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Cheating in sports reflects on society

Published 12:00am Sunday, September 15, 2013

You can say I’m a conspiracy theorist. Or you can say I’m biased. You can even call me a whiner.

But I have questions.

Where is ESPN, the self-proclaimed national leader in sports information, when scandals erupt surrounding Southeastern Conference (SEC) athletic programs? And as long as I’m asking, where is the NCAA?

One more question: Are these two entities in cahoots? The last one was a rhetorical question.

Recently, Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback for SEC member Texas A&M “allegedly” sold multiple autographs to sports memorabilia dealers in violation of NCAA rules.

Does any sports fan on the face of the planet believe he did this out of the kindness of his heart? The NCAA obviously did, smacking Manziel with a mind-numbing half-game suspension for the Aggies’ season opener against Rice. His football program at A&M received no sanctions at all. None!

Rewind to 2011 at Ohio State. Jim Tressel was grilled like a Saturday evening burger by the NCAA regarding emails he eventually admitted to deleting. The information in those emails verified several of his players received tattoos in exchange for autographs and other hardware they earned for various victories.

Tressel was disgraced and replaced. The OSU program was placed on probation, a punishment that eventually cost the Buckeyes a chance to play for the national championship last season.

ESPN was all over this “scandal” like a buzzard on a dead rabbit.

Let’s talk dollars.

In 2008, ESPN agreed to a $2 billion, 15 year contract with the SEC for exclusive broadcasting rights. No, that’s not a misprint. Two Billion Dollars!

Until Missouri and A&M joined the conference last year, the dollar amount for each university would have been $166,666,666 per school. Of course, the faux compliance board, the NCAA, received a large cut. I just found all of those 666’s interesting.

Since 2006, every football national championship has been won by an SEC school, an unprecedented string of “success.” There are 120 major programs, a little over half of which are from the six major conferences deemed eligible for national title contention.

Let’s focus on the six major conferences and the odds of one conference winning seven straight national titles, which has never happened before.

Am I the only one who sees red flags here?

Prior to Missouri and A&M joining the league last year, the SEC had twelve teams, which is a neat 10 percent of all eligible programs. If I had 10 pennies, nine of them black and one red, shook them in my hand and had you blindly grab one, what are the odds you would grab the red one seven times in a row?

The odds would be a lot better if you were peeking, right? Or, if you had someone telling you which penny to grab possibly the one who gave you trillions of pennies and consistently ranks half of your conference’s teams in its yearly pre-season top 10.

Recently, Sports Illustrated dropped a bomb on the Oklahoma State football program by reporting, in a five-part series, more than a decade of improprieties by its football program.

Interestingly, former Oklahoma State coach Les Miles, now the head coach at LSU (an SEC school), is mentioned multiple times in the series for condoning egregious violations of NCAA policy while coaching the Cowboys from 2001 to 2004. The SI series is a damning report of Miles’s character.

Yet, despite the smoke created by this investigation, ESPN has given little attention to its merits. As I write this, two days after the story became public, the so-called worldwide leader in sports has printed one article in reference on its web site — from Les Miles’ point of view.

Free tattoos matter to ESPN. Drugs, falsified grades, and prostitution do not — if it happens to be connected to the SEC. But who can blame them? The network had no financial stake in Ohio State’s body art.

Prediction: Oklahoma State, a member of the Big 12 Conference, will get hammered by the NCAA — unlike A&M, a member of the conference the NCAA is afraid to sanction. And Les Miles will receive no penalties at all, enjoying Godfather protection.

Money really does talk, but its language is disgusting.


Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at





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  • mickakers

    Billy Bruce; You got me started with this article. You can’t help but notice the half naked girls (cheerleaders) running around on the field during the NFL games, “You’ve Come Along Way Baby” or have you?

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  • mickakers

    At the present time, the only colleges I know of that meet this criteria are the Air Force Academy, Naval Academy, West Point, Notre Dame and Boston College. I welcome additions.

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  • mickakers

    The point I am trying to get across IS; Academics supersedes athletics. The fact of the matter is, athletics is child’s play when compared to academics. My intention is not to demean athletics, which is part of a well rounded education, but priorities are priorities.

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  • mickakers

    Billy Bruce; As a PS: Ancient Rome had it’s Gladiators to entertain the populace. We have our Professional Athletes who on the whole appear to be no better educated than many of the gladiators as their actions exhibit. Many of the coaches (teachers) are sadly lacking and must be held accountable for the immaturity represented by the actions of their students.

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  • mickakers

    Billy Bruce; An interesting and thought provoking article. I would be interested in hearing the educational and grading requirements the SEC places on it’s athletes in comparison to the other conferences and independents. The primary purpose of college athletics should be to educate the athletes (students) and prepare them for the future. Are the colleges fulfilling this obligation, or are they primarily concerned with making money? If they are primarily concerned with making money, they are doing the athlete (student) a disservice. The last I heard, the average playing time for a professional football player was two years, before becoming disabled. THEN, what is he going to do if he has not received a quality education? High School and College athletics are supposed to be learning experiences (about life) not an end in themselves.

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    Your right bleedingheart, they should be decided on the field, and not by the bs (oh)I mean the bcs, as it is now they rank who they want too play in the championship games.

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  • bleedingheart

    p.s. Remember when Kentucky basketball was put on probation? Eddie Sutton (may he be covered with pox) and his son were sooo guilty of sooo many things. Yet he was never penalized. And where did he go? Yep, Oklahoma State.

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  • bleedingheart

    While I will admit that sometimes NCAA sanctions seem uneven at times, the thought that college football, ESPN, and the SEC are in cahoots to rig championships is one conspiracy theory I will not buy.
    1. NCAA seems to go after schools where the COACHES have some degree of culpability. Players are kids (not paid), but coaches are hired by the universities and should be accountable. (Like Nixon, Tressell should not have lied and erased tapes.)
    2. From 1987 to 1993 Five of the national champions were from the ACC. 5 in 7 years is pretty dominating.
    3. Unlike your “pennies in a poke”, not all 120 teams are equal, making your analogy somewhat silly.
    4. Most of the national championships have been won by schools in the South. The weather is better and lends itself to a more open offense. Plus student athletes like the warmer climates.
    5. When SEC teams play out of conference, they usually win. In the end isn’t that what we want, the game to be decided on the field?

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