Mark Emmert

College football is facing an identity crisis

16 Comments

If NCAA President Mark Emmert had to give a State of the Union address similar to United States President Barack Obama, I’m not sure Emmert would know what to say. There would probably a lot of awkward pauses, some throat-clearing and a few hesitant laughs as he gazed at the hundreds of blank stares comprised of university presidents, chancellors and athletic directors looking back at him.

Emmert would not be in an enviable position because, as it stands today, it’s hard to define exactly where the state of college football resides. The same goes for most revenue producing college athletics.

College football has an identity crisis. If it was an 18-year-old college freshman, its major would be “undeclared”. The truth is that the sport has no earthly clue what to call itself.

Is it still considered an amateur sport? Every single player across all university-sponsored sports is given the title “student-athlete”. The mantra of athletic scholarships has always stated that the sport is the means to receiving a college degree.

But today’s college game hardly lends itself to that commandment.

With each passing year, universities in BCS conferences get richer and more powerful. The Pac-12’s new, reported $2.7 billion television rights agreement will ensure that every member equally gets somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million in revenue annually over the next 12 years. Big Ten schools have been pulling in similar numbers from the revenue-rich Big Ten Network. The sport is a hefty business.

And the words “amateur” and “business” are rarely uttered in the same sentence.

College football knows what it wants to be. It wants to be the NFL, where there is an entertainment price tag placed on everything fan-related. From television coverage to high-scoring spread offenses and everything in between, the goal of collegiate football bigwigs is to keep the fans happy and keep them coming back. But, for whatever reason, college football won’t admit they want to be just like its big brother.

Even though they’ve already started acting like him.

Paying Players: Legitimate vs. Entitlement

This was a stark indicator that college football wanted to evolve and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, of all people, got the conversation rolling. Should conferences that have the means to pay their players beyond what their athletic scholarship dishes out do so? Delany admitted that the proposal was not about creating a level playing field, but rather looking out for the best interest of the student-athlete in his conference.

Ironically, Delany argued that paying players more — a very non-amateur move — would help cover the total cost of being a college student – a very amateur ideal.

There are issues, to be sure. If universities begin paying athletes in revenue-producing sports such as football and men’s basketball, they will have to pay every student-athlete who participates in a university-sponsored sport. After all, and by Delany’s own logic, the purpose is to help with the total cost of college and the girls who play women’s tennis are no less a college student than the star player of the football team.

In some instances, they may be more so.

But where does the line between legitimate needs and entitlement get drawn?

When a football player signs a National Letter of Intent, they agree to forfeit a normal college experience and dedicate an astronomical amount of time to playing the game and going to school (or, just playing the game). Getting a job on the side, while not impossible, is practically unheard of. Many would argue that playing football is the athlete’s job. It certainly brings millions of dollars directly for the betterment of the university.

If a player wants a portion of that revenue, does that really make him an entitled person? I believe that’s a different question than asking “are there entitled football players?” to which the answer is unequivocally “yes”.

College football has already made several moves to de-amateurize the sport. While paying players extra money presents larger concerns, refusing to do so embraces an outdated philosophy in a new-age industry ruled by bottom line agendas.

(Im)proper benefits

Just about everything seems to be identified an impermissible benefit, and frankly, it’s getting old. That’s not to say the events at places like USC are acceptable  — they’re not — but punishing a kid for selling memorabilia that’s rightfully his is downright asinine.

The incidents involving Ohio State players receiving impermissible benefits have taken more twists and turns over the past year than all of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies put together. For Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, it’s been especially turbulent. If rumors that Pryor banked upward of $40,000 for signing autographs turn out to be true, the NCAA rulebook might spontaneously combust. Pryor, as a result, appears to be getting the hell out of Dodge and moving on from Columbus.

And, no, we still haven’t forgotten about former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. The NCAA’s investigation of Newton and his father, Cecil, was based around finding this unattainable “money trail” after Newton’s father reportedly admitted he solicited money from schools for his son’s talents. That solicitation alone would be a violation of NCAA Bylaws, but somehow, Cam’s eligibility remained intact because he was “unaware” that this whole deal was going on.

Yes, there are rules and they must be abided by. And that’s the problem. In no way am I condoning the allegations against Pryor or Newton, but the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude of college football is nauseating. The sport continues to make business decisions on a day-to-day basis, yet refuses to accept the idea that their players could do the same.

Memorabilia sales, alcohol sales and rising ticket prices — they’re all used to put a little more dough in the back pocket of athletic departments and schools like Texas, Penn State and Alabama do it better than anybody.

There are lots of financial benefits to college football. Who gets a portion of that pie is a selective process. I’m not sure paying players would stop players from receiving impermissible benefits, but removing the amateur title from them would.

This is the End

As a famous episode of “Seinfeld” once accused, “You just double-dipped your chip!”

College football double dips in amateurism and professionalism. More than it should. It acts like the NFL, but refuses to admit it. Like an adult, it does its best to get the most lucrative business deal available. Yet, like a child, it clamps on to the leg of amateurism, hoping that if they close their eyes and pretend real hard, the truth that sport is changing will go away.

Strangely enough, it’s the players who are affected the most from that immaturity.

There is no more “going to”. College football has changed, for better or for worse. If nothing else, the sport can’t go in reverse — it can’t get “more” amateur-ish. And when things change, those affected must evolve. For the sport, that may include paying players, or allowing them to make their own source of income.

But college football is dragging its feet. Why? I don’t know; the change has already come, and with every NCAA investigation or notice of allegations, the sport further self-inflicts wounds that prevent it from being what it really wants to be.

And you don’t have to know what you are to know what you want to be.

NFL banning college players with domestic violence, sexual assault convictions from combine

FILE - This Oct. 25, 2014, file photo shows Michigan defensive end Frank Clark (57) breaking through the Michigan State line during the first half of an NCAA college football game in East Lansing, Mich. Defensive end Frank Clark has been dismissed from the Michigan football team after being accused of domestic violence in Ohio over the weekend. The 21-year-old Clark pleaded not guilty Monday, Nov. 17, 2014,  to charges of assault and domestic violence. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File
5 Comments

A new NFL rule will prevent college football players turning pro from attending the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL Draft if they have been convicted of domestic violence or sexual assault. The NFL will also refuse opening the doors for any NFL-sanctioned event if a player chooses not to submit to a background check.

“It is important for us to remain strongly committed to league values as we demonstrate to our fans, future players, coaches, general managers, and others who support our game that character matters,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent wrote in a memo to all NFL teams last month, according to USA Today.

The number of players each year affected by the rules should be minimal on a year-to-year basis, but it is interesting to see how that could impact the draft outlook of prospects moving forward if they get mixed in some legal trouble off the college football field. As noted by USA Today, the rule would have prevented Michigan linebacker Frank Clark, a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks, from attending the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Clark pleaded guilty to a domestic violence incident while at Michigan.

The policy adopted by the NFL will be intended to add further consequence for players getting in trouble in college with the hope of changing the image of the NFL player moving forward. As mentioned, this is expected to have minimal impact as only a select percentage of players are invited to the combine, and an even smaller percentage are invited to the NFL Draft. If nothing else though, it is one more consequence that will come from any involvement from a domestic or sexual assault in college.

It would be interesting to see if the NCAA or conferences will be inspired to build off this NFL policy. The NFL policy does not prevent players with a checkered past from attending pro day events or other private workouts. There is no indication whether any conference or the NCAA would consider such a policy on top of existing rules and policies related to domestic violence or sexual assaults. Would a conference adopt a policy that could extend the policy on their campuses to pro day events? Would that even be fair? Or is that going too far?

Tennessee self-reports minor NCAA violations in football program

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones watches as his team warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Georgia Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
AP Photo/Wade Payne
2 Comments

The Tennessee football program committed three recruiting violations between 2014 and January 2016, but do not expect the Vols to be having any NCAA hammer dropped on them. The NCAA has already accepted the school’s self-imposed sanctions and is moving on. The four minor violations were among 18 NCAA violations submitted to the NCAA according to The Knoxville News Sentinel.

One violation that was self-reported resulted in a one-game suspension for secondary coach Willie Martinez. Martinez served his one-game suspension during Tennessee’s season-opener last fall against Bowling Green. Green was found to have had impermissible contact with a junior recruit during a spring evaluation period in 2014. That violation was discovered by the NCAA offices.

Two other violations reported by Tennessee involved the publicity of recruits making visits to the school. In one, a recruit and his family entered a Tennessee behind football head coach Butch Jones. As Jones waved to the applauding crowd, Tennessee admitted this may have been construed as an acknowledgment of the unnamed recruit. As a result, Tennessee was cut off from having contact with the recruit until the eve of signing day. Another violation came when a mid-year enrollee posted a picture of himself on Twitter. A recruit on an official visit was also in the picture. Tennessee asked for light punishment for the violation as that player was not properly educated on the policies regarding recruits on visits.

The fourth violation from the football program involved complimentary tickets. A walk-on player was given a full allotment of tickets for a home game against Chattanooga despite that player’s certification expiring. That unnamed player was thus ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season.

These types of violations tend to be ticky-tack penalties according to the NCAA rule book, and can sometimes happen without even thinking. The sEC and NCAA accepted the self-imposed sanctions implemented by Tennessee for the football violations and the violations in other sports, and no further action is expected. In the end, Tennessee gets a light slap on the wrist and moves on.

Western Kentucky gets Brian Brohm’s coaching career started

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback Brian Brohm runs in a touchdown during second half CFL football action in against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina, Saskatchewan on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015. (Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press via AP
3 Comments

Louisville legend Brian Brohm is heading back to Kentucky. Western Kentucky has added the former Cardinals quarterback to the coaching staff, the school announced Monday. Brohm will take on the role of quarterbacks coach with the Hilltoppers, his first coaching job. Of course, WKU head coach Jeff Brohm is the older brother to the new assistant coach. WKU Director of Football Operations Greg Brohm is also one of Brian Brohm’s older brothers.

Brian Brohm is now one of three former college quarterbacks on the staff for Western Kentucky. Both Brohm brothers on the coaching staff have quarterback experience, as does Bryan Ellis, who is being moved from coaching running backs to wide receivers.

Brohm was a former Conference USA Player of the Year in 2005 and Orange Bowl MVP in 2007 with Louisville. He later was a second-round NFL draft pick of the Green Bay Packers but the Packers had Aaron Rodger in place, so Brohm ended up on the practice squad. The Buffalo Bills signed Brohm in 2009 and he entered free agency at the end of the season. That took Brohm to the one-year experiment that was the United Football League with the Las Vegas Locomotives. Brohm then spent the past three seasons in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Before getting to Louisville, Brohm was a three-time state champion at Trinity High School in Louisville, earning MVP honors in all three games. It goes without saying Brohm is a big name in the state of Louisville.

Perhaps returning home to his roots will be refreshing.

Steve Spurrier takes on role of ambassador with Gamecocks

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier gestures during a news conference Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, in Shreveport, La. The Gamecocks face Miami in the Independence Bowl NCAA college football game on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis
Leave a comment

You just knew it was going to be tough for Steve Spurrier to step away entirely from college football. Though he may no longer be calling the shots on the sideline with his signature visor, Spurrier will continue to be a face of South Carolina as he takes on an ambassador role.

Spurrier will be a special assistant for South Carolina president Harris Pastides and athletic director Ray Tanner, but his responsibilities in assisting the school’s leaders will extend far beyond simply getting coffee and making a quick run to Staples for office supplies. Spurrier will be used as a resource for his opinions when needed and he will continue to spread the word about South Carolina at any opportunity that presents itself. If that means playing a round of golf with some potential big donors, you know Spurrier will oblige to fulfill his duties.

Spurrier retired from coaching in early October 2015. Spurrier’s contract had a clause that allowed him to take on an ambassador’s role with the university if he chose to take advantage of it. Spurrier did not immediately jump on that option but is now reportedly settling in.