Let me start by saying that I love college football. Other than the March Madness of college basketball, which develops steadily over 3 weeks to the frenzy of the Final Four, there isn’t a better sustained entertainment package in sports.
I have been covering college football on a steady basis for 34 years and recognize all the warts. I witnessed one of the low points in the history of college football when the NCAA shut down the SMU program for two years. I can tell you countless stories, both witnessed and heard, about cheating and recruiting violations.
I have watched the bowl system grow and grow and then, as predicted by playoff critics, get absorbed by the mania of the College Football Playoffs.
I have watched the construction of college football dynasties at places like USC and Alabama. I have watched the destruction of USC and Miami because of recruiting violations.
I have known Hall of Fame coaches. I also have known coaches who aren’t even a footnote to the game.
I think most of it has been good, but I have noticed a trend which is ominous, disappointing and dangerous.
College football has lost is moral compass. I have seen more and more things happen this season which make less and less sense.
I have seen the adults in the room act like children. I have seen actions by coaches, players and administrators which are hard to explain.
Now another season is almost over and the end of the year the year is always time for reflection.
Here are some of my observations of a sport, which I feel needs a scrubbing of its image and a change in its direction.
- Big 12 Expansion–A joke from a start with no direction at any level, starting with the Presidents who dangled the idea of expansion for the wrong reasons and then rejected the idea at the time and expense of hundreds of people who had no chance to succeed.
- The College Football Playoff Final Four–This is has no right or wrong answer. The sound bite coming from most folks is that the selection committee got it right in choosing–Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. I disagree, feeling that Penn State should have been included over Ohio State The solution would be to have 8 teams for 5 Power 5 conference teams and three at large slot instead of 4 slots for 5 champions. But that is another discussion.
- Athletic Directors–Another season–and another flurry of hirings and firings–with buyout numbers which are larger than the national budget for some third world countries. This, of course, is exasperated by athletic directors who hand out long-term contracts (more than 4 years) and contract extensions (sometimes as much as six years). Of course, these same athletic directors are ready to fire coaches after one or only two years and these are the same coaches who have no problem breaking long term contracts. The athletes, of course, must remain, with severe penalties if they want to leave early.
- Wake Forest analyst Tom Elrod gave game plan information to a variety of Deacon opponents over a three year period. This is mind boggling because Elrod is a former Wake Forest player and an assistant coach who was apparently liked and respected by almost everyone at Wake Forest, including football coach Dave Clawson. Clawson, however, did fire Elrod when Clawson came to Wake three years ago and brought in a new staff. If revenge was not the motive, then a deeper more troubling question is raised: Why did Elrod do this? If it was for financial reasons, then the aspect of gambling could be an issue and the ACC and Wake Forest and college football have a much larger problem.
- Louisville–No one can question the Cardinals’ success in football and basketball the past few years. But in terms of what college athletics is about, Louisville is a poster child for all the WRONG things about college athletics. The basketball program had hookers coming in and out of the basketball dorm on a regular basis, all to the shock and amazement of coach Rick Pitino and the football program is run by Bobby Petrino, who has a checkered past both personally and professionally. It was Louisville, which received information from Wake Forest and chose not to report it until the case became public a few weeks ago. And it was Louisville and much respected athletic director Tom Jurich, whose initial reaction was to dismiss it as a minor incident not worth talking about because the Cardinals had more important matters to worry about such as a bowl game. The almost unanimous condemnation against them forced the Cardinals to change their response, but the initial reaction prevails and Jurich nowhas some mud on his pants.
- The Minnesota football team basically going on strike because of the suspension of 10 players, including 3 who were involved in a sexual assault investigation. No one looks good here, and the players are now going to honor us by playing in the Holiday Bowl.
- College football players assaulting women–Let’s name some names. Jameis Winston, Joe Mixon and DeAndre Johnson. All three made headlines when they were accused of physically attacking or assaulting women during their college career. All are still playing football. Winston is now in the NFL. Thisthis week settled a sexual assault case with a former FSU coed Mixon is an active Oklahoma running back and Johnson is a quarterback who just transferred to Florida Atlantic. Mixon and Johnson were accused of physically assaulting women, with both incidents captured on tape by surveillance cameras, which makes a “he said, she said”” defense much tougher. Mixon was suspended for a year, while Johnson, who originally signed with FSU, was dismissed from school after the incident, spent a year at East Mississippi JC and now is at FAU where he was recruited by new football coach Lane Kiffin. There are more than raised eye brows about both of those players moving on with their careers in such a short time period.
- Baylor–Sexual assaults by Baylor athletes under the watch of a football coach, athletic director and President, who either accepted the actions or ignored them. Firings and resignations followed right to the Presidental leel.Baylor is a fine university, with religious (Baptist) connections. Yet what wenton–and is still being uncovered over a sustained period of time–is mind boggling. But the Bears were competitive in many sports
So there you have it, a disturbing series of actions and trends in college football which should make everyone connected with the sport pause over the holiday season and adopt a simple New Year’s resolution: “”We have to do a better job and we need to start or to continue to work on changing the image of a sport which deserves better than it is getting from the people who are supposedly in control.””