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Friday, October 31, 2014

How Much Different Are Miami’s Violations from 95% of Other Programs?

The Miami Hurricanes football program is going down and it’s going down hard. Yahoo! Sports’ investigative report unveiled hundreds of violations committed by the program from ’02-’10. Their information comes from former booster Nevin Shapiro who’s in jail for running a $930 million Ponzi scheme. The guy is a crook, a jock-sniffer, and a pathetic wanna-be who was used by talented athletes. But anyone who denies his stories despite the overwhelming financial and photographic evidence is blind.

The thing is, this isn’t about Nevin Shapiro, his credibility, or his motives. This isn’t about whether or not the athletic department knew of the violations (it was on too large of a scale to ignore). This isn’t about whether or not Miami deserves the death penalty.

Really, this isn’t even about Miami.

The issue is we’ve learned that this is a widespread problem going on throughout most programs in Division-I college football. Changes are needed on a grand scale.

I confidently believe that if you investigated every Division-I college football program, you’d find similar violations going on at 95% of them. Almost all big football programs have boosters. They have boosters who donate money to the program because they want to see a winning team. Some of those boosters will slip players $100 handshakes, pay for meals, and give them fancy cars. Not all schools have boosters who provide private yachts and hookers to players the way Shapiro did, but they break rules with regularity. And at most schools, coaches play the “hear no evil, see no evil” game while allowing boosters to help the program. Plus, if it’s not boosters breaking rules, it’s players taking money from agents.

Disagree with me? Look at what got Ohio State, USC, and Auburn in trouble recently. Whatever we haven’t seen in NCAA reports or in movies I’ve seen with my own eyes from being around collegiate athletes.

The true difference between Miami and any other school is not whether they’re cheating in some form (be it coaches, players, agents, or boosters breaking rules), but which stones have been turned over by investigative reporters. See, the NCAA doesn’t have the staff to actively pursue rule breakers. Maybe they don’t have the money to hire the personnel, or maybe they choose not to chase programs because their income is based on the marketability of their top sports. So what do they do? They rely on investigative reporters to do most of the work for them before they jump in and evaluate things.

I bet that if you stuck the Yahoo! Sports reporting team on any college football program in America, they’d be able to find some sort of violation. I bet they’d be able to find major violations commit at 95% of schools if they tried hard enough. From there, the only difference between the scale of violations they find is the person who leaks it to them. Get a disgruntled guy like Shapiro who was the biggest booster in the program, you found your gateway to all the information. It’s just unlikely you’ll find people willing to betray their team by unveiling such incriminating stories.

These stories exist everywhere. Even though I’m a UCLA graduate, I never laughed at USC because I knew they weren’t the only school committing violations. It’s not about which program is getting penalized by the NCAA this week because the truth is this is happening everywhere.

What we should be focusing on is how to improve the system. There’s no new angle to take. Anyone who’s not using their forum to talk about how to change the system is wasting their time. Maybe an entirely new system is needed.

Maybe our athletes should begin training like pros at a young age the way they do it in other countries. Maybe that would be the best way to handle things — create true farm systems rather than using academic institutions as the minor leagues. The problem is that collegiate athletics is so deeply embedded in our sports culture, it would be almost impossible to divorce fans from the teams they’ve supported for so long.

I don’t have all the solutions, but I do know the answer is to alter the system because the current one is not working.



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