As the fallout from the NCAA’s allegations against Jim Tressel continues front and center, so does the erroneous implication that somehow Tressel and Ohio State are “rogue” actors in this drama. Nothing could be further from the truth. A simple (but time-consuming) Google search will reveal the horrifying scope of corruption present in big-time college athletics.
Since 1953 when the NCAA began compiling records on infractions, only TWO of the 65 programs that have competed in Division I football and basketball have operated without being cited for major violations: Penn State and Stanford. The remaining 63 teams have been found guilty of everything from supplying free shoes and books to shaving points and consorting with known gamblers. All told, 62 programs have committed a total of 241 major NCAA infractions since 1953. One school, SMU, is no longer a part of the “Big Six” because their football program was so corrupt, the NCAA opted to completely shut it down. And these are just the violations we know about.
As discussed here yesterday, big-time college athletics has a foundation of muck and corruption. Since the dawn of time, greed and power have been two of mankind’s greatest tempters, and college athletics has both of those in spades. A quick glance at some of the “highlights” over the years includes some pretty serious infractions, even if these weren’t being committed at institutions of higher learning.
Four major schools have been implicated in point shaving scandals, including Boston College and Northwestern on multiple occasions. Additionally, Maryland, Florida, Kentucky, and Arizona State have all been involved in gambling scandals.
Boosters with deep pockets handing out “$100 handshakes” has long been problematic in college sports. Clemson football, NC St. basketball (under the “sainted” Jim Valvano), Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, Kentucky, Texas, and Oklahoma have all seen their boosters elevate winning to the point where NCAA rules were violated. The newest form of athletic bribery has come from sports agents. A large number of schools have had individual players declared ineligible because of their involvement with agents while still collegiately eligible. North Carolina football most recently suspended 13 players because of involvement with agents.
This isn’t a regional problem or an “SEC” or “Big 12” phenomenon. The problem extends to every conference (I’ve only focused on the BCS schools. Even Toledo from the MAC was recently involved in point shaving). It’s not about “academic reputation” (see Northwestern) or just a few schools who want to “win at all costs.” It’s an epidemic that has spread across the entirety of major college athletics.
As fans, we like to put on our (insert school colors here) glasses and cheer for the bands and enjoy the pageantry of the games. For all of these problems, the games themselves are still great entertainment. But let’s not delude ourselves any longer about the “amateur” status of these competitions, or that the players are out there to defend the honor of Old State U. It’s all about the Benjamins, from the desk of the university president to the locker room. And until the college presidents are able to back away from the money sitting on the table and allow for some real enforcement, it will remain that way.