Situation Critical: Holding the NCAA accountable

Boise State Broncos

It’s become boring, these days, to talk about college football, and you’re well aware of it. Throughout the summer, every time college football has been brought up, it’s been “NCAA this” or “NCAA that,” “Johnny Manziel this” or “Johnny Manziel that,” or “NCAA and Johnny Manziel this” or “NCAA and Johnny Manziel that“.

All of it is dumb, and annoying, and you know it. It’s gotten to the point where you even agree with Rick Reilly – and you never agree with Rick Reilly. But you know that the alternative, the one where absolutely no one talks about the NCAA, is even worse. A summer like this one is just a necessary evil to what could be an immense payoff, and you know it. The aim is always to bash the NCAA because the endgame, make no mistake about it, is to beat the NCAA. Always.

It’s a beautiful sight, really. It’s beautiful, because there are so many of you, all having come together to share a moment in hating the National Collegiate Athletic Association. You’ve been there for a while, and more and more have joined you recently. You wonder what took them so long, to join you, and if the tipping point was really the Johnny Manziel saga – which, evidently, is far from the biggest of NCAA sins. But however it is that they might have joined you, you’re just happy that they did. The more, the merrier.

Before, you were just like them, of course. You saw the large stadiums with the large crowds, the team mascots and, most importantly, what are good – or rather, great – football players, and you were in love. You were in love, and you now know how much it’s a sham, but how could you not have fallen in love? Your university did not have the large stadium – worse than that, it did not even have college football – let alone the thousands upon thousands and thousands of fans packing it weekly. You were seeing the trees and were mistaking it for the forest. You fell in love with the NCAA, and swiftly.

You fell in love, head over heels really, but the first thing that got you out of it was the playoffs, or lack thereof. That’s the biggest irony of all, really, that it’s the NCAA’s lack of playoffs in college football that first offended you. But that’s how irony works – it pits against one another two things that don’t belong together, and lets you fill in the blanks. It’s the lack of playoffs that first offended you when, really, it should be the very last thing to do so. We’re talking about playoffs? Really? We’re talking about playoffs when there’s a walk-on at Florida who is awarded a scholarship and who explains that the biggest difference is that now he’ll get to eat full meals? Playoffs? While his head coach makes almost $ 3 million per season – a sum that’s good for only seventh in the SEC conference – we’re debating whether we should have playoffs to determine the national champion. Who in the hell cares about a playoff system?

(The short answer is that, no, we don’t need playoffs in college football. Maybe we want playoffs, but we sure don’t need it. Playoffs are a preconceived North American way to settle a season, but nothing says it’s an objectively better way to do things. Just ask supporters of the Premier League in England. Having playoffs isn’t a better way. It’s just a different way. It’s just our way. But the real reason we don’t need playoffs is that it would lead to the NCAA pocketing countless more millions of dollars while leaving none of it to the “student”-athletes who would be playing more football instead of studying – hitting the books being their lone currency in what remains such a shady partnership. As the stakes get higher with college football playoffs, so will the financial payoff. For everyone but the players. This game is rigged.)

Yet, you can’t help but notice that after this season, college football will have playoffs. That makes you wonder, then, how will everyone get to turn the corner on the NCAA from now on if the organization is giving everyone the playoffs that they so desperately crave.

You can only applaud the NCAA, really. Everyone does so, but it definitely is sarcasm in your case. As wrong and as amoral as it is, the organization knows exactly what it is doing. That’s what you realized after first turning that corner. It’s all connected. After the playoffs, it was the BCS selection process that got you, the one that shunned your Boise State Broncos not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times for the national championship game. Most of the athletes will be going pro in something other than sports, but that doesn’t mean that the current amateur sham is right.

You quickly realized that there was no point in arguing against all of this while the rest was unfolding. You couldn’t argue against this while AJ Green was getting suspended four games for – what, having sold a game-worn jersey? You couldn’t argue against this while Dez Bryant was getting suspended for almost one full season for – what, having lied to the NCAA over whether he knew Deion Sanders? You couldn’t argue against this while four Ohio State Buckeyes players were extorted into playing in the 2010 Sugar Bowl for – what, having sold OSU memorabilia for free tattoos and the likes? If a stranger goes in your garden and picks a few of your carrots, you don’t complain that he stepped on your lawn. If your best friend sleeps with your wife, in your bed no less, you don’t complain that you need to change the sheets. Sure, it may be wrong to not have playoffs, but many, many more things in college football are wronger.

It’s the same reason why you can’t argue over playoffs and the failings of the BCS selection process while the NCAA is trying to assassinate the monster it created in Johnny “Frankenstein” Manziel for – what, a few thousand autographs that he may have signed? You can’t stop. Not while all of this is happening around you, and especially not this year when the NCAA appears to be in reactive mode.

This year, the organization looks like it may be listening to the outrage over this and that, or over Johnny Manziel this and that. Let’s all make sure it has something to listen to. Let’s all make sure we’re damn loud.

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