Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Johnny Manziell and NCAA Corruption

The whole Johnny Manziel fiasco has become the rampant celebrity gossip talk of the sports world.  But many are ignoring the real issue that this saga has presented to us, not about Manziel, but about college athletics as a whole.

Manziel was suspended for the 1st half of Texas A&M’s first game of the 2013 Football season for violating the “Spirit of the Law” concerning his signing of autographs and memorabilia.  The NCAA informed Texas A&M that they had not found evidence that Manziel had received money for signing thousands of items in random hotel rooms during the winter months of 2013.  Of course, the NCAA came to this conclusion within a couple weeks after Manziel’s parents had retained the services of a power, well-known lawyer. 

This is where college athletics showed their true colors.  Since most college athletes do not have the family or financial resources to attain such legal representation, many athletes over the years have received suspensions and schools have had to “vacate” past wins, loose scholarships and receive bowl bans over other “violations”.  While none these violations equal any actual felonies or misdemeanors in the court of law, the NCAA has bi-laws and regulations that are in place to “protect” the student-athletes.  So while these same athletes are not allowed to have jobs during the athletic season or use their fame for profit, the schools and NCAA can make as much money as they want.  But there is no Congressional investigation into the “monopoly” that is college athletics, because there is money involved and they are part of the in-crowd. 

Let’s look back at another athlete who did not have legal representation and was punished by the NCAA.  Former Oklahoma State Wide Receiver Dez Bryant was considered a candidate for the Heisman Trophy in 2009.  But the NCAA suspended him for the rest of the season because he “failed to disclose” he had lunch with former NFL Superstar and current NFL Network TV personality Deion Sanders.  Apparently, because Bryant had associated himself with some with an indirect connection to the NFL and “lied” about it, he violated his Amateur Status and was then deemed ineligible to play college football.

But what if Bryant’s family had the money or he had the resources to attain a powerful attorney, would he have been ruled ineligible?  If his college was a private school (Oklahoma State is part of the public college system in that state) and had an athletic department who would hire an attorney to represent Bryant on his behalf (similar to what happened at Auburn with Cam Newton during his breakout, Heisman Trophy season) then what would have happened?

The reality is that this propaganda about “We are here to protect the kids” from the NCAA and the schools who say “We really care about this kids as people” is a total farce.  Universities and the NCAA are institutions of Business that offer a service to educate people who they deem “qualified” to attend and enroll.  The absolute disregard for precedent or justice by the people who run these institutions is a disgrace.  Whether it is the mishandling of the investigation into potential violations at the University of Miami or the “see no evil, hear no evil” disgrace that was the Mike Rice situation at Rutgers or the NCAA making money off the likeness of athletes on the covers of video games that have the official NCAA stamp on them, the concept of a moral high ground is an absolute joke. 

Manziel is a blue-blood, member of the upper class in America, he thinks he can get away with anything, that he is “above the law”.  The NCAA always punishes schools and athletes they deem are “guilty” because they can’t defend themselves or because they cannot stand before an independent arbitrator to plead their case.  Whether its Dez Bryant, University of Southern California, or Southern Methodist University, there is a common theme: if you are not in with the blue-bloods or elites, you are definitely going to get punished for your “transgressions”.

 Is Dez Bryant the only collegiate athlete to have lunch with someone associated with a professional sports organization? Nope.  Was USC the only school to ever have a player whose family received favors from a prospective agent? Nope.  Was Miami the only school to ever have students receive money from “supporters” of the athletic program? Nope.  Was SMU the only school who was “paying” players to come to their school?  Nope.  But these were the ones who the NCAA decided to investigate.  The reality is that for every school or athlete who is caught and punished, there are two others who get away with the same or similar violations of the NCAA bi-laws.

So instead of people asking the US Congress to get involved in the affairs of professional sports organizations like the NFL and MLB over steroid testing, why don’t they instead investigate the NCAA and its member institutions who claim to have the best interests of the student-athletes in mind, when in reality, it’s a flawed system that is more interested in the financial bottom line than the well-being of these so-called student-athletes.  There’s no investigation into why USC received punish for the actions of the family of a member of their football team.  No investigation into how the NCAA is making money from the likenesses of their student-athletes in video games or selling of their jerseys on their website.  No investigation into the debacle at Rutgers University with the Mike Rice fiasco. 

Obviously, the people who scream the loudest “We want to protect their children from those who would take advantage of them” are actually the ones who really don’t care an ounce about them.  Yelling and screaming is for those who want attention or to justify their existence.  It doesn’t matter if its Politicians, University Presidents and Athletic Directors, or the “powers that be” at the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Modus Operandi seems to have a common theme: They do what they need to do to stay in positions of power and influence, while making as much money as possible while not being held accountable for their actions. 

So the next time you see Johnny Manziel pop up on your tv, just remember, he gets to continue to play football because he had the resources to afford him legal representation, while many other athletes are not so fortunate.  Have fun explaining this one to your kids.

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