NCAA should drop the facade it runs football

In making a call the other day for the NCAA to crack down on

cheating in college football, former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr

recalled having a conversation with the late NCAA president, Myles

Brand, about the subject.

Carr said Brand told him he didn’t have the authority to do a

lot of things people wanted done.

”Well, the question is, who does?” Carr said.

No one, it seems, and that goes to the heart of what is wrong

with college football today. Give the NCAA a lacrosse championship

to put on and it does fine, but the organization is a sham at best

when it comes to big-money sports, providing little more than a

cover for the big schools and conferences to make even more

money.

If there was any doubt about that, it was answered this week

when the NCAA meekly obliged its Bowl Championship Series masters

by licensing the Fiesta Bowl for postseason play despite

revelations the bowl has served as a virtual ATM over the years for

its former executive director and his many cronies. The NCAA

slapped the Fiesta with one year’s probation, during which time

officials apparently can’t spend any more bowl money on strippers

or golf junkets.

Any further doubt was erased when the same organization that put

the Fiesta on ”probation” told the Justice Department that it had

nothing to do with overseeing postseason play and that the lack of

a playoff system for college football should be directed to those

running the BCS.

You heard right. The organization put in place to control

college athletics admitted it has no control of the showcase of the

biggest sport in college athletics.

That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who follows

college football. The NCAA has long since abdicated its role in

overseeing the sport, allowing the power conferences and the

marquee universities to come up with whatever schemes they can to

maximize the millions of dollars that flow into their coffers.

And when those dollars are at risk – as they were at the Sugar

Bowl – the NCAA is more than happy to bend its own rules so the BCS

show can go on. Allowing Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and his

teammates to play when they were facing suspensions was the

ultimate in hypocrisy for an organization that epitomizes

hypocrisy.

The NCAA’s claim that it has nothing to do with the bowl system

came in a letter Wednesday from president Mark Emmert in response

to a Justice Department query about possible antitrust violations

in the BCS. Emmert said that since the NCAA doesn’t control the BCS

it would be inappropriate for him to comment on how teams are

selected for the major bowls and the national title game.

In other words, ”Don’t look at us.”

This comes just a week after Emmert talked about how he wanted

to beef up the NCAA’s enforcement staff and start hitting schools

who violate its hybrid amateurism rules with tougher sanctions. The

NCAA has basically relied on schools to turn themselves in for

violations over the years, only to find out – as Carr rightfully

pointed out – that some feel the need to come clean more than

others.

Indeed, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel seemed more than happy to

keep quiet about what he knew was going on with Pryor and others

selling signed jerseys and whatever they could get their hands on

to make a little spending money. It wasn’t until things really went

south that Tressel fessed up and offered to serve a five-game

suspension next season along with his star players.

Even though the NCAA gives the appearance of trying to enforce

rules, it doesn’t even make an effort to corral the schools and

conferences that have hijacked the football bowl system.

With good reason, perhaps. The big schools and conferences are

formidable foes who will fight to the end to keep their cozy cartel

delivering riches by the truckload every year, and Emmert likely

knows he would probably be looking for work elsewhere if he tried

taking them on.

The system works for the big schools and conferences, even if it

is inherently unfair to everyone else. A little controversy is the

price they pay for sweetheart television deals that fuel their

massive athletic programs and make sure their football teams have

the resources to stay dominant for years to come.

Let a player sell a jersey for pocket change, and the NCAA is

all over the student. Let its schools run a cartel that makes

millions while not allowing other schools in, and the NCAA says it

can’t do anything about it.

Maybe it’s time for the NCAA to simply give up the facade.

Either quit pretending it oversees college football or step up and

actually do it.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated

Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or follow him at

http://twitter.com/timdahlberg