Is anybody NOT cheating in major college athletics, specifically football? There are scandals and dubious behavior every year but it seems especially prevelant the past 12 months. From the Cam Newton situation last year, to the earlier mess that Ohio State got themselves into, it’s been a rough year. Now we have this Oregon fiasco. This is a story I find alarming. They were such a feel good story. A program with no tradition of winning or anything else for that matter, becomes a national power the past five years. That’s a cool story. That’s something you can get behind. An underdog that makes good. Plus they have those cool uniforms. They were becoming the darlings of college football, culminating by playing for the BCS National Championship a year ago. And who did they lose to? Well of course the Cam Newton led Auburn Tigers who might be a little less than on the up and up themselves. That’s your top two teams, both allegedly have cheated, or at least have some cloud of uncertainty surrounding them. And a third, Ohio State, who finished in the top 5. Shouldn’t we be concerned with where this is headed?
The Auburn situation and now Oregon are particularly unsettling. These are recruiting allegations. An attempt to gain a competitive advantage. With Ohio State it’s about controlling kids once they are on campus. A much more difficult proposition. But cheating to get a kid in the first place is supposed to be a thing of the past. The NCAA is supposed to have an iron grip on such things. Aren’t they?
Now Cam Newton might have come to the conclusion to attend Auburn University all on his own accord. Truthfully I doubt we will ever know. But it is more than just an allegation that Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, solicited money from a Mississppi State booster to the tune of $80,000. That’s not illegal? Not according to NCAA President Mark Emmert who had this to say at the annual convention in January. “If you look at the Newton case, a lot of people came away from that, because it’s a complicated case, saying, ‘Gosh, it’s OK for a father to solicit money for the services for his son or daughter?’ ” Emmert told reporters afterward. “The answer to that is no, it isn’t. But we don’t have a rule that makes that clear.” That’s not a rule? Huh? How is that? So if a kid says “I can’t play for you coach unless you pay me x amount of greenbacks.” A coach can say, “son, I can’t pay you but if your moms or pops comes asking we gots us a deal!” Does that make any sense? But does anything with NCAA ever make any sense?
But what about Oregon. They are accused of bribing players. They have been caught paying some else, someone who can sway a kid to attend a particular school. A certain Will Lyles was cut a check for $25, 000 for a “recruiting package“. A package that contained bios of kids that was two years old. How is that ever relevant? I’ll tell you how. And how I think this played out. It is already reported that Lyles is a “mentor” to Oregon tail back and Heisman Trophy contender LaMichael James. Going so far as to get the kid to enroll in an Arkansas high school as opposed to his native high school in Texas. All to avoid taking a mandatory assesment test to graduate from a Texas high school. Oregon head football coach Chip Kelly reportedly told Lyles “great idea”. And it goes further. Apparently Lyles also had a similar relationship with Lache Seastrunk, another Oregon recruit from Texas who is now a back up for the Ducks. A relationship that went so far as to have had Lyles reportedly living with Seastrunk and his mother. That’s odd. But I am sure it was for the betterment of the kid. So Lyles had relationships with two high school kids that signed with the same school. Does that mean he swayed them in the direction of the great Northwest? Well what was the $25,000 for? Oh yeah, that recruiting package. A package that was hastily thrown together at the last minute and which contained outdated information. Why would Oregon want that? To cover their tracks? What would you conclude from Lyles own statement to Yahoo sports? “They said they just needed anything,” Lyles told Yahoo!. “They asked for last-minute [stuff]. So I gave them last-minute [stuff] … I gave them, like, old stuff that I still had on my computer because I never thought that stuff would see the light of day.” They just needed something concrete, something in writing to justify the check already written out to one Mr. Lyles. Reportedly he didnt send them one scrap of paper before that. He did all of his communicating to Kelly directly, by phone. He goes on to say this “I look back at it now and they paid for what they saw as my access and influence with recruits,” Lyles told Yahoo! Sports. “The service I provided went beyond what a scouting service should … I made a mistake and I’m big enough of a man to admit I was wrong.” Sounds eerily close to a booster, does it not?
So looking at this it seems to me that a downtrodden program who has made good has gone about it in the wrong way. Is this the state of college football today? Is everybody cheating?? I honestly don’t know the answer, but it is getting scary. And I hope it doesn’t go further south, I don’t know how much more we can take.