The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

 

I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

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The Criminals in College Sports Debate

March 15, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

College football coaches are always on the lookout for the next possible gridiron superstar.

Each coach’s wish list is different, but the criteria is almost always the same – speed, smarts, and size usually rule the day.

So where does an intangible like character come into play?

Every program would love to have a guy like Tim Tebow in their locker room. He was a good player with a solid moral foundation to back it up. He was a leader on the field and off, and became the poster child for the ‘good guy’ in college football.

But while Tebow was hoisted up as the pristine face of the Florida Gators, the rest of their football program were certainly no Eagle Scouts. Since 2005, 25 different players from the Gators have been arrested, including 12 charges of felonies or violent misdemeanors.

Florida is not the only program to deal with criminal activity from its players, either.

Every year we hear more reports about college athletes who find themselves involved in illegal matters that can make Ohio State’s tattoos and Brigham Young’s honor code violations sound like a church bake sale.

As further evidence of this growing problem in college sports, a recent study has uncovered that there is an alarming number of student athletes with criminal records, specifically among the ranks of the top programs.

Because these athletes become high profile representatives of high profile schools, does it make sense for those universities to dig even further into the respective pasts of their prospective recruits?

Should Universities in the NCAA examine the juvenile records of those students they intend to recruit?

Our resident Loyal Homer believes that universities absolutely should begin examining those juvenile records, while Sports Geek feels that they should not.

Is this a viable way to clean up the game and its programs? We are about to find out…

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The Reggie Bush Fallout Debate

November 17, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geeks.

It has become glaringly apparent that college football has lost its innocence. While this is in no way a new phenomenon, the high profile nature of NCAA probes and other investigations of misappropriations by coaches, teams, and individual players serve as hard evidence that the purity of this pastime has been irreparably marred. There is probably no more spectacular example of this than the Reggie Bush Heisman Trophy debacle.

In the wake of the allegations surrounding Heisman Trophy hopeful Cam Newton it appears another player is now thrust into the media spotlight and tried in the court of public opinion, bringing a potentially negative legacy to himself and college football alike.

Just a few years ago Cam Newton made headlines for his arrest for burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice. This led to his departure from Florida to Blinn College, where he continued to play football before joining perennial SEC powerhouse Auburn. Now, however, new accusations are surfacing claiming that Newton may have fled Florida to avoid an expulsion for academic infractions, specifically cheating.

While this no doubt causes problems for Cam Newton and Auburn, it also reopens issues for the Heisman Trophy voters. Those involved with the Heisman Trophy award probably felt they had turned the page on much of the drama that surrounded them lately with the closing of the Reggie Bush chapter. It appears, however, things won’t be that easy for them.

Which brings us to today’s debate: Should the uncertainty surrounding Cam Newton’s eligibility impact Heisman Trophy voters and Auburn’s perception as a clean program?

The focus of today’s debate will not be on whether Newton is innocent or guilty, but rather whether Newton’s alleged actions should (should being the operative word) negatively impact the perception of Newton as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and of Auburn as a clean football program.

In this one the Bleacher Fan believes in the continued perception of Newton and Auburn as being clean, reputable competitors. Sports Geek, on the other hand, will play defense, explaining why a player and program accused of such unethical actions should be above reproach.

May the court of TSD opinion convene.

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The Reggie Bush Fallout Debate… Heisman and BCS Voters Cannot Ignore the Charges

November 17, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

I believe the saying goes – “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, then shame on me.”

So, what happened during the 2004-2005 college football season? I’ve scoured the Internet for hours and can’t seem to find a thing about it. I thought that USC won the national championship, but I can’t find a single statistic from the NCAA about their season, and that season is also skipped in the list of Heisman Trophy winners.

Weird!

Obviously, I am joking, but Reggie Bush’s infamous actions from that season have already left a black mark on his reputation, as well as that of the Heisman Trust, the USC football program, and the game of college football.

Fortunately, we can all put that behind us and move on with our lives, right? WRONG! Not even two months removed from the closing of the book on Reggie Bush, a new book may be opening right before our eyes in Auburn, AL.

Cam Newton, quarterback for the undefeated, second-ranked Auburn Tigers (and the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy) is now under investigation for his own little laundry list of alleged infractions against the NCAA rules. Without rehashing the minutia of every single accusation and charge, let me sum them up for you:

  • In 2008, while at Florida, Newton was arrested for burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice after having stolen a laptop. He then left Florida to play JuCo ball at Blinn College in Texas.
  • Earlier this month, it was reported that Newton may not have left Florida just because of the theft charges, but that he actually was under investigation for three separate instances of academic cheating, and was actually facing expulsion.
  • Just days after the cheating allegations were reported, sources came forward with accusations that Newton was involved in a pay-for-play scandal, which the sources cite as the reason Newton chose Auburn over Mississippi State.

Now, I understand that these latest charges of academic cheating and pay-for-play have not been confirmed… yet. And while I completely agree that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it is important to note that these charges have also not been proven false.

I am not advocating Cam Newton’s expulsion from college football, but the allegations levied against him are very serious, and if the Heisman Trust and the national pollsters blindly ignore these charges, they are opening themselves up for another very messy, long, drawn out scandal that could result in yet another non-season for the history books.

I am reminded of a scene from the HBO Series Band of Brothers, when a British Tank Commander is warned that he is driving right into a trap. Because he cannot technically ‘see’ the gun waiting to kill him, though, he is forbidden from taking the measures necessary to protect himself, and his men. So even though he anticipates an attack, and even though he has been warned by others that there is a gun pointed right at his head, his blind compliance with foolish rules that do not take circumstance into consideration result in his own death.

This is a situation where voters have an opportunity to prevent a possible embarrassment.

It is not about following the rules, because, if the allegations are correct, Cam Newton himself was not concerned with following the rules. The voters have an obligation to protect the integrity of the awards they have been honored with the privilege of bestowing. Knowingly and willingly granting those awards to a player or team that they have reason to believe may be ineligible is carelessly risking the integrity of the award, and cheapens the accomplishments of all those other winners who did it the right way.

Moreover, it cheapens the efforts of every other person who was ELIGIBLE for the award.

When allegations like those surrounding Cam Newton surface, there are only two ways that awards such as the Heisman or the BCS national championship, can be given WITHOUT fear of further scandal or controversy. Either postpone voting until the charges can be confirmed or denied, or allow that speculation to influence the votes cast during the process.

If the voters ignore the allegations, and continue to keep Cam Newton and his Auburn Tigers at the head of the pack while still under investigation, then shame on the voters.

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The College Coaches Banning NFL Scouts Debate

August 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

It is plain to see that the NFL is creating quite a mess for college football programs these days. NCAA investigations into schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – for allegations of improper contact – reveal that the problem of outside interference on college campuses is both very broad and very real.

Alabama head Nick Saban is taking matters into his own hands. He is currently refusing to allow NFL scouts to even attend practices. Other coaches like Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly don’t view scouts as the problem. Kelly has stated that the Irish won’t ban scouts, but will instead attempt to address the situation by better educating student athletes about the issue.

It seems logical that colleges would take steps to keep agents out. But scouts? These guys are not the ones offering cars and houses under the table to amateur athletes. They are the ones with clipboards and stopwatches sweating in the stands trying to earn a living by discovering the next big thing. Scouts help make college dreams of NFL success possible. Are these guys really to blame as well?

Loyal Homer believes scouts do share blame. He will argue that programs are well within their right to ban NFL scouts to preserve their programs. Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, believes scouts should be left to do their job.

One argument will prevail while the other will be shut out faster than a scout with a roll of hundreds at a Crimson Tide practice. Who has the right idea?

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The 2009 Best Conference in College Football Debate – Big XII or SEC?

September 2, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that the Big XII is the best conference in college football, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the SEC is the best conference in college football.



No matter how much the fans of the Big Ten, Pac-10, and even the ACC this year would LOVE to disagree, the two most powerful conferences in college football in 2009 are the SEC and the Big XII.

Last season, these teams OWNED the top ten rankings. From the Big XII (South), Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State each spent considerable time in the BCS hunt. Meanwhile in SEC country, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia all took turns at some point during the season respectively ranked as the best team in the nation.

In fact, four of the top five teams in the final BCS standings came from those two conferences, and the National Championship matchup was a clash between SEC champ Florida and Big XII champ Oklahoma. Many also felt that Texas, who only missed the Big XII championship because of a tiebreaker, was JUST as worthy of a national title shot.

The 2008 season was proof of the dominance in college football today by the two most powerful conferences.

After the 2009 preseason polls were announced, it became evident that the experts are expecting more of the same for this upcoming season. Six of the top ten spots in the AP rankings are occupied by schools from those two conferences, including each of the top three spots (Florida
– #1, Texas – #2, and Oklahoma – #3).

But which conference between the SEC and the Big XII is going to be the toughest?

Last year, it appeared that the South division of the Big XII was the deepest, with as many as four teams being ranked in the top ten BCS standings at the same time, but it is the SEC who has claimed the last three national titles, and who are the nearly consensus favorites to win the crown again this season.

Loyal Homer will argue that the SEC is the best conference in college football for the upcoming season. Its continued dominance on the grandest stage has once again set them up as the premier conference.

Sports Geek will argue that the Big XII is the best conference. The level of talent within the Big XII is too deep for the SEC to compete, and 2009 could be the year that the Big XII ends the recent streak of SEC championships.

And football week rolls on!

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The Future of the Home Field Advantage Debate – Don’t Erode the Tradition of College Football

August 27, 2009

Read the debate intro, Bleacher Fan, and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the value of moving college football games from a home field to a neutral site.



Without tradition, college football would be radically different. The dew-soaked grass would not smell the same in the first week of September. The echoes of a fight song would not ring in our ears. The debates about the BCS would not keep our interest piqued year round. Tradition is a vital component to college football, the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the strange mixture of clashing colors and sounds and passion so intoxicating when the leaves begin turning.

If it is impossible to remove tradition from college football, how can such a traditional element like the home game become jeopardized in the favor of making some extra bucks? When did money begin to trump tradition?

Bleacher Fan correctly, and clinically, details all of the financial reasons why an athletic department makes the decision to move a home game to a neutral site. It is a concise, well-argued side of the debate.

Loyal Homer makes some excellent points, too. Neutralizing the home field advantage is a dangerous idea. Sure, it is easy for smaller schools to accept a neutral site game because they need more money to grow he program. It is easy for larger schools to accept a neutral site game because they can dominate the stands. The problem is that, year after year as smaller schools agree to these games in lieu of a home game, they are yielding to the erosion of tradition. They are raking in the cash, but building no tradition. The picture of a “successful” college football program will radically change because the key indicator of success will be finances, not tradition. If that transition becomes more real every year, the college football we all know and love will disappear.

To answer Bleacher Fan’s query about whether or not Rice needs a football tradition – Rice does need a football tradition. The powerhouse that is Texas football was not built over night. Nor was it built overnight in Florida, or Oklahoma, or Ohio State (though it sure seems like it was torn down overnight in Ann Arbor). I think it is difficult for Bleacher Fan to argue, on one hand, that Rice can play a game in Moscow and it will not make a difference, but also argue on the other hand that they have every right to sell all of their tens of thousands of allotted tickets. If no one cares where the game is played, how can they possibly have a shot at filling the seats with their loyal homers?

College football, if they are insistent on finding larger venues to rake in more cash, should follow the lead of the ACC and SEC with their Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. The 2009 version of the game features Virginia Tech of the ACC taking on Alabama on September 5 at the Georgia Dome – a neutral site. I have no issue with this setup because it is clearly taking a page from college basketball with their unending series of pre-season tournaments. A branded, neutral experience where the expectations are originally set as a neutral game between two regional teams with fans that travel? That is a formula for success, something where the organizers, the teams, and the fans all win. How common is that?

But, preserving home field, on the whole, matters most. As the college football season length has expanded the last couple of years, it has become possible to change the first game of the season into a College Kickoff type game. The revenues created are a bonus because five years ago athletic departments were not relying on them. But each college football team in the country should play at least six home games, if possible, in a 12 game year. Why? I will answer that question with a series of rhetorical questions that is sure to drive Bleacher Fan nuts:

  • Should Penn State forgo a home White Out for any reason?
  • Should Tennessee miss out of 100,000 people screaming Rocky Top six times a year for anything?
  • Should Notre Dame skip the chance to touch the “Play Like A Winner Today” sign for any reason?
  • Should Clemson give up running down the hill and touching Howard’s Rock for any reason?
  • Should Texas A&M skip yell practice with the 12th man for any reason?
  • Should Auburn skip the Tiger Walk for any reason?
  • Should Ole Miss fans not crowd The Grove on home game Saturdays for any reason?
  • Should Nebraska fans miss out on The Tunnel Walk?

None of those traditions – and those only scratch the surface of what college football tradition is about – were built over decades with passion and loyalty. A few years of teams increasing the number of neutral site games is enough to destroy them all.

Tradition matters. Loyal Homer wins because college football is on a slippery slope right now. A handful of neutral site “pre-season tournament classic” type games are one thing. As smaller schools start giving up their right to a home game simply to make extra bucks at the expense of tradition, college football as we know it is forever changed. A football league that constantly fights for the extra already exists in the form of the NFL. We do not need two of those.

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