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stop blaming bush
let's talk about the real problem
by joe procopio (@jproco)
10.1.10
sports

What I did to you just now was wrong, and I admit that. And even though I usually can't stand this excuse, it wasn't my fault. Blame it on the system.

If I have to bend the rules and use subterfuge to get ahead in this sea of Internet noise, then so be it, because everyone else is doing it. Sure, I can be expected to operate at a huge disadvantage under rules that no one else is following and ultimately put everything I've got out there for the satisfaction of everyone except me.

I can do that. But I have needs, I have a family to support, and you don't know me, you don't know my motivation.

Everyone's getting theirs. It's all about the dollar bill. So suck it.

On September 15th, Reggie Bush surrendered the Heisman Trophy after the NCAA determined he had received improper benefits while playing football at the University of Southern California.

And for anyone who didn't get the joke title until that last paragraph, please return to the Huffington Post or National Review with my sincerest apologies and an offer to read us regularly instead and not die of anger before your time.

I have no beef with Bush returning the trophy -- the rules clearly state that you must be in compliance with NCAA rules to be eligible, so when the infractions came out, it was only a matter of time before Bush himself got Heismaned.

I'm all for the moral high-ground. In fact, I'm kind of a stickler. I'm the guy that, when my kid accidentally ripped one of the pages of a $29 book at Barnes and Noble, bought the book instead of discretely replacing it on the shelf and then PUT IT IN THE TRUNK OF MY CAR to make sure he knew that ripping does not equal getting.

Yeah, I'm that bastard.

But, I also believe that sometimes rules don't make any sense, not because the social tenor of the times may have relaxed enough to make it not worth enforcing -- you know, that old pothead chestnut -- but because the rule never made any sense to begin with -- which, I guess, is the other pothead chestnut.

And just as I cheated by using a title that was just inflammatory yet truthful enough to attract the kind of readers I normally wouldn't (but should) get, I kind of get why college athletes are talking to agents.

I'm 100% All American all for putting student athletes on the field that completely conform to the minimum SAT scores and GPAs to retain kids in college these days.

And I totally agree with the value and academic equivalence of athletics at the college level. Sports teach concepts that the classroom never does. Leaders are born on the field, and competition is competition, whether the trophy is a big sales account or... well, a trophy.

But you know who doesn't seem to be on board with this somewhat altruistic vision of the student athlete? Every major college athletics program and the NCAA.

I know this because if they were serious about something like this, they would stop wasting so much time debating whether or not a Heisman should be pulled from a guy who had to look behind his Superbowl ring to find it.

Instead, the NCAA would be investigating its own constituents, and mandating that they start learning to live without the millions and millions of dollars that these kids are bringing to the schools while a ridiculously small percentage of them apprentice for the NFL and NBA.

Before you get all huffy about smacking down kids who sell game-worn jerseys for quick cash, tell your programs that you're serious about fielding a January bowl game with two squads full of 1200 SAT averages, coached by that professor who teaches Early English Literature I and II as his day job.

And then make sure they stop getting busted for providing tutors who do the work and offering classes where the questions on the final ask how many points a 3-point shot is worth.

If we're that serious about maintaining the reputation of amateur and pure collegiate athletics, then explain to me how the dollars coming in from football and basketball aren't enough to say, fund baseball at Cal?

In other words, if the football players aren't supposed to be any different than the field hockey players, why aren't the baseball players as valuable as the football players?

This isn't pretzel logic. All it takes to play baseball is a glove and maybe a hat. You can share the bat and you'll need a couple of balls or the game might end early when one ends up in the creek. You can find the nine guys to field a team.

Question is: Can you sell enough tickets to justify having your own conference television network?

Look. I love college athletics, but college athletics shouldn't exist just to benefit college athletics. It's not working. This is why student fees quietly find their way into athletics programs and less so the other way around. And the student athlete in the money programs of football and basketball who is there for the education and the experience of collegiate competition has long been the exception, not the norm.

I'm not saying that the programs need to start writing contracts, I'm just pointing out that everything else is already in place except the actual cutting of checks. The scouts and agents are already in the woodwork. The stadiums are getting bigger, the seat licenses pricier, the coaching contracts are exorbitant.

You can't have it both ways.


ABOUT JOE PROCOPIO

Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio

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COMMENTS

joe procopio
10.1.10 @ 8:15a

This broke yesterday with not enough time for me to incorporate it into my column, but it seems that Nebraska, the school with the kid who sold the game-worn jersey, has stolen his idea.



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