NCAA needs to get real about scandals

HBO’s Real Sports has gotten former Auburn star defensive end Stanley McClover to talk, and the repercussions are about to be felt throughout the college football world.

No matter if what McClover says is true or not, the NCAA, in the wake of scandal after scandal, has to finally realize that it has absolutely no control whatsoever over major college football programs.

Allegedly, McClover and former Tigers Chaz Ramsey, Raven Gray and Troy Reddick, were paid during their time at Auburn, then coached by Tommy Tuberville. The McClover bombshells being dropped are hitting others, too, as he detailed the slimy underbelly of the college football recruiting process.

And now the fallout will come. There’s too much egg on the NCAA’s face for nothing to happen.

While the alleged violations supposedly happened during Tuberville’s tenure, if it comes out that there’s a culture of cheating at Auburn, as McClover and others are alleging, the spotlight will eventually go back to last year’s national title team and Cam Newton. The question has to be asked once again; if Cecil Newton was asking for money from Mississippi State, then why did the Newtons pick Auburn? If nothing else, fair or not, the public perception issue is a disaster, and McClover’s statements will end up affecting how people think of the national champs.

No matter what happens, none of this will matter to Newton. The NFL doesn’t care a lick about college football’s dopey rules — remember, there aren’t any broken laws in any of the allegations being revealed by Real Sports — and for everyone waiting to see if 2010 Auburn becomes another 2004 USC, remember, for the moment, and this is important, this is all about the pre-Gene Chizik time and it doesn’t mean the NCAA will find anything further on the Heisman winner. EVERYONE is looking for the Newton smoking gun, and there isn’t one . . . for now.

However, if what McClover is saying is true, Auburn will almost certainly get punished, but it might not be for anything involving Newton or the 2010 team  . . . again, for now.

While Auburn will be in the spotlight and might get clobbered when all is said and done, Ohio State might suffer the most immediate collateral damage in the short term.

In the piece, McClover details money-making recruiting visits to LSU, Michigan State and Ohio State, and while he allegedly received hundreds of dollars from boosters during visits and camps at all three schools, as well as Auburn, he also allegedly received hundreds of dollars during his visit to Ohio State while attending wild parties and receiving sexual favors.

Of course, all the named schools are denying any wrongdoing, and there will be a backlash against McClover with many questioning his character. But if any of this is true in any way about the Buckeyes, can Jim Tressel survive another scandal?

Yes, the big story is Auburn. And yes, if McClover is telling the truth there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that’s new or isn’t being done at just about every other major program with just about every other major recruit. But considering Tressel is under so much fire and under so much scrutiny for his recent cover-up of the Terrelle Pryor Tattoo Five situation, this might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

At the very least, it’ll be yet another black mark for Ohio State and could be yet another opportunity for the NCAA to throw the “lack of institutional control” tag on the program. McClover, who orally committed to Ohio State, might have done far more damage to the program than Pryor.

On a bigger scale, this might be the moment that college football finally has to look in the mirror and figure out what it wants to be. The Josh Luchs-agent story didn’t inspire anything more than a yawn, and the Sports Illustrated piece on the criminal element in college football went absolutely nowhere, but the body blows are piling up. Forget about some schools having no control over their programs: The NCAA should be cited for a “lack of institutional control” because, obviously, nothing it’s doing is working.

Even if McClover is deemed to be telling the truth and several schools get hit with penalties, four- and five-star recruits will receive the same hundred-dollar handshakes, go to the same wild parties, and get all the extra perks and enticements from other schools. Whether or not any of the Real Sports piece is true is immaterial; what McClover is saying is happening on a regular basis, and while it’s impossible to get anyone else to open up about it and go on the record, it’s time for the NCAA to take its head out of the sand.

So what’s the answer? The NCAA must either 1) realize that what McClover is alleging isn’t really that bad and the old school rules that no one follows are silly and should be abolished, or 2) you get medieval and you start punishing. Really punishing.

Obviously, blowing up USC-style isn’t going to be any sort of a deterrent, and going SMU-style Death Penalty is too much. But there has to be some place in between the two areas that finally, once and for all, cleans up college football the way the NCAA and the college presidents supposedly want.

It’s time to eliminate the hypocrisy and the controversy from the sport, but no matter what the fallout it, this can’t keep happening. There can’t be a new scandal every few days. College football can’t continue to be a punchline.