Cheating in sports reflects on societyPublished 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.