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.

Nick Saban, other write-in votes may have helped decide Alabama’s contentious Senate election

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Could Nick Saban have inadvertently played a role in the outcome of a historic election?  Believe it or not, that may actually be a valid question.

As this is a college football site, we won’t go into the background of the contentious U.S. Senate campaign waged between Democrat Doug Jones and scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in the state of Alabama.  In the run-up to the special election in the state Tuesday, however, one Democrat-leaning political action committee urged Republican voters who couldn’t vote for a Democrat and were leery of voting for Moore to use a write-in vote, specifically using the name of the Alabama head football coach to illustrate that option.

With 99 percent of the vote tabulated, NBC News reported earlier this morning that Jones held a lead of just under 21,000 votes.  It has since been reported that, with 100 percent of the votes in, there were nearly 23,000 write-in votes cast, with Jones’ lead still holding at just under 21,000 votes.

Because of a new state law, some are saying it’s likely we’ll know exactly how many of those write-in votes were for Saban.  From fivethirtyeight.com late Tuesday night:

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has a margin of 0.7 points over Moore, and the share of write-in votes is more than double that, at around 1.7 percent. Who were people writing in? If that difference holds, we’ll know in due time. In 2016, the Alabama state legislature passed a law requiring the write-in votes to be tallied if the share of write-ins exceeds the margin between the first- and second-place candidates — exactly the situation we’re in now.

“I’m a life-long Republican,” voter Gary Dobbins told MSNBC by way of al.com. “This is the first time in my entire life that I haven’t voted for the Republican candidate.

“I wrote in Nick Saban instead. The reason why is at first I was going to vote for the other guy. Then, I had a crisis in the voting booth and started thinking about what Richard Shelby had said and Condoleezza Rice. I just wrote in Nick Saban.”

West Virginia the landing spot for ex-Michigan DB Keith Washington

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After a brief pit stop at the junior college level, Keith Washington has found his way back to the FBS level.

The defensive back announced via Twitter that he has committed to West Virginia and will continue his collegiate playing career with the Mountaineers. As Washington spent the 2017 season at a Mississippi JUCO, he will be eligible to play for WVU immediately in 2018.

Washington held two other Power Five offers in this second round of recruitment, and both were from fellow Big 12 programs — Kansas and Texas Tech. East Carolina, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Toledo and UAB had extended offers as well.

Washington was a three-star member of Michigan’s 2015 recruiting class, Jim Harbaugh‘s first with the Wolverines, coming out of high school in Alabama. After redshirting as a true freshman, he played in nine games during the 2016 season.

Before the start of this past season, he decided to transfer from the Wolverines.

Shea Patterson talks transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan, confident he’ll be eligible to play in 2018

Getty Images
3 Comments

One of the bigger player personnel moves of the 2018 offseason has already gone down in the midst of the 2017 bowl season, with Shea Patterson announcing earlier this week that he would be transferring to Michigan from Ole Miss.  The touted quarterback’s decision was seemingly triggered by not only Hugh Freeze‘s firing as head coach, but an additional one-year bowl ban tagged on to the Rebels football program.

In his first interview since the move, Patterson, who was born in Toledo and lived in the city until he was 11, told Kyle Rowland of the Toledo Blade that (surprise!!!) the off-field rancor in Oxford indeed led him to Ann Arbor.

“I’m really not one to jump ship on anything,” the sophomore signal-caller told the Blade. “But I’m really big on setting goals and achieving them. I did that throughout high school. One of the main goals was to win a national championship. At Ole Miss, I didn’t have an opportunity to do that. Things didn’t shake out the way I planned — coach got fired, the two-year bowl ban.

“I couldn’t look back on it after college and say I never got an opportunity to play for something like that.”

As part of the latest bowl ban, any Ole Miss player entering his final season of eligibility is free to transfer to another program without being forced to sit out a year.  While players like Patterson saw Ole Miss roll back the restrictions placed by the university on a transfer destination, it has been thought that those Rebel players with more than a year of eligibility remaining would still have to sit out the NCAA-mandated transfer year.

Patterson is confident, though, that, because of his former school’s issues, he will receive a waiver from The Association that would allow him to play immediately in 2018 at his new school.

“From what I’m hearing, I’m pretty sure that I will win that and be able to play next year,” Patterson said according to the newspaper.

A consensus five-star 2016 recruit, Patterson was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 4 player overall on its composite board.  After starting the last three games of his true freshman season, Patterson started the first seven games of 2017 before going down with a season-ending knee injury.

If Patterson does get the waiver, he’d compete with redshirt freshman Brandon Peters, a four-star 2016 signee who took over the starting job in late October, and true freshman Dylan McCaffrey, a four-star 2017 signee who took a redshirt this season, for the starting job.

Status of Wyoming QB Josh Allen for bowl game up in the air

Getty Images
1 Comment

Josh Allen won’t be Fournetting or McCaffreying his team’s bowl game this season, but it’s still undetermined whether or not he’ll be able to play in it.

Allen has been dealing with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder that kept him out of Wyoming’s last two games of the regular season. While he’s been practicing with his teammates in preparation for the Dec. 22 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl matchup with Central Michigan, his status for the postseason game is up in the air.

It appears though, that, one way or another, a decision on the quarterback’s availability will be made over the next several days.

“I’m still getting better day by day,” Allen said according to the Laramie Boomerang. “It is still not where I think it needs to be or want it to be, but things are progressively getting better. Throwing is becoming a lot easier, more effortless. I am on the right track, but we will be needing to know an answer (if I’m playing) in the coming days.

“I will be in the training room 24/7, trying to get back on the field, trust me.”

It’s believed that the junior is playing his final season with the Cowboys as he’s projected to be one of the first three or four quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL draft if he leaves early. In fact, he was introduced with Wyoming’s seniors on Senior Day late in the regular season, a clear sign that he’s all but out the door.

Players such as Allen have until mid-January to officially declare for the April draft.

Last season, Allen completed exactly 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Through 10 games this season, and with less of a supporting cast around him, the 6-5, 240-pound redshirt junior has hit on 56.2 percent of his attempts for 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. His yards per attempt have gone down from 8.59 in 2016 to 6.61 in 2017, although he’s thrown a pick in every 42 attempts this season compared to one every 25 last season.