Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is no question the NCAA's reputation
has taken a serious hit the last several years, as significant scandals are
popping up with unprecedented frequency.
High-profile programs Miami-Florida, USC, Ohio State and Penn State have all
been heavily disciplined recently, and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel
found himself in hot water over the summer, but as the past week has shown us,
the NCAA has barely scratched the surface in solving its widespread problem of
corruption and wrong-doing.
The first ball to drop during a busy, tumultuous week of off-the-field college
football news was the Sports Illustrated report citing that Oklahoma State has
been apparently been involved in multiple illicit activities dating from
2001-11. The story, which is being unveiled over the course of a five-part
series, reveals information gathered from dozens of current and former Cowboys
players and coaches accusing the program of paying players for their
performance, committing academic fraud, allowing recreational drug use and
soliciting sex for recruiting purposes.
Attempting to get out in front of the story, Oklahoma State armed itself
earlier in the week with a statement from athletic director Mike Holder, who
didn't exactly deny the accusations but instead attempted to temporarily quell
the media's suspicions.
"We're all committed to playing by the rules and doing things the right way,
and for people to say that is not what's happening is very disturbing," Holder
said. "Our goal is to separate fact from fiction, and then we can start
dealing with it. We've already notified the NCAA, they're going to assign an
investigator and go through the facts. And at the end of the day, we'll come
to some conclusions, and we'll deal with those. We'll prop ourselves back up,
polish up that OSU brand and move down the road."
If the NCAA's investigation confirms Sports Illustrated's report, Oklahoma
State could be in for some of the most severe sanctions in FBS history, but if
that weren't enough, another scandal managed to rock the college football
landscape just a few days later.
According to a report done by Yahoo Sports, a series of financial and text
message records cited five SEC players receiving improper benefits from
numerous NFL agents and financial advisors during their collegiate careers.
Those named in report were D.J. Fluker from Alabama, Tyler Bray and Maurice
Couch from Tennessee, and Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis from Mississippi
State, although Couch is the only one still playing college football.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the
Crimson Tide's highly-anticipated matchup with Texas A&M and, not
surprisingly, remained tight-lipped on the situation.
"We've done a lot of investigation about a lot of things," Saban said. "Every
time somebody brings something up about our program we investigate it, we do
the best we can. There is nobody in this organization that wants to do
anything that's not above board and we don't want our players to do it either.
That's not what this program was built on, and that's not what we're going to
Clearly, the NCAA has its hands full attempting to deal with the fallout of
these two breaking stories, but while these developments are certainly
noteworthy, neither are particularly shocking. As we've seen several times in
recent years, it's nothing new to see programs orchestrating these types of
arrangements with their football players, and for every instance that's
brought to the surface, you can bet there are dozens more that go undetected.
Of course, the NCAA will need to come to a conclusion on these allegations,
but there's ultimately a bigger question at hand: In a landscape that appears
to be getting exponentially worse by the day, how do we put a stop to it?
It's no secret that college football is big business, with even the smallest
programs bringing in millions of the dollars for their schools. That's why so
many players want a piece of the action and why so many programs are willing
to put their reputations on the line in order to not only secure the best
talent, but to keep that talent as happy as possible. Sure, some punishment
has been handed down, but that clearly hasn't put a stop to it, as the rewards
in most cases far outweigh the risks.
The biggest point of contention is whether or not these players should be
legally compensated for their contributions on the football field. After all,
it's their product that generates all the ticket sales, merchandising and
television rights. Giving the players a piece of that pie would (in theory, at
least) slow down all the shady dealings behind the scenes. On the other hand,
however, these players are still simply amateur athletes. Not only do they get
to play the game they love, but they get a free college education out of it,
something any young adult today would treasure immensely. On top of that, they
form immeasurable connections, through alumni and other sources, that can
service them for the rest of their lives. Isn't that enough? That answer is
While giving players a stipend to play would solve some issues, it would
immediately form a strong divide. Which players on which teams deserve
monetary compensation for their contribution to the university? And who's to
say that it will be enough? Even once players start getting paid, inevitably
there will soon be instances where greed sets in, with entitled players
heading out in search of even more money, thus starting the vicious cycle all
One solution could be to allow student athletes to pursue payment through
personal endeavors such as endorsement deals -- much like Olympians and other
amateur athletes. It would certainly be an easier addendum to the NCAA rules
than a flat-out payment process, but it still presents plenty of potential
obstacles for both the players and the schools, not to mention only a handful
of FBS players are recognizable enough to cash in on their personal brand.
In the long run, however, the only way for this problem to go away is for the
NCAA to crack down harder and more swiftly than ever before. It has turned a
blind eye in the past for its own benefit -- to believe that Sports
Illustrated and Yahoo Sports found out about these instances before the NCAA
did would be foolish. The NCAA clearly needs more man-power get out in front
of these issues, because the way they've been handling the situations recently
has done little to prevent future incidents from occurring (the exact
opposite, in fact).
One way or another, a complete overhaul of the system is needed, or these
problems will never disappear.
The Sports Network