By Dan Frasier
Earlier this week, it was reported that two of the Ohio State football players, both of whom were near finishing up suspensions for taking improper benefits along with Terrelle Pryor, have been suspended for the upcoming game in Lincoln, Neb. The University has found that these two offensive studs were paid exorbitantly for work done this summer for a booster, from whom OSU has already distanced itself. Thus far this season the Buckeyes have completed a total of 23 passes. Combined. All season. Total. Ugh.
The last two years of college football have brought an onslaught on NCAA violations and allegations unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We have actually reached a point where a major player like South Carolina can have a major pending investigation and we don’t even hear about it. While talking heads flounder around for scapegoats, and the NCAA looks for ways to change the rules to effectively legalize some of the bad behavior, we are missing the whole point.
The real problem is the feeling of entitlement and invincibility of the student-athletes. We, as a people, have reached a point where blaming a faceless institution for our own failings is commonplace. If I didn’t get a college degree and now can’t find a job, it’s the governments fault for not getting the economy going, nevermind the fact that the unemployment rate for college educated people in the U.S. is under 5 percent. If the bank foreclosed because I stopped paying my mortgage, it’s the banks fault for letting me borrow the money I requested … or the appraiser’s fault … or the rating agencies … ANYONE BUT ME. If our inner-city schools are failing, it’s the fault of local funding … or the politicians … or something. Nevermind the insanely high single-parent rate at these schools, and poverty and crime. So I abandoned my kid in a poor neighborhood on the south side of Chicago? It’s the school’s fault that he will eventually dropout. So a bunch of college students knowingly broke rules and attempted to hide them? Clearly, it’s the NCAA’s fault for having those rules.
The fact is college athletes have a life that the rest of the population dreams about. Very expensive school is totally paid for, along with the other financial benefits that come with an athletic scholarship. They are offered tutors, exceptional class schedules and swag. They travel on jets all over the country, to play in packed stadiums in front of tens of thousands and often on national television. They have been coddled, celebrated and held above the rules from their first glimmer of athletic ability. Is it surprising that this combination has created a class of narcissistic, entitled rule breakers? Is it the fault of the rules that this isn’t enough to satiate these people? Is there a set of rules that would be followed? The answer to these questions are clearly no. As the current OSU problem illustrates (coupled with the repeated violations of laws by star athletes) there isn’t a set of rules or enforcement policies that are going to be acceptable to the athletes. And it is that thinking that is the real problem. Once we have decided that rules should’t be crafted based on what is right or what the overarching goals of an organization are, but rather on what we think that the people governing these rules will be willing to follow, we are lost. The inmates run the institution and rules are irrelevant.
Have you ever asked yourself, why is it that smaller schools have an easier time adhering to the NCAA rules than the larger ones? The larger institutions and football programs have more resources to enforce the rules and more to lose. What is the difference? The difference is the student-athletes who are at those institutions. When you get the five-star athlete, you also get all of the baggage that comes with a coddled and spoiled teenager. When you get athletes not rated on Rivals.com, you get less of that. They all have the same rules and by all accounts the big-time athlete at the big time program is given more benefits yet they are the ones selling pants for tattoos. Why we can’t palate the fact that it is the rulebreaker’s fault is beyond me.
Lawrence Phillips wasn’t born messed up. He didn’t get messed up at UNL or in the NFL. His formative years were such that a man was produced that was messed up. It’s sad, and it ruined his life. But it’s not the fault nor can it be cured by the NCAA or college enforcement divisions or handing him walking-around money. The problems run much much deeper. They start with his mom getting punched, or not having a father figure, or Junior High coaches letting him play when he clearly couldn’t read, or whatever went on in Phillips’ life that cemented him into the person he was. The people in his life at that point, the ones whose responsibility it was to teach him all the virtues in life needed to life in a civilized society, are the ones to blame, initially. And then, at some point, Lawrence is the only person to blame. His decisions are his and he paid for them. We can argue all day about a few hundred bucks here, a rule twist there, NFL involvement in collegiate rules enforcement or whatever you life. The fact is, that until society reverts back to a sense of personal responsibility and instilling an understanding that failing where others don’t is a reflection upon you and not upon the system, these problems will continue to exist.
About the author: Frasier is a rabid Huskers fan. Given the results of last weekend, we figured it would be nice to let him vent.