Well, it’s been a long hot summer which has seen its share of sports change and tragedy. Is it me or do the rest of you feel this overwhelming sense of foreboding? It seems the very nature of college football is changing. Where are the heroes? What has happened to tradition? Is there spirit and honor left in the game? Where is our moral compass? Now, college football is all about winning, TV contracts, power, money and self-preservation. What will our future bring — the Hunger Games? It worries me.
I’m sure you have been following the Penn State tragedy. My heart aches for the young victims of the former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. How kids love football — it rips your heart out. As more and more information is revealed from former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s private investigation, it’s not looking good for Penn State or Joe Paterno. Freeh’s scathing report concluded Paterno helped cover up child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky, as Paterno was apparently aware of the 1998 allegations against Sandusky in contrast to his grand jury testimony and an interview given after his firing and that he was involved in the decision to not report the 2001 incident to the authorities even after his superiors had decided to do so. It is unbelievable that Paterno would do this — I ache inside for his family. There are no winners in Happy Valley — no, not one.
There is talk of the NCAA giving the “death penalty” to Penn State football. The only death sentence ever issued by the NCAA in its 106 year history was to the SMU football program in 1986. The school was barred from competing during the 1987 season, all home games in 1988 were canceled, it was banned from bowl games and TV through 1989, it lost 55 scholarship positions over four years, the team was allowed to hire only five full-time assistant coaches instead of the typical nine and no off-campus recruiting was permitted until August 1988. SMU has yet to recover. If Penn State’s season is canceled, a whole new list of victims can be added to this debauchery — innocent student athletes and local businesses. This whole Penn State debacle is a perfect example of the systemic cultural problem and moral decay college football is facing. It’s a crying shame — so many lives — so many historic years —altered and destroyed.
In the summer heat there are other shames as well, but none so gut-wrenching. We have been duped again by the BCS. Yeah, sure, we have a four-team playoff now; unfortunately it’s the same game with a different name. The big conferences and schools get the big meal at the table while the rest of our universities eat the crumbs off the floor.
Look at the big bowls. The Rose Bowl, 12-year deal with Big-10/Pac-12 champs. The new Champions Bowl, 12-year deal with SEC/Big-12 champs. The Orange Bowl, 12-year deal with ACC champ and an opponent yet to be determined. Notre Dame is talking with the ACC and Orange Bowl, so expect to see a Fighting Irish tie-in. Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl now without BCS affiliation, but will scramble for BCS teams through the mercy of the system. The Cotton Bowl will continue with Big-12/SEC tie-ins. The postseason bowl tie-ins for the SEC, Big-10, Big-12, Pac-12, ACC and Big East glare across the board. See a reoccurring theme here?
So now, the BCS — oops — the “CSC” (Championship Selection Committee), who were appointed by the BCS presidents a couple of weeks ago, gets to choose the four teams in the new playoff. I wonder who they will select? Six major bowls will be in the rotation for the semi-final games. The Championship game is a bowl of its own. Hopefully this playoff will grow to eight teams, 12 teams and eventually 16 teams, but for now it’s the same old game with a different name — not so much change here — other than the entire NCAA FBS landscape!
Why does the NCAA stand by and allow conferences to expand outside their regional boundaries? I’ll have to call and ask them. Regional conferences provided great rivalries, kept travel expenses down and gave a sense of pride and ownership to fans. Now the Pac-12 includes teams from Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The Big East has teams from California, Idaho, Florida, and Texas. The SEC has Texas and Missouri teams, while the WAC stretches from Washington down the Pacific Coast to Louisiana — and the list goes on. Conference expansion has no rhyme or reason, while the NCAA just stands there watching college football being destroyed right before their very eyes. Is it the sweat from this hot summer or tears stinging my eyes? I’ll see you from the sidelines.