NCAA Revenue Producing Sports Utterly Corrupt; Time for Drastic Change

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There couldn’t have been a more fitting end to the 2010-11 NCAA revenue producing sport season than what went down in Houston. In a town dominated by Halliburton, graft and corruption was again king as Ohio State Buckeyes Athletic Director Gene Smith, who presides over a suspended college football coach (Jim Tressel), handing the trophy to a soon-to-be suspended college basketball coach (UConn’s Jim Calhoun). The program being sanctioned beat the Butler Bulldogs, who are ostensibly clean.

And Calhoun got to this game by defeating a Kentucky Wildcats program run by coach John Calipari, who had his two previous trips to the Final Four (1996 at Massachusetts, 2008 at Memphis) vacated due to violations.

The trophy presentation was preceded by NCAA president Mark Emmert‘s  quote, “What A Wonderful Championship!” Given how it was literally the ugliest title game in college basketball history, it’s fair to say he was probably lying with that statment.

But that’s nothing compared to how he came off in his interview for HBO Real Sports. In that segment, he almost seemed like a college sports version of Bernie Madoff.

By Paul M. Banks

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And that HBO Real Sports episode is must-see television.

As is the “Money and March madness” episode of PBS Frontline. The former got a lot of hype (and it lives up to it, especially when you see the Auburn players talking about their cash payments) and  the latter did not; but that Frontline episode is also a MUST WATCH.

And a must read is Dan Wetzel’s Saturday column from the Final Four

An excerpt:

“..it’s more of the same – allegations and statements and denials and justifications. Everyone’s once again up in arms, trying to find a silver lining in another wave of dark clouds. This is almost as bad as the BCS title game, which featured two schools now under investigation in a bowl run by a guy who may be headed for prison…Cheating isn’t new; it just seems the curtain is being peeled back more often. This has always been an exercise in make-believe – everyone looking the other way and pretending its clean and knowing CBS will scrub its broadcasts of any negative talk.”

Wetzel is right, the system has always been corrupt; but today there’s just too much information available for us to look the other way. Everyone has Twitpic, camera phones, miniature flipcams, and a desire to get famous no matter what the cost. So more information is being leaked than ever before.

But that still doesn’t excuse hypocrisy. And there aren’t enough “citizen journalists” to expose them all.

The Buckeyes’ Jim Tressel lies about what rules he breaks, lies again about covering it up, but still quotes bible verse, to show what a great Christian he is. Pete Carroll writes best-selling books on leadership. Are there chapters about cheating in it? And about then leaving right before you get busted, so that you get off clean while you allow Rome to burn into cinders?

Calhoun must serve a three-game suspension next season for his rule-breaking actions. His current national championship program previously had to vacate its 1996 NCAA tournaments. Just last week, the Fiesta Bowl released a scathing report detailing illegal…at this point does it matter? Aren’t we pretty much fatigued, and haven’t we lost our capacity for shock when it comes to NCAA scandal?

And the unreported, off-the-record stuff is even worse. Imagine how much of a cesspool you would regard the revenue producing sports to be if you knew it all. I just got through covering the McDonald’s All-American Game. I can tell you (off-the-record of course) the exact dollar amount that the father of one of the top recruits was allegedly asking for/expecting in return for his son’s letter of intent.  I can tell you that the mother of one of 2010’s top recruits is so brazen about what forbidden perks the family receives that she has no problem telling even reporters for major dailies about how her travel costs to attend games are comped.

That’s a NCAA violation by the way.

I can tell you about one of the second/third tier bowl’s multi-year connections to the Mexican prostitution industry, and how that led to additional media coverage of the bowl.

What I can’t tell you is what should be done about the broken system. Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock impressed me the most of the five HBO round-table guests. Because he was the most adamant that the system is hopelessly broken beyond repair.

Is it time to start paying the athletes? Probably.

And that will bring a new set of problems that we can discuss another time. But the exploitation of the proletariat cannot continue any longer. Mark Emmert will never spend the dough necessary to beef up his enforcement staff to a level able to crackdown on all the under-the-table malfeasance.

There is no Elliot Ness coming in to lead large armies of NCAA compliance officers (who are usually undercover attorneys). The rules are outdated, and CLEARLY no one’s following them anyway. Just break it all wide open and start over again with completely new rules.

The massive earnings gap between the coaches and ADs versus the players (the people on top make millions while the kids doing the labor make ZERO) is getting worse and worse each year. It’s so disparate that it’s now rivaling the overall class divide in American society. The wealth gap between CEOs and the average laborer is worse than ever; and worse than any country in the world. But it’s still better than the gap you see in NCAA athletics.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

He does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank

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