The Gipper Did It First

The Street Hustle

The sports world is all buzz over the latest allegations of NCAA violations committed by the University of Miami’s football program brought to light by a Tuesday piece published by Yahoo!  According to Yahoo! Sports reporter Charles Robinson:

A University of Miami booster, incarcerated for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, has told Yahoo! Sports he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.

In 100 hours of jailhouse interviews during Yahoo! Sports’ 11-month investigation, Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro described a sustained, eight-year run of rampant NCAA rule-breaking, some of it with the knowledge or direct participation of at least seven coaches from the Miami football and basketball programs. At a cost that Shapiro estimates in the millions of dollars, he said his benefits to athletes included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.

At this point, the amount of attention paid by ESPN/SI/ to this article and it’s allegations rivals the news media’s 9/11 coverage.  Everyone from Jason Whitlock to Mark May has weighed in on the payoffs and how the NCAA should punish Miami.  Probation, the loss of scholarships and the ‘Death Penalty’ (where the NCAA shuts down the offending program for at least a year) appear to be the three major punishments discussed by Whitlock, May and their fellow pundits.  They are shocked SHOCKED it seems at the behavior of one booster several coaches in two different sports programs and over 70 athletes at the University of Miami as the school has been caught dirty before in 1995 and 2003.

Frankly all the righteous indignation hurled by Physical Education majors at other Physical Education majors makes for great afternoon TV but I want to know why they are so upset.  After all, this is Major American College Sports we are talking about.  All of this, paying players, academic fraud, gambling, clubs, women et al. has been going on (at least) since Michigan icon Fielding “Hurry Up” Yost fielded the first Michigan Point-A-Minute Machine in 1901. (Yost himself played for both West Virginia and Lafayette during the 1896 season.)

Even Notre Dame’s mythical, sainted George Gipp wasn’t who he seemed.  Gipp was a degenerate (poker and pool) gambler who failed out of school at least once before and played semi-pro ball in the summers.  There is also a school of thought, although with little verifiable evidence, that Gipp played at several other schools under various pseudonyms.

In 2011, just the taint of these allegations makes Jim Tressel’s antics at Ohio State seem like 2% milk.  If Gipp had been around today, Notre Dame would be on probation and Maurice Claret would have a running buddy.

And no, we shouldn’t get all righteously indignant now either.  This athletic black market is allowed to exist by the NCAA because the over 1,000 member institutions want it to exist.  Boosters are allowed payoff college athletes so college presidents don’t have to worry about taking cash out of the honorarium funds to pay them.  The money from these funds, generously donated by such moral stalwarts as the Saudi Royal family, is used to pay for pseudo academics like Rashid Khalidi.  It’s the same hustle on parallel levels. If you stop one, you have to stop the other.

Although you do have to wonder if Knute Rockne’s famous “Win Just One For The Gipper” speech was meant for the Notre Dame to beat the undefeated 1928 Army team or whether Rockne had some cash on the game and needed his boys to be motivated to score some points to cover the spread.  The win was just gravy.

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