College Football’s Real Villains – Superconferences

“Big Ten coaches (not Notre Dame) spent the last six months whispering about the recruiting practices of Illinois‘ Ron Zook.”

While it’s always good press to target Notre Dame, as many have tried with regard to the Illinois recruiting questions, it’s been the Big Ten schools that are turning on their own as Dan Wetzel finally admits. But it’s not just turning on their own, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is also taking shots at the SEC and talking out both sides of his mouth – criticizing others while letting Ohio State run a NFL mini-camp and doing little to protect the players. Ohio State graduates less than one out of three of its African American football players and barely one out of two players total. Michigan graduates just half of it’s black players and Minnesota isn’t much better than Ohio State with regard to graduation. The Big Ten does have some very good schools, but that fact doesn’t mean Delany gets a pass on Ohio State.

The Big Ten has its own messes, but the problem for Delany is that the SEC is playing by even looser rules… and Jim thinks that’s not fair. Got news for you, Jim, you’re part of the problem.

Fact One: Cheating is rampant.

Fact Two: The NCAA is virtually impotent in the face of the conference cartel.

Fact Three: The superconferences have co-opted all of the power in college football, dictating BCS terms, TV deals and bullying the NCAA when teams are caught doing what everyone knows their doing. It’s only when teams are caught with their players hands in the car door of their rides that the NCAA even considers appearing like it’s going to do anything.

The Big Ten is the problem. So is the SEC, the Big 12, the PAC 10 and soon to be the ACC. The unspoken truth is that superconferences have usurped all of the power in NCAA football and no one has enough influence or will to stop them (or wants to stop the money train.)

Looking for a reason there’s no playoff? The superconferences don’t want one and don’t want to lose their bowl tie-ins. If the NCAA moves to a playoff, it will level the playing field and no conference with a “family-take” wants that. The superconferences have rigged the system to ensure they get Bowl bids even if the entire conference is down, which results in bad teams in the system on a regular basis. Why is this allowed? Because they make the rules… it’s their baby. The BCS is run by the cartel. They made it up. They run it. Even the name is contrived. There’s no series leading to a championship. It should be called the Battle of the Conference Superpowers.

The “BCS Formula” is the most absurd construct ever created by big-time sports. It makes no sense to anyone and it shouldn’t — because there’s no reason for it to exist other than the provide a buffer against a playoff system. It’s a cartel creation to stave off a move to a playoff. It’s a concoction. The argument that a playoff would hurt academics is rather inane given where graduation rates are — that’s an canard. What happens when they get criticized? They just expand the BCS to quiet the complainers.

The BCS conferences get the lion’s share of the money in the bowl system, and virtually all of the money generated from the championship game. The BCS is the conduit that legitimizes the distribution of the championship game money to a subset of Division 1-A. Periodic interlopers like Utah and Boise State are tolerated because it keeps the BCS conferences out of antitrust court, but the system is designed to minimize their participation.

It’s all quite cynical and money driven.

The other five conferences are left to fight over less than 10% (higher this year) of the total bowl payout while the cartel of superconferences split the rest. If you want to talk unfair, Delany worked the system so that Rose Bowl doesn’t even have to pay the BCS entry fee.

Want to know why cheating is allowed? The superconferences don’t want to weaken their own bargaining power vis a vis other programs.

Florida let defensive lineman Marcus Thomas play through the three toughest games on the Gators schedule before kicking him out for violations it knew about before those games. He was suspended twice earlier for substance abuse, but Meyer gave him the benefit of the doubt the third time — at least until after the hard part of the schedule was over, then he was booted. Defensive End Jarvis Moss was suspended too, for that game against powerhouse Western Carolina, but he was reinstated for the patsy Florida Sate. He did play against South Carolina and saved the Gators’ season. No one said boo. Of course, as Delany correction points out, this is minor league stuff in the SEC and Florida does have a good graduation rate.

Books have been written about
Michigan‘s scandals and Ohio State continues to masquerade as an academic institution that also plays football, but the only thing Delany does is point fingers at others, saying in essence, “hey, they’re worse than we are.”

USC should be thrown in the doghouse for Bushgate and subsequently McKnightgate but the Pac10 will make sure SC gets out of this unscathed, which is amazing considering what’s out there. The fact that SC committed a recruiting violation while trying to cover up an NCAA violation is the ultimate irony. Listen to the McKnight press conference. There is no doubt what took place, yet Carroll attempts to make it seem like SC and McKnight were entrapped. Everyone is very clear on what took place, most of all McKnight… until he realized it wasn’t kosher. Carroll is so disdainful of the NCAA he declared the NCAA wouldn’t dock SC for Jarret’s living conditions before the NCAA even fully investigated (I agreed with him on this one.) This points to another problem, individual school power dictating conference direction.

If a stud player from a relatively poor family is suddenly driving around in a tricked out SUV… questions needed to be asked. No team is immune from these pressures, but each school is essentially policing itself right now, which means the threshold is catch me if you can… especially because I know you don’t want to. If the entire student body knows about a problem i.e. Rhett Bomar/Dwayne Jarrett then the school shouldn’t be able to play dumb any more it would with a student cheating in class. The “Hey, we can’t know everything,” excuse is lack of institutional control, because that information is just not that hard to find out. Just depends if anyone wants to look. “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” is no way to run an institution of “higher learning.”

THIRTY bowl teams had graduation rates for black players that were fifty percent or less, only ELEVEN schools graduated more than three quarters of their black players and not one of those finished in the top 10. Only Penn State made it from the Delany’s Big 10. Why doesn’t he talk about that? Teams like Georgia Tech, Ohio State and Texas have truly awful graduation rates for black players.

Much of this would not continue if ESPN and the other big time media took up the issues as a way of cleansing the sport. Hell just take some pictures of what kids are driving to practice. Do a little homework. They won’t, because it hurts the business of selling college football. Meanwhile the real kids who get hurt are those who don’t make it big and don’t graduate — and that’s a heck of a lot players as noted above. Schools don’t care, conferences are worried about power and ESPN is worried about ratings.

Is Illinois cheating? It certainly has that “Mark McGuire doesn’t take steroids” feel, but doesn’t much matter because no one will investigate. Some have called this the worst recruiting year in the SEC’s long history, but that matters little. You can’t really blame the players, look at the example that’s been set. When everything around them is “about the money,” they want a piece of it and if it comes with little classwork all the better. They think they’re going to the NFL anyway — except that most of the top players don’t get a NFL sniff.

The superconferences have co-opted all of the power in college football and no one cares… that is, unless one superconference is getting away with more than the other.

Enter Jim Delany’s comments on the SEC.


One Response to “College Football’s Real Villains – Superconferences”

  1. JimK Says:

    Many years ago football was dominated by the Midwest and Northeast. That has changed slowly over the years and today the South and Southwest dominate the scene- just check the astonding number of D1 recruits that that come from just three states: California, Texas and Florida. Because of recruiting and a national fan base, going to Orlando and Dallas is a wise move. Also, “dumbing down” the schedule as you put it is a very wise move. Just check many of the top programs(USC excluded this year)and see who they play. How about Texas(UCF and Arkansas St.), Ohio St.(Youngstown St. Akron and Kent St.), Michigan (Eastern Michigan and Appalachian St.)….and how about the national champs, Florida (Troy, Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky). As for playing Alabama, why should ND them just because that slimball, Saban says so.

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