Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's Getting Harder and Harder To Cover These Up

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with former Patriots gonzo video proprietor Matt Walsh early Tuesday to discuss allegations that the Patriots had a long history of illegally taping opponents' signals during games. After the meeting, Goodell held a press conference, which went basically like this:

Whew, that is a relief. Now if only Goodell could teach those techniques to NCAA president Myles Brand, who is being forced by the OJ Mayo story that won't go away to address the shamockery that is the concept of the student-athlete in big time sports.

To me, the most noteworthy aspect of the OJ Mayo allegations is the complete and utter lack of surprise elicited by the news. Not because it's USC or because of Mayo's past in particular, but more so because this is simply the state of intercollegiate basketball today. The name that surfaced happened to have been Mayo, but the reaction would have been the same had it been any of the other "one and done" players who were instead alleged to have accepted illegal benefits during their few months on a college campus. (Perhaps Kevin Love would have been a tad more surprising, but only because his family was already wealthy and so the temptation would not have been as great to take the money, and he would have had the resources to cover up any extra cash that fell his way.)

It's interesting that even tho this NCAA investigation is in its early stages, virtually no one in the media has criticized general public's rush to judgment. This is because most fans expect college basketball players to be getting cash under the table; and despite this rally of righteous indignation, we accept and tacitly endorse it. And so does Myles Brand, as long as his organization doesn't become so tarnished that ESPN and CBS stop their deliveries of dump trucks full of cash in exchange for television rights.


If fans truly want to embrace the concept of the student-athlete, then they're best option would be to follow sports that don't generate large revenues- sports like tennis, swimming, and wrestling. Unfortunately, that option is no longer available at Arizona State University. In the equivalent move of going in Friday afternoon to tell someone they're fired, ASU athletic director Lisa Love waited until her campus was a ghost town before making the announcement that the university of 50,000+ students would be eliminating those three men's sports from the athletic department. Love cited a lack of funding, although the cuts will only save about $1 million, or roughly a third of the $3 million she spent in buying out football coaches Dirk Koetter and Dennis Erickson from their respective contracts at ASU and Idaho. (Which may have been a sound financial move. Time will bear that out.)

Here's a quote from Lisa Love in 2005 when she was hired to replace AD Gene Smith (who has done an exceptional job in the same role at Ohio State):
"I know what it takes to build a champion. Acknowledging the importance of fundraising, student achievement while complying with the appropriate rules, and the pursuit of winning championships are all key factors to having a successful athletic program. Having been involved with a competitor of Arizona State University (USC), I am well-aware of the talented people who work in the Athletic Department and the tradition they bring to this university’s sports program."

So, how'd that fund raising go? Oh, and the wrestling program is (was) one of the most storied within the ASU athletic department, which in addition to winning a national title has actually (for better or worse) prepared quite a few individuals for a career in mixed martial arts. But hey, at least women's water polo (founded in 2002) is still alive. Thank you, Title IX!

(Normally, this is the portion of my rambling where I might rail against women's water polo as being more appropriate as a club sport than funded by the athletic department. But lately, it's the only sport where UCLA can win a championship, so hell yes, w. water polo is legit. I don't care if the head coach does wear flip flops pool side!)

AD Love alluded to the possibility that swimming, tennis, or wrestling could possibly be resurrected under the right conditions. I think those conditions had something to do with monkeys flying out of her butt.

Here's an idea. Find the agency that's funding James Harden's visit to ASU (note: I have no evidence that Harden is illegally receiving anything at ASU, except the fact that he is good at playing basketball) and ask them to sponsor an endowment to the athletic department in exchange for encouraging athletes to sign with them whenever it is socially acceptable for them to come out of the financial closet. It's a win-win.

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