I have to say I’ve seen this coming. I’ve seen it coming, but it’s just hard to believe it could actually happen. It’s like the feeling you get growing up and moving into the “adult world” and realizing there’s no set of oracles to consult. Adults, companies, doctors and lawyers make idiotic decisions, just like they did when they were still kids.
I was the loudest voice when USC was sanctioned by the NCAA. It was too harsh, but at the time, public sentiment was in favor of it because, frankly, most people hate USC. I get why. We historically win a lot of bowls and we do it with a lot of bravado. We have beautiful Song Girls and they look a lot like the rest of the beautiful girls on campus. We’re by the mountains, we’re by the beach and as students, when people claim it’s in the hood, you laugh. You can spend $3000 buying a bottle at Hakkasan in Las Vegas and you won’t meet a better looking girl than you will on 2-for-1 night at the 9-0. To make it worse, we ended up becoming a top 25 school, which really pissed off every Big Ten and SEC school that hated us because with the exception of Michigan and Notre Dame, it’s hard to get consistently good football at a top tier school.
Basically, I get the schadenfreude that went on when we got pinched. Fuck that guy in the Beemer with a hot girl in the front seat eating Wagyu Ribeye with his steak and eggs. Fuck that guy because most of us won’t be that guy. I’m that guy. You are that guy. But most aren’t.
And I blame no one for that.
I blame the NCAA for pinning a baseless case on USC that’s lead to everything from injuries to coaching changes, just not to a losing record. We took our lumps and then we waited.
The more the NCAA was questioned for having less policy than a middle school slumber party attended by girls that hate each other, for having less ethics than, say, Nevin Shapiro and his billion dollar Ponzi scheme and the only less impartial stance than your own mother, the more I realized that until they are eradicated as an organization, there is zero hope for College Football.
We watched them get bought, extorted, strong-armed by every school that got caught for something, anything. Nothing would happen.
Cam Newton shopping his services? Play in that bowl. Students can’t be blamed for their parents unless they are Reggie Bush’s parents.
Buckeyes selling team memorabilia? Play in that bowl. It’d totally ruin our ratings to neuter a team of that stature so close to a game. Suspend them early next year when they play cash cow games at home against Ohio and Youngstown State. When you do give them scholarship reductions, make it a player a year. Let Urban Meyer talk about how hard it is.
When Oregon pays a recruiting service that’s only service is influence over athletes from a small area of Texas and then cannot provide any of the recruiting documents that never existed in the first place, the NCAA tells them the Ducks’ proposed self-sanctions aren’t enough. Then they wait a year and slap their wrists barely.
The NCAA decided to harshly penalize Penn State for covering up a decades long sex scandal performed by one of their coaches in their own player locker rooms because it was covered up to protect football. Once the school started to fight back, the NCAA caved. Rape is better than a player’s parents taking money from an agent unrelated to USC operating out of a city some 120 miles south of campus.
All of this, and I still waited for Miami.
For those living under a rock, Miami had dozens and dozens of documented counts of improper benefits coming from Nevin Shapiro, a man now in jail for running a billion dollar ponzi scheme. These benefits weren’t the famous Ohio State hundred dollar handshakes. He was taking players out on yachts, feeding them booze and cocaine, buying them prostitutes and if necessary, paying for their abortions. How close was this man’s booster ties to the school? Well, not many of us get to do this:
I mean, I do, but I never paid players. I was a booster by actually BOOSTING MORALE.
This case took four years to investigate. It took for years to investigate this man’s connection to the program and the events in question. It took me 30 seconds to Google Image search:
It goes on forever. And what did Shapiro say when he laid this case on a table for the NCAA?
“I became a booster in late 2001, and by early 2002, I was giving kids gifts. From the start, I wasn’t really challenged. And once I got going, it just got bigger and bigger. I just did what I wanted and didn’t pay much mind toward the potential repercussions.”
“I did it because I could,” he said. “And because nobody stepped in to stop me.”
That is lack of institutional control. Yet, it was the Athletic Director who oversaw Miami during the Nevin Shapiro years who was chosen to literally lead the committee on infractions against USC. Through a vendetta of USC becoming the premier power in college football, he dropped the hammer without concrete evidence. A lack of evidence that has Todd McNair’s suit against the NCAA looking like a slam dunk, currently in appeal in an effort to delay the inevitable unsealing of emails that state clearly the NCAA had “malicious intent” to pin something on USC. That already happened, the cadence just isn’t working out fast enough to protect our players who have to play with a team half the size as their opponents because the NCAA doesn’t have the guts to admit they overstepped. Overleaped. They killed a fly with a flamethrower, only the fly didn’t die. It hasn’t had a losing record yet.
Miami got off with no bowl ban, some random probations and the loss of 9 total scholarships over three years because of their “unprecedented” self sanctioning.
So there’s your answer, America. No matter how badly you fuck up, no matter how much an agent of the football team provides sex, drugs and diamonds to players, as long as you admit you were wrong and sit out a bowl game or two, you are good.
USC’s crime was telling the NCAA to fuck off. Now their crime is not suing.
The NCAA has never offered a statement on how Paul Dee, may he fester in peace, was allowed to influence, lead and ultimately coordinate the assault on USC as head of a committee the NCAA put together. There’s never been an inquiry into it. There’s been no look at their decision because the case is closed.
We can’t play with a full team. We have no built in process to force them to answer questions about Paul Dee and about how now a decade later, USC’s case is the extreme outlier thanks to the NCAA’s tail-between-the-legs approach to peeling back their sanctions on Penn State.
The NCAA is on the run. They can’t sell their “student athletes” jerseys on their site anymore. They aren’t licensing their name out. They are boarding up the doors, but for me it might be too late. Until they are gone, I can’t go beyond hoping my college beats the other college on a particular Saturday (or Thursday or Friday so they can make more money in media sales).
I can’t tell anyone in good faith that being an NCAA champion means a damn thing. Not at all. That’s because it doesn’t. It’s like being employee of the month at a bank that played the sub-prime mortgage game and almost tanked our economic system. It’s like being executive chef at a D rated restaurant.
I love USC far, far too much to root for that. So let me be clear. I’m done with college football, but not with watching USC play it. I’ll get excited to see them play their opponent and hope they win, so our team beats their team. That’s pure. Even purer when we actually can field a full team.
But I am done even caring about Rose Bowls. If we play in a Rose Bowl, great. I’ll be excited about playing whoever they trot out against us. But until the NCAA apologizes, gives a real answer about Paul Dee or is nailed for everything they are, I just don’t care what awards we win.
Not a huge deviation from what I’ve always said, but I am furious. It’s confirmation of your worst fears. There’s no one running the ship. And we need to sue for something. I don’t even know what, but if you can sue someone for handing you hot coffee and you spill it on yourself, we can sue the NCAA for what they’ve spilled on us without a hint of wanting to toss us a towel to dry off. O’Bannon is going to win and be the coolest Bruin ever, what Prefontaine is to Oregon, and we’ll get a victory. Somehow. But I want a fucking answer from them about Paul Dee. I want an answer about their process. And since I likely won’t get it, I’m watching the bare minimum of football on television. My Trojans. Stop telling me this is an amateur sport. The only amateurs are the NCAA.
I am interested in football.
I am interested in USC football.
I am not interested in NCAA football.
And that’s because if there was ever a chance for them to make sense, it was with Miami. Game, set, don’t-give-a-fuck.