Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

August 29, 2011

Let's play ball without scandals

Big-time college football is prosperous.

CNHI News Service

Stillwater, Oklahoma — The Big 12 announced a TV deal with Fox that would bring in more than $1 billion over 13 years.

Recent scandals reveal college football is ethically challenged and inadequately regulated.

Let’s look at the University of Miami (Fla.). The National Collegiate Athletic Association is investigating at least 15 members of the football team that will open the season on Labor Day against the University of Maryland.

The inquiry apparently stems from a Yahoo! Sports report that over the past eight years former Miami businessman Nevin Shapiro lavished more than 70 University of Miami student-athletes with gifts ranging from a dalliance with a prostitute to jewelry and free use of a party boat.

Shapiro is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for fraud. He is said to have turned on the University of Miami after school representatives ignored his pleas for help before, during and after his federal trial.

The Miami scandal stretches back to 2003 and could implicate two coaches, Larry Coker and Randy Shannon. Coker was an assistant at Oklahoma State and is the head coach of the University of Texas at San Antonio football team that starts play this season.

Miami isn’t the only scandal around. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel lost his job because he didn’t tell NCAA investigators about five players who sold or traded memorabilia for tattoos. The University of North Carolina fired coach Butch Davis after an NCAA investigation showed players received improper benefits.

The list could go on and on.

The problem is the rewards for breaking the rules far outweigh the risks. If the coaches leave their schools before the investigation is complete, they don’t face penalties. If the student-athlete leaves for the pros or transfers to a smaller non-NCAA school, they can’t be touched either.

The NCAA usually slaps universities and student-athletes who stick with the university’s team with a loss of scholarships and perhaps a loss of a season’s worth of victories.

A stronger solution is needed.

The NCAA is reluctant to use the death penalty provisions. NCAA officials saw what it did to SMU and how long it took for the school to rebuild its football program from scratch.

The only other option is loss of TV revenue for the offending institution. If a school has major NCAA violations, the NCAA should prevent the football team from appearing on TV and sharing any football revenues generated by conference contracts.

It would be a first step to putting ethics back into college football.

Stillwater NewsPress