Buzz Bissinger over at the Daily Beast weighed in on this burgeoning story on Thursday, and at first, I thought the man’s cheese has slipped off its cracker. But as I let myself digest this piece over a few days; as I let myself look at this situation in a larger perspective, I came to realize I agree more with Bissinger’s piece than I disagree.
Here is what must happen:
1) The Miami football program must be given the death penalty by the NCAA. Not for one year. Or two. But forever. Gone. Kaput. Who will really suffer? Only the Wahoos who care about the Hurricanes more than they do their families—and need to get another life, anyway. The coaches? The players? If they have talent, they will all land somewhere else. In the real world, three strikes and you’re out. In the athletic world, three strikes and you’re just beginning. Who benefits? A university that perhaps may realize its primary mission is, can you believe it, academic and not athletic.
It isn’t as if the Miami program has been the white dove of peace in the past. No college football team has had a greater legacy of disgust. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, here is a sampling:
In 1994 there were allegations that Miami-based rapper Luther Campbell and former Miami players performing in the NFL were offering cash for big hits—50 bucks a fumble, 200 bucks an interception.
In May 1995 an NCAA investigation found that positive drug tests of various Hurricane players had been withheld by the football program a week before the January Orange Bowl. Later in 1995, the NCAA found Miami guilty of eight different categories of rules violations. Among them: excessive financial awards, Pell Grant fraud, pay-for-play payouts, and failure to follow its own drug-testing policy. In 2006 Miami football players were involved in two brawls, one with LSU in the Peach Bowl and the other during the regular season with Florida International, in which safety Anthony Reddick was said to have used his helmet as a weapon.
His case is compelling, and I’m not certain I disagree, but this is never going to happen. It’s not the “death penalty” part, it’s the “forever” part. Let’s not forget that the NCAA is as much a part of the problem, inasmuch as the NCAA will not do anything that affects making money. This means effectively shutting off a money tap in a hotbed of college football simply is not a realistic option. It’s a knee-jerk reaction which simply isn’t practical.
If there’s any entity which should be given the “death penalty,” it is the NCAA itself. I will come back to this point later.
2) Miami president Donna Shalala must immediately resign, either voluntarily or under pressure. Her prepared statement in the aftermath of the Miami tsunami—“I am upset, disheartened and saddened by the recent allegations leveled against some current and past student-athletes and members of our Athletic Department”—is a shameless renouncing of her job description. She is responsible for what takes place at the school, is she not? That includes the athletic department, does it not?
Shalala is a well-known sports proponent herself: When she was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, one of her biggest priorities was revamping the football program into a top-10 power. She achieved her goal. She is hardly some sports naif. She knows what goes on and what doesn’t, what should happen and should not.
I couldn’t agree more with this point.
Not only does Shalala need to go; she needs to go permanently. Look at that picture and try to tell me she didn’t know exactly what was happening. Not only does she need to go, college football is run by an organization full of Shalalas; it’s called the NCAA.
Once you boil all the bullshit off it, the NCAA is a collection of university presidents who are charged with maintaining the appearance of the “purity of amateur athletics” all while maximizing revenue by any means necessary. College sports have become such a corrupted mess for no other reason than the body which is supposed to regulate it is also completely corrupted.
In other words, the University of Miami is not the problem. Rather, it is a symptom of NCAA and the culture it has created which is largely tolerant of the actions of a Donna Shalala. If there’s anything that should be excluded from college sports forever, it is the NCAA and college presidents who are crooks.