The summer of 2010 was one of upheaval for college football, with several notable programs switching conference affiliations and changing the face of the sport. The summer of 2011 was supposed to be notable because all those changes would finally become official. Instead, the summer of 2011 will be remembered as a period when the ugliest side of college football took center stage.
Just this year, powerhouse programs like Tennessee, Ohio State, North Carolina and finally Miami have taken a blow to the head, so to speak, coming a year after the much ballyhooed problems at USC were finally brought to the surface. The once mighty Trojans were blitzed by the NCAA, and this year’s offenders can expect to be, too. The things that happened at Tennessee, North Carolina and Ohio State were bad enough, and those schools will end up with some level of probation and some stiff penalties.
Then there’s what’s been recently exposed as having gone on (allegedly) at Miami. It actually dwarfs what’s gone on elsewhere in every way. A convicted felon says he paid around $2 million to at least 72 players in cash and some “outrageous” gifts. Now, for the first time in 25 years, there’s a prominent major college football program that’s staring down the barrel of the NCAA “Death Penalty.”
It could happen. Miami is a “repeat offender.” As such, the program could get the same treatment that SMU got in the mid 1980’s when the school was forced to cancel the sport for two years. It took that program more than two decades to recover. If what has been reported ends up being true, Miami deserves the same treatment.
So this summer we’ve learned more than we ever wanted to know about the unseemly side of our favorite sport. It seems to be going on almost everywhere. Could it be going on in the Mountain West?
The obvious answer is yes, it could. No school and no program is immune. A better question is how likely is it that something like this could happen in the conference?
If you’re comparing MW schools to Miami, don’t bother. The culture in south Florida is vastly different, and in many ways, conducive to the types of abuses that have allegedly gone on in Coral Gables. Again, this is not the first time “The U” has faced this kind of thing…it just might be the worst case. You wonder if Sports Illustrated will renew their call, last published in June of 1995, for Miami to drop football altogether. Maybe the NCAA will do it for them.
But here? No chance. Not to that extreme. We have the benefit in this part of the country of having both passion for our schools AND the gift of perspective. While we very badly want our teams to win every week, I don’t think you will see a Wyoming fan poisoning famous trees on the Colorado State campus after an emotional loss. Here in the West, we can still tell ourselves that it’s just a game…and believe it.
That’s why the type of thing that has gone on at Miami will never happen at a MW school. Not even UNLV, where the off the field distractions can most certainly rival what goes on in South Beach. I think I’m safe in saying the UNLV boosters have their priorities more in line than Miami boosters. In Vegas, “win at all costs” has a very different meaning.
As for the indiscretions that have gone on at Ohio State and elsewhere, the types that involve a few players getting some free tattoos, etc? Could that happen in the MW? Sure it could. May have happened already. We may find out at a later date, or we may never know. But again, you want to believe that the fans and boosters of the MW programs have enough knowledge and perspective to understand the rules and abide by them. You want to believe that the student athletes at MW schools don’t go around with their hands out, seeking things they are not yet allowed to receive. You want to believe that the players in the MW don’t see themselves as being bigger than the game or the rules.
Honestly, you want to believe that MW coaches and administrators are more in control of their programs, and that they understand that their jobs are not just to win football games, but also to teach young men the right way to carry themselves the rest of their lives. That’s the kind of lesson that seems to have gone untaught at Miami.