For those of you in the peanut gallery here who occasionally chide me about my negativity by asking why if things are so bad, I am still an engaged follower of college football, I have what may be a surprising response.
You have a point.
Oh, not about my complaints directed at Butts-Mehre. In a world where the customer survey is SOP, I hardly think it’s questionable to offer constructive criticism of an organization’s business model that doesn’t seem as devoted to enhancing the fans’ experience as it could be. (But, sadly, I digress.)
The cynical and hypocritical garbage that the NCAA routinely pumps out about its sacred mission, though? Yeah, that’s a problem. And it’s not getting any more palatable.
If you watched the first of those Steven Godfrey clips I posted yesterday about the Ole Miss scandal and found them of interest, then you’ll really be taken by the long-form edition of his findings posted here. It’s clichéd to read a relentlessly negative, sad story and reach the conclusion that nobody comes out looking good, but in this case, after reading this…
And if you had a rooting interest for or against any person or program or institution in this story you can’t be satisfied.
If you believe the absolute worst about the NCAA — that they’re profiteers of a free labor system who seek to punish anyone who undermines that process all while having the gall to pass off their scam as an educational enterprise — you can’t be satisfied. The NCAA fake cops did whatever they could to shoehorn, manipulate, and omit information to fit a case that was rubber stamped by the NCAA’s fake court.
If you believe the absolute worst about Hugh Freeze — that he systematically orchestrated prohibited recruiting practices to further his career while posing a humble man of God — you can’t be satisfied.
Sure, Freeze was fired by the Rebels, but not for his role in the NCAA investigation. His two-game suspension by the NCAA only applies if he’s the head coach of a program in 2018. And if you’re naive enough to think the combination of the NCAA and phone sex scandals are enough to blacklist him from ever returning the same level in this industry, consider an April 16 report by AL.com that claims SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had to intervene to keep multiple conference schools from hiring Freeze for various potential assistant jobs — including national champion Alabama.
(I can confirm as a result of phone calls with multiple sources that Freeze was in contact with five different SEC programs for potential jobs, with at least three of those schools talking with him about potential on-field assistant coaching positions, not administrative or analyst jobs.)
Freeze will undoubtedly coach again. He will likely do so in the Southeastern Conference, and will likely become a head coach at a top program again in his career.
If you believe the absolute worst about Dan Mullen — that he encouraged one of his players to act against their own self-interests and rat out a rival school that had usurped his career momentum at Mississippi State — you can’t be satisfied. Mullen saw no reprimand.
Far from it: Less than a week after losing the Egg Bowl, Mullen signed a six year, $36 million deal with the Florida Gators, that dream job he reportedly always wanted. He now helms one of the strongest, most successful programs in modern college football. After years of missing out on big jobs, he hired Jimmy Sexton — who also represents Tunsil and Freeze — as his agent.
If you believe the absolute worst about Mississippi State — that the program and its boosters, poxed with little brother syndrome, schemed to help Lindsey Miller with legal counsel, funnel money to Leo Lewis, and encourage him and other MSU players to talk to the NCAA about Ole Miss and Rebel Rags — you can’t be satisfied.
Mississippi State’s boosters finish this story with an MVP stat line. They’re the real winners. You can’t help but applaud them. If you believe this version, Bulldogs boosters should conduct paid clinics for other SEC bagmen. Topic 1: How to launder recruiting inducements barred by the NCAA through family connections. Topic 2: How to ratfuck your sloppy rivals for fun and profit.
And if you believe the absolute worst about Ole Miss — that a program and booster culture so desperate to win encouraged and orchestrated wanton prohibited recruiting schemes and then lied to cover them up — you can’t be satisfied by the result. Despite the shadow of the investigation and losing Freeze days before starting practice, the Rebels finished 2017 with a respectable 6-6 record.
As of this writing, the Rebels’ 2018 bowl ban still stands. Also as of this writing, new head coach Matt Luke, a former Ole Miss player, is overseeing a 2019 recruiting class that currently ranks 13th in the nation, according to 247 Sports.
The 2019 college football recruiting class from the state of Mississippi is considered one of the deepest and most talented classes in history. So what do you think is about to happen? What would stop all of this from happening again?
Mississippi is still football rich and money poor. Boosters still want to win and high school recruits still need their cash.
… it’s inescapable. So is this truth:
This will keep happening. All of it. Even the NCAA said the culture stretches over decades.
This, face it, is the sewage that flows freely under collegiate sports, the waste product that is generated by the money that accumulates in increasingly epic amounts and the reinforced poverty of the majority of its participants on the field through a system that is motivated to exploit that for the financial benefit of coaches and administrators. And as Godfrey says, it ain’t changing any time soon.
If you want proof of that, look no further than college sports’ next gold rush: sports betting.
There was $58 billion in illegal bets on pro and college football last season with only $2 billion bet legally, according to the American Sports Betting Coalition.
“It goes on – right? – in certain places already,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “When I open a newspaper there’s already a line on the game, so if you want to do it you can do it somewhere. I think maybe it becomes better regulated. I think a lot of things in the world, sometimes, it’s better to have things legal and regulated. This is something we’ll find out.”
The Supreme Court ruled on May 14 that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 is unconstitutional, siding with the state of New Jersey and other states wanting sports gambling.
Mississippi, which legalized sports betting last year in a law regulating fantasy sports, could have it implemented in its 28 casinos, as could other states already that had set the stage for sports betting including Delaware and West Virginia.
“The biggest thing is our administration is trying to get out in front of it but if it does go through, we spend a lot of time educating our players on what they can and cannot do,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said.
Sportsbooks could be in place by this football season, Allen Godfrey of the Mississippi Gaming Commission told The Athletic. Tennessee legislators are planning bills for the next session in January, according to WKRN.com.
“I’ve not seen any restrictions from some states on restricting college sports gambling,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “We need to prepare and have conversations about ground level issues.”
Those conversations are already happening this week as Sankey speaks to athletic directors, football coaches, men’s and women’s basketball coaches and presidents and chancellors here on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
He said he told coaches “the pressure on you may increase. On an NFL team there are 53 players that enter usually a fenced off facility. If you practice players here, you have twice that number. You have student-assistants, student trainers, student strength coaches, student support staff members not to mention large support staff members so there’s a lot of touch points. And then our student-athletes go onto campus to go to class. So we have to be thinking differently.”
Would schools get a piece of the action? Marshall and West Virginia have a tentative agreement for a cut in that state, according to ESPN.com.
Missouri joined Rutgers and UConn on a conference call with Major League Baseball in which a possible mechanism was discussed to have schools receive a percentage of the amount bet on college games.
“If some schools are really struggling to generate revenue, they may look at that as a revenue source,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.
People, when Greg McGarity, the face of the moral side of the Georgia Way, normalizes betting as a revenue source, the war’s over. Now if someone could just explain to me how taking a piece of that action relates to schools’ sacred academic mission, I’d be much obliged. Because I can’t make it fit, try as I might.
If I’m honest, I have to admit that while I take respectful issue with those clinging to what I call the romance of amateurism, I’m just as guilty in my own way of holding my nose to enjoy the game. The only difference is that I’m feeling a greater degree of guilt, or disgust, or something I can’t even label properly than the romantics among us do. I’ll say this, though — it’s getting harder with each passing reminder of how the money chase is thoroughly corrupting college athletics to maintain my passion.
Somebody asked me how long I plan to keep blogging. That’s pretty easy to answer; a labor of love continues until the love is gone. Right now, that love is being sorely tested.
And that, folks, largely rests on the shoulders of the NCAA, which to say the schools that make up its membership. As much finger wagging and inept attempts at maintaining an enforcement framework as goes on, the sad reality is that the old joke about Big U violations of NCAA rules means it’s time to punish Little Guy A&M lives on proudly. Just ask N.C. Central.
Blame the players for not accepting their exploitation gracefully, if that helps you make it through the night. It won’t change events on the ground in the slightest. And, honestly, that’s the cause of my greatest despair. I don’t see a way out of this mess any time soon. Even something as dramatic as Jeffrey Kessler winning isn’t going to change the way schools, athletic conferences and the NCAA have taken to whoring themselves out. If anything, that would likely serve to intensify the money chase. I’m afraid we’ve reached the point where the money chase is the only pure thing left in big-time college sports.
I think I’m close to discovering I don’t love sausage that much.