year-old athletes, and it’s the fault of fans who root for schools they didn’t attend. It’s the fault of coaches who buy mansions while their athletes can’t even get money for a call home. It’s the fault of the televsion networks who lionizze the coaches, and it’s the fault of the media that only enhance this bizarro world.

Everything is on television, and the money keeps flowing. The pressure is on the major programs to find studs and call them “student-athletes,” milking them for all their ability and doing little else to make sure they’re prepared for the real world. Gotta fill those stadiums, gotta make the college presidents look good.

You can argue that it’s the responsibility of young athletes to take advantage of their opportunity for a free education ( worth even more money these days ), and some actually do — to their credit. But most come from an environment that values fame and money over education, and college football has no trouble feeding that world-view. Coaches and schools, meanwhile, make millions.

That brings us to the second earthquake in college football today, and it’s really a fore-shock. Colorado is joining the Pac 10. The Big 12 is dissolving and there will be a few super-conferences.

( My dream is that there will eventually be eight super-conferences, an optimal number for a playoff system, but who’s kidding whom ? The college presidents, athletic directors, and coaches are loathe to dicker with a pretty well-oiled money machine — and UCLA isn’t likely to be in a playoff anyway. )

Why is this happening ? Because the schools and conferences want more games on their own TV Network, their own source of revenue. In case you haven’t seen the tuition for some of these august institutions, college is a business — not just college athletics. Do you think the expanded Pac-10 will keep SC off its’ new television network ?

I like rooting for my woebegone Bruins, but I’m not delusional. I know how the sausage is made, even at UCLA. I’d like to run a pool on how long Rick Neuheisel keeps his program clean. If not UCLA, someone else will be nicked in the future.

As long as we keep watching and buying tickets to the games, regardless of the school, it’s a professional sport, pure and simple. The temptation to cheat will still be very, very strong.

Until some of that TV revenue is funneled into a watchdog agency as powerful as the IRS, there will be more USC’s in the future. Or, take away more scholoarships and keep offending schools off television. Hit ’em where it hurts, or else nothing will change.

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One Response to “C.R.E.A.M. ( Cash Rules Everything Around Me )”

  1. Jim Voos Says:

    Ray,
    I thought this story was done until I saw Pete Carroll on ESPN or HBO talking about the Reggie Bush story. This guy has absolutely no shame! Although I was born in Southern California(Riverside), I am very thankful to not be living there anymore. I think the Sun is doing things to people’s Integrity.

    USC has none, Pete Carroll has none, and all the NCAA participants are giving them a light sentence in my opinion. I love watching College Football, but the whole thing has gotten totally out of hand.

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