You know, I look at the NCAA’s struggles these past few months with enforcing its amateurism regulations and I see a system that is under stress as it tries to cope with the problems resulting from there not being a professional outlet for kids coming out of high school who want to pursue a sports career without having to suffer through the process of getting a college education.
But I’m not Sally Jenkins. Jenkins casts her keen eye across the landscape of college football and finds a different villain (although I suppose she should be given some credit for consistency).
… Abolish the Bowl Championship Series. It’s an unprincipled and unfair system that brings out the worst in those who compete in it. It sends the message to athletes that what counts is not the game, “but how you game the system,” says Alan Fishel, an attorney from Arent Fox who represents Boise State.
College football is the only sport that does not have a valid championship, because conference commissioners seized control of the postseason in order to hoard the bowl money to offset their deficits. The NCAA needs to reclaims its authority. “It’s beginning to taint everything, in all of athletics,” Cowen says. “That particular system has co-opted all of intercollegiate athletics, and really led the train in the wrong direction.”
You read that right. Tulane’s president is blaming everything that’s wrong with college athletics – everything – on the absence of a D-1 football playoff. I once joked that playoff advocates saw playoffs as the college football equivalent of the Iraq Surge; for them, there’s nothing a college football tourney can’t fix. Cowen, unfortunately, isn’t kidding. And he’s blind to the reality that college basketball, even with March Madness, is subject to many of the same problems with amateurism that college football has.
Besides, historically speaking, what Jenkins writes there is a load of crap. Conference commissioners didn’t seize control of the football postseason from the NCAA. The bowl game came into existence at roughly the same time that the NCAA did. There’s nothing for the NCAA to reclaim, because the NCAA never sponsored a D-1 football postseason in the first place.
I wish I could say that was the dumbest part of Jenkins’ piece, but given that two of the steps she advocates taking to clean up college football are clear cut antitrust violations, another involves subjecting football players to the justice system for doing something – getting paid by a third party for their ability – that any of their non-athletic peers can do without consequences and most of the rest comes off as a mid-majors wish list for getting more out of the system, I’m not sure I can. Then again, what should I expect from someone who, after seeing what’s gone on lately, honestly thinks the NCAA has the stomach and the capability to clean things up in the first place?