The NCAA hopes people to will get lost in the Final Four this weekend and forget about the past month of troubles. I'm lost, all right. Lost in the hypocrisy, corruption and allegations that has surrounding the NCAA and covered it with an aroma typically found in a barnyard.
Just the past week has been one to forget for the NCAA. First, Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel apologized for "disappointing" people with his behavior and named a replacement for when he's suspended for the first five games next year. This story involved Tressel not disclosing information about his players selling memorabilia for tattoos and cash.
Next, the Fiesta Bowl, one of the NCAA's prize BCS games, found significant corruption at the highest level of the organization. The bowl's CEO, John Junker, has been fired for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) on birthday parties, weddings, trips and golf course memberships. Everything was charged to the "non-profit" company credit card, of course.
Wednesday night on Real Sports with Bryant Gumble, four ex-Auburn players told tales of receiving money from boosters while in school. "Pay-for-play" allegations, the same that engulfed Auburn and Cam Newton all year, reared its ugly head again this week when a former Texas A&M coach claimed top NFL draft prospect Patrick Peterson was shopped in 2007 for $80,000.
Are you nauseous yet? A new acronym for the NCAA could be Nausea Caused (by) Alarming Allegations. Don't like that one? How about National Corrupt "Amateur" Athletics.
The money involved in the NCAA and college athletics, which is supposed to represent amateur student-athletes, is absurd. The players aren't to receive a dime (aside from a scholarship), while some of their coaches make millions, which in turn makes the universities even more.
This week's troubles are recent but, unfortunately, not new. Whether it's Reggie Bush and his given-back Heisman, John Calipari and his teams "vacating" wins, or the numerous recruiting violations that surface every year, the NCAA needs to take a hard look at its system. (And I won't even get into the BCS vs. playoff debate.)
Perhaps it's a lost cause. With the money pouring in, maybe the billion dollar organization feels like there's nothing to fix. Simply police teams, coaches and athletes the best it can and label the people caught as "rogue" incidents. Whatever the path, things won't get straightened out completely, at least not any time soon. "It is what it is," to use that infamous quote.
When the Final Four tips off today, I'll try and focus on the basketball, the potential dreams at stake and the memorable games this tournament and college athletics is supposed to represent. Not the scandals and violations that have matched this tournament step-for-step the past month. Maybe that's why they call it March Madness.
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