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.

Rutgers loses play-making Janarion Grant to season-ending ankle injury

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 17:  Janarion Grant #1 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights carries the ball in the first half against the New Mexico Lobos at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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If there was one player Rutgers may not have been able to afford to lose this season, it was Janarion Grant. Unfortunately for Rutgers, Grant has indeed ben lost for the season due to an ankle injury suffered Saturday in a home loss against Iowa.

Grant injured his right ankle on Saturday and returned to the Rutgers sideline on crutches later in the game. That was an ominous sign itself, but Rutgers head coach Chris Ash confirmed the unfortunate news on Monday when addressing the media. Ash did not reveal the specific details of Grant’s injury, but confirming he will miss the rest of the season is a pretty tough pill to swallow for the entire Rutgers program.

Rutgers will look to petition for an extra year of eligibility for Grant.

But wait, there’s more injury news for Rutgers. Ash also announced defensive end Quanzell Lambert will be out for the remainder of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.

Texas suspends OL Kent Perkins following DWI arrest

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Texas has suspended senior offensive guard Kent Perkins for one game after he was arrested for a DWI charge last week.

The suspension will be served during Texas’ next game this weekend against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have lost two out of the last three games, including last weekend’s game at Baylor to drop to 0-1 in Big 12 play to start the season.

The loss of Perkins for one game is a blow to the Texas offensive line, as he is one of the most experienced players in the trenches for the Longhorns. He has started 26 games, with all 26 coming on the right side of the offensive line.

Alex Anderson and Jake McMillon are expected to fill the vacancy at right guard this weekend and Perkins is expected to return to the field next week.

Former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce to dot the “i” on Saturday

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  The Ohio State Buckeyes marching band spells out Ohio to the cheers of fans before their game against the Michigan Wolverines on November 20, 2004 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio State upset Michigan 37-21.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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One of the great traditions college football has to offer is when an Ohio State senior sousaphone player parades out to “dot the ‘i'” in The Best Damn Band In The Land’s signature pregame show. On a rare occasion, the honor of completing the script goes to a very special guest. On Saturday, that honor will be given to former Buckeyes head coach Earle Bruce.

“I was floored… I couldn’t believe it,” Bruce said to WTVN in response to the news of the special invite. “I always like to talk about the band. The band is so great.”

A total of 13 people have had the privilege of being the special guest to perform the final piece of Ohio State’s patented pregame routine. He will be the second former Ohio State coach to do so, joining Woody Hayes. Other notable people to have the honor include John Glenn, Jack Nicklaus, and Bob Hope. Perhaps one day Jim Tressel will join the list of special guests.

Bruce was a big influence for current Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was a graduate assistant under Bruce from 1986 through 1987.

Helmet sticker to Eleven Warriors.

 

David Shaw on LSU opening: Are you serious? The answer is no

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach David Shaw of the Stanford Cardinal reacts after a fumble by Francis Owusu #6 during the second quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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LSU opened up a high-profile head coaching vacancy on Sunday by removing head coach Les Miles as the head of the football program. As Miles was shown the door, the list of possible candidates started popping up just about everywhere you might look. Names like Houston’s Tom Herman and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher have been popular and trendy, but not so much for Stanford head coach David Shaw.

Asked about the new opening in Baton Rouge, Shaw was rather definitive in his stance.

Are you serious? The answer is no,” Shaw said, seemingly without hesitation according to ESPN reporter David Lombardi.

It should be mentioned that it is incredibly rare for a head coach in a current position with one program would even drop a hint of interest in another position elsewhere, so keep that in mind as coaches like Herman and Fisher deny having any contact with LSU and so on during the annual coaching carousel. That said, Shaw leaving Stanford would be a pretty good shock, so we can probably take Shaw at his word here.