Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hail To The Cheaters And Other Observations

I'm not going to be the first person to obnoxiously congratulate Oregon on its retroactively awarded 2011 BCS Championship for a few reasons. A) The BCS National Championship Game was already two days ago and I clearly wouldn't be the first, and B) It is, in fact, quite obnoxious.

Let's be frank for a minute. The NCAA is a complete joke and just about every major football or basketball program that contends for national titles -- and many that don't -- are at the very least fudging the rules and at worst, not so subtly breaking them. There is a very valid argument that many of these players who solicit money for their services should, in fact, be allowed to do so through more legitimate means because the money they bring into the school they represent is remarkable deluge of cash that by rule can't see its way into the hands of those responsible for it. And anyone who tells me players are rewarded with their educations can stop deluding themselves.

College football and basketball athletes are not students. They are employees.

That said, however, rules are rules, and the fact that Auburn's season is yet to be nullified or that star quarterback Cam Newton was allowed to play in the National Championship or SEC Championship games is an absolute joke. That Newton's father allegedly shopped his son's services around the SEC when he was looking to make a transfer is reprehensible, but not that surprising given the modern state of college football. The fact that Cam Newton has continued to tow the line that his father did this without his knowledge despite prior reports -- and plain ol' common sense -- is simply unbelievable. That the NCAA bought it is simply mindboggling.

Now, I know in the grand scheme of things, this is really not the worst thing to happen in the world, and as recent events have shown, not even the worst thing to happen in Arizona this weekend. But simply put, with the rules as they are, and the fact that Cam Newton almost certainly lied to NCAA investigators, there is no way on Earth that Newton should have been in uniform Monday night for Auburn's National Championship victory over Oregon. The fact that Newton's father Cecil was at the game despite assurances that he was to keep his distance from the Auburn program is just another sign that the Newtons didn't feel the need to conform to the rules throughout this entire process and considered themselves above the fray.

Also, am I the only person who thought that for a three-point game decided on a last-second field goal to win the National Championship that this game was actually, well, kind of boring?

Either way, that Auburn won the whole thing, aside from the obnoxiousness that is the SEC, just leaves something of a bad taste in everyone's mouth. For one thing, it seems patently obvious that the program was not on the level, though that could be said of any program. As well, on a personal level, it is irritating to see a team that probably should have lost to Northwestern in the Outback Bowl last year lift the silliest looking trophy in American sports. But perhaps what drives me most angry about this whole thing is, this isn't a particularly likable program to begin with.

If it were, how could one rationally justify that Gene Chizik, with his, um, less than stellar 5-19 career record as a head coach with Iowa State should get the head job at Auburn two years ago over the eminently more qualified Turner Gill? Yes, Gill's career record was a losing mark, too, one that stood at 15-21 over three seasons. But Gill inherited a Buffalo program that was deader than dead can be and in those three seasons turned it into a conference champion.

Oh but Turner Gill's wife is white. And Turner Gill ain't. And Auburn is in the heart of the Old South, you know.

I don't want to bring out harsh provocations or take anything away from Chizik, who, while it seemed obvious didn't deserve the job, clearly did well with it and doesn't have any evidence pointing to him being a racist. But it didn't seem to be a secret that Gill's position as a black man with a white wife wasn't expected to sit well with the boosters in Auburn, Alabama. And at the time, some prominent alums weren't afraid to come out and say so. Call me an idealist, but I cannot in good conscience take an optimistic point of view with a university that may have allowed one of its major economic decisions to be guided by a racist auspice.

Some of you, I'm sure, think I'm reading too much into the situation, but it's simply unacceptable to me that a segment of society might still rely on a man's skill color as an unspoken justification for denying him a job he is entirely more deserving of. To put a finer point on it, I have a hard time believing that Cam Newton, hero to Tiger Nation, hasn't had the opportunity to nor taken advantage of the chance to spend some quality time with some of the more attractive coeds at Auburn University. I should note that I wouldn't blame him for doing so. I'm not sure what college athlete wouldn't relish that opportunity.

But I'm sure that some of those coeds have been white. And I can't see why it's ok for your quarterback to be a black man who sleeps with white women, but not your head coach. It simply isn't right.

This is one of many reasons why I won't be shedding a tear when Auburn has to inevitably relinquish its 2010 National Title. Until then I'll just have to take solace in the fact that in order to become the Yankees of college football, Auburn apparently has a long, long way to go.

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