Follow the Money to Understand the Scandals

College football in a terrible state, and you have to wonder where it ends
By JT the Brick – contributor
JT the Brick

There’s nothing like a heated college football debate to get the collective blood boiling of some of the most passionate sports fans in America.

Over the past several years college football fans have mainly wanted to discuss the merits of a playoff system compared to the BCS, which eventually crowns a national champion. In recent years the mistakes of many players on high profile teams have dominated sports radio and sent shockwaves throughout campuses across America.

Ohio State is suffering through a brutal offseason after vacating their 2010 record of 12-1, Big Ten championship and Sugar Bowl victory. The football program is still being investigated by the NCAA after admitting to improper benefits to student athletes.

USC had to vacate Reggie Bush‘s Heisman Trophy and BCS national championship from the 2004 season, drawing a two-year postseason ban because Bush set up his mother and step father with a home in San Diego. The proud football program was sited for a lack of institutional control and also lost 30 scholarships.

Last year’s Heisman trophy quarterback Cam Newton had to fight through adversity on his way to winning a national championship because everyone in the media realized that his father was trying to shop his services to other teams in the SEC.

Also, North Carolina head coach Butch Davis was fired because of the damage to the university’s reputation, and Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier was relieved of his duties because of sanctions to the football program and other sports including men’s and women’s tennis.

Now we find out that the NCAA is investigating the Miami Hurricanes football program and their relationship to convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, who is currently serving a 20-year prison term for conducting a ponzi scheme. School President Donna Shalala is cooperating with NCAA officials and I believe it won’t take much time to connect several Hurricane players to Shapiro and his lavish yacht parties and other improper benefits.

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These unfortunate events underscore the current state of college football in America. Corruption and cover-ups at the highest level have brought a black eye to one of the most popular sports in America. Fans continue to make excuses for players who engage in inappropriate conduct. Players who break the rules when accepting money and other improper benefits put their program and University at risk of losing millions of dollars, all because they are selfish. Student athletes want sympathy by indicating that they can’t survive on campus with just a scholarship which provides not only a free education but the opportunity to play in the NFL.

Fans believe that “if you’re not cheating you’re not trying“, and many alumni at high profile football schools will admit that several of their players are probably looking to get paid before they even play their first game. Cheating has gone on in college athletics for decades but I believe that it has never been this prevalent. I continue to remind college football fans that these athletes are supposed to be students first before having the privilege of competing at the highest level as football players.

Follow the Money

This week’s hot topic on sports radio has been the possibility of Texas A&M leaving the Big-12 Conference for more money and exposure with the SEC. The Aggies are furious with the deal that Texas signed with ESPN for a reported $300 million over 20 years to launch the “Longhorn Network.” It’s a sad state of affairs when a team from Lubbock has to consider running from the conference in their backyard to eventually wind up as road kill against the likes of Florida, Auburn, Alabama and LSU.

This past May Fox and ESPN reportedly paid close to $3 billion to televise the expanding Pac-12 conference in the hopes of securing high ratings and huge advertising dollars. Los Angeles is the No. 2 media market and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott had no choice but to secure this high-priced contract as the insanity was running rampart throughout college athletics. Colorado bolted the Big 12 and Utah left the Mountain West to secure to a better financial package and long term television security.

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Nebraska transferred to the Big Ten because it had the opportunity to be a part of one of the most lucrative deals in all of sports television. The highly successful Big Ten Network secured the Huskers for a reported $20-$25 million annually. Nebraska fans are still trying to understand the complexities in the distribution deal between the Big Ten Network and Time Warner Cable, and will have to go along with whatever their local cable provider offers them. TCU, coming off their impressive Rose Bowl win this past January, accepted an invitation to join the Big East even though they are located in Fort Worth, Texas. The program will now benefit from east coast exposure and a much bigger piece of the expected new television deal, while the conference will have a top tiered team located in the football hotbed of Texas.

Any college football fan with a pulse understands the importance of Notre Dame being Independent and the fact that NBC televises all of their games to millions of fans who live and die with the Irish. Because of this deal, Notre Dame gets arguably the best television exposure in all of college football and never has to worry about a potential recruit becoming jaded about his talents are not being showcased to a national audience. BYU has some of the most loyal fans in all of college sports, so it was easy for the school to declare its independence in football and broker a deal with ESPN. Their state of the art television broadcast center will benefit from this infusion of money while they further expand the reach of BYU-TV.

What about the fans?

My concern has and always will be with the fans. How do these TV deals and conference swaps benefit you? Rivalries could be destroyed in a matter of a few short years as fans will no longer be able to watch the same games that their parents and grandparents passionately watched for close to a century. It’s all in jeopardy because a few select television executives want to play college football chess with all of their new prized pieces. I see higher prices for the privilege to watch games on cable television along with more expensive tickets, parking, concessions and merchandise associated with the game day experience.

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I’m positive that the TV executives that brokered these deals could care less about the overall costs to the fans. National and regional television execs are throwing enormous money at college football presidents and conferences like they have an unlimited budget. What happens when this game of college football musical chairs comes to an end?

It always amazed me that the people who ran AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Enron seemed to have no clue that they were spending all of their company’s resources without understanding the complexities of the financial tsunami that was forming right in front of their eyes. Is sports television on such stable ground that it can continue to throw billions of dollars at college football and other sports while other industries here and around the globe are fighting to just stay afloat?

I love watching sports on TV and hope that all of these regional and national television networks know what they are doing, because I have no confidence with the NCAA conducting their due diligence. Are they qualified to look into the financial solvency of television networks let alone the books of any large or small university?

I’m jaded because like most Americans I’ve fought hard to survive while riding this financial roller coaster since 2008. I’m now starting to believe that only the Oil companies and sports television networks have the money to pump profits back into this struggling economy. As taxpayers we bailed out two automotive companies while using stimulus to save banks and firms on Wall Street, but I’m supposed to sit back and trust the financial state of college football?

Michael Douglas won the Academy Award for best actor while playing the role of Gordon Gecko in Wall Street. His most famous line was “Greed is Good”, but I’m sensing that the marriage between big money and college football might be too good to be true.

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