Mark Emmert

College football is facing an identity crisis

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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.

Arrested starting lineman suspended for WVU’s opener vs. Mizzou

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 07:  Wendell Smallwood #4 of the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrates with Adam Pankey #57 after rushing for a 16 yard touchdown in the first half during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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An off-field incident will lead to some on-field attrition, at least for the short-term, for West Virginia.

Starting left guard Adam Pankey (pictured, large player lifting Smallwood) was arrested earlier this month and charged with driving under the influence following a one-car accident.  Dana Holgorsen has confirmed that Pankey has been suspended and will remain that way through at least the opener Sept. 3.

“We hold these guys to high expectations,” the head coach said. “When you don’t meet those, there are going to be consequences. He’s currently suspended from the team. That’s disappointing. He will continue his suspension through Missouri, and we’ll address it at that time.”

Pankey has started 25 games the past two seasons. He started 13 at left tackle in 2014, and 12 at left guard in 2015.

With Pankey sidelined, Tony Matteo, who started one game last season, will replace the senior in the lineup.

Four-star 2016 Michigan recruit Ahmir Mitchell says he’s ‘reopening recruitment’

TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 28:  A Michigan Wolverines flag is carried during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.  The Wildcats defeated the Wolverines 31-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Jim Harbaugh had previously confirmed that two of the three Michigan football players not present for a team photo earlier this month — wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell, running back Kareem Walker and defensive lineman Shelton Johnson — had been suspended, although he declined to specify which two. A couple of weeks later, one of those players has apparently exited the program.

On his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, Mitchell announced that he is “reopening my recruitment to all Universities and football programs.” It’s unclear if the wide receiver has received a release from his UM scholarship.

“I love what U of M had to offer me but, what is best for me and my family comes first,” Mitchell wrote.

A four-star 2016 recruit, Mitchell was rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the state of New Jersey and the No. 167 player overall on 247sports.com‘s composite board. He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice.,

EMU’s suspends starting QB Brogan Roback

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 03:  Brogan Roback #4 of the Eastern Michigan Eagles throws a pass against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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With the opener a little over a week way, Eastern Michigan’s quarterback situation is in a significant state of flux.

The Detroit Free Press has reported that Brogan Roback has been suspended by EMU head coach Chris Creighton.  The only reason given was “a violation of our policies.”

EMU opens the 2016 season Sept. 3 against Mississippi Valley State, and it appears Roback will miss at least that contest.

“With the privilege of being a member of the Eastern Michigan University football program there are expectations and standards to which we hold our student-athletes accountable,” a portion of a Creighton’s statement sent to the Free Press read.

Roback took over for Reggie Bell as the Eagles’ starting quarterback after Week 1 last year.  He threw for 2,304 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in completing exactly 60 percent of his passes.

Bell transferred after the 2016 season, leaving Roback as the presumptive starter.  With Roback’s suspension, it leaves EMU with four scholarship quarterbacks — junior Todd Porter, freshman Isaac Stiebeling, and redshirt freshmen Anton Skupin and James Pensyl.  Only Porter, a junior college transfer, has experience at the collegiate level, and would presumably take over as the starter in Roback’s absence.

NCAA grants NC State QB Ryan Finley another year of eligibility

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 27:  "Pack" flags are brought onto the field to promote the North Carolina State University Wolfpack in their endeavors against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels during the game at Carter Finley Stadium on September 27, 2003 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  N.C. State defeated UNC 47-34.  (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, Ryan Finley‘s stay in Raleigh has been extended.

North Carolina State confirmed Tuesday that Finley has been granted an additional season of eligibility by the NCAA.  Finley received a medical waiver from The Association that will give him a sixth year if he ultimately chooses to use it.

So, in summation, Finley has three years of eligibility remaining beginning this season and running through the 2018 season.

In April of this year, the quarterback announced that he had decided to transfer from Boise State.  A month later, he moved on to NC State as a graduate transfer.

Finley started the first three games last season as a redshirt sophomore for the Broncos before suffering a broken ankle and losing the job he won in the summer to Freshman All-American Brett Rypien, with the latter further solidifying his hold on the position this spring and triggering the transfer decision.

On the depth chart the Wolfpack released earlier this week, Finley was listed as the co-starter along with redshirt sophomore Jalan McLendon.