A 5′5″ jock sniffer, Nevin Shapiro, is wallowing in his “15 minutes of fame” while the University of Miami worries about how long they’re going to spend in NCAA purgatory.
Fpr the next few blogs, I’ll be giving some random observations:
The talking heads and people who call in radio talk shows are incensed that college football players would accept something outside the limits of the NCAA rules. Full disclosure - when I was a freshman in college, I made a field goal late in our homecoming football game that was the difference in our winning. The next day, I walked into a sub shop we frequented on Sundays when we didn’t feel like having dorm food. I ordered my sandwich and when I went to pay, the owner said, “Nice kick. It’s on the house.”
This was at a Division III school. Technically, it was a violation of NCAA rules. Not only did I not refuse the freebie, I never even considered it. To me, it was an honor. At that time, I didn’t feel entitled; I didn’t have a lot of extra cash and was thrilled I was a few bucks to the good.
As absurd as this sounds, it’s similar to many of today’s infractions. Schools all claim their boosters are the best. Do you think they mean the best as far as staying within the NCAA rules? I’ve worked at nine Division I schools and can tell you that most fans love knowing the colleges’ athletes - and having the kids know them. If they’re out at the mall and an athlete recognizes them by name, it’s as proud a moment as they can experience. Having one or more to their house for dinner - especially so their children can be with them - is nirvana.
That happens to be legal now. I remember when it wasn’t. Our (coaches association) Recruiting Committee recommended to the NCAA Recruiting Committee that, as long as boosters weren’t providing weekly catered meals, why not allow athletes the same courtesy as other students if they knew someone in town? The NCAA agreed and added to the rule book “an occasional meal” was acceptable. When we pressed them to define “occasional” they wouldn’t commit.
Therein lies the answer to “Why can’t the NCAA cut their rule book?” “Eliminate the gray areas?” “Use more common sense?” It’s because if you give coaches an inch, they’ll take a mile. Everybody is looking for an edge. Is an occasional meal once a week? Once a month? Besides, the NCAA isn’t concerned about a booster giving a student-athlete a meal; they’re worried about what else the kid gets while he’s there. How is that monitored? People with a great deal money feel they can buy things they want. If that means recognition from a top, or even second string player, hey, it’s only money.
It’s interesting to hear ESPN’s Mark May pontificate about how the NCAA might be right in assessing the death penalty to the “U.” I was an assistant at Robert Morris College in 1976, the year Pitt won the national championship in football. Maybe their star running back Tony Dorsett didn’t receive any more than room, board, books tuition and fees. But I’d love to ask May what his guess is - and while we’re at it, would he put his hand on a Bible and swear he didn’t get anything beyond the rules when he matriculated? Pittsburgh is one of the biggest football cities in the country and the people who live there are as rabid fans as there are. If a student-athlete goes out after a big win, don’t for a minute think he’s paying for his food or beers. And if there’s one player who would stand up and say, “Sorry, this is against NCAA rules, I’ll pay,” let him come forth and be anointed with holy water. Ditto for Kirk Herbstreit, Craig James, Keyshawn Johnson, Robert Smith, etc.
It’s not greed; it’s human nature. The NCAA’s problem is, “Where do we draw the line?” Excoriating the NCAA is easy. They do make themselves into an easy target, but:
“If someone is going to expose a problem - without proposing a viable solution - all they’re doing is complaining.”