A Peek Under the Rock of Football
It all comes back to me now – the disconnect I felt whenever I wandered into big-time college football during my years as sports columnist.
I could deal with the machinations of professional sports. They were who they were -- steroid frolics, owner collusion, ignorance of brain damage. But big-time basketball and football gave me the creeps even worse because they existed under the title of “higher education.”
It comes back to me when I read terrific articles like the one in the Times on Sunday about how the entire power structure of Florida State University and the tolerant community fell into line to produce a football power every weekend, to the point of overlooking complaints about prominent players.
I visited Florida State when I was a columnist. I once talked to a player who lived in a football dormitory and seemed a trifle flustered when asked about classes and contact with students. He knew where the weight room was, though.
Now I learn that the authoritative people parking cars around the huge stadium complex were off-duty police officers, all part of the program.
There was always the temptation to get caught up in the folksy ways of coach Bobby Bowden. He would meet the press early Sunday morning for a review of the latest wide-right kicking fiasco, which he met with decency and humor. He would invite us to attend church with him. Y’all come. It was easy to fall into the familiar world of team ratings that would determine bowl placements.
I wrote about scandals at these schools. I once found some tutors at another powerhouse who admitted they had handed in papers for players. Other schools had legal issues, admission scandals, coaches who jumped ship, programs that hired comely hostesses tI wrote about it all. In the new blogosphere, apologists would generate hundreds of hostile e-mails to me, which was fun.
Football is the worst because it involves huge numbers of players and physical brutality, a Lord of the Flies bullying atmosphere. I read Harvey Araton’s terrific piece in the Sunday Times about Sayreville, N.J. and wonder how many other “programs” have fun traditions like that. How similar are the allegations at Sayreville to the ugly stuff that went on at Penn State?
Even for events I liked, like the good old Big East basketball tournament in the Garden, I always felt that coaches, advisors, tutors, presidents, boosters, recruiters, alums, knew the dirty secrets of getting these athletes into school.
I don’t watch college sports anymore. Don’t have to. I do read -- serious reporting about how the systems work. It all comes back to me.
Thor A. Larsen
10/13/2014 04:33:43 am
Hello George, you triggered one of my 'hot-buttons'. I seriously believe that college sports should be like it was with my alma mater, Queens College and other City Colleges, in th elate 1950's, essentlally pure amateur, low key, and focus is always on the education of the students. The football and basketball programs at the major colleges and universities today should be fully separated from the colleges and run as 'minor leagues' in their repsective disciplines. The focus of colleges should be pure education. Sports should only be for the purpose of skill development, teamwork, etc with no money involved.
10/13/2014 07:23:35 am
Thor, I totally agree. I was a student aide in the athletic department at Hofstra -- we had good football and basketball, with real students., Many of my athlete friends have done very well....(I write about them on occasion). They all knew they had to pass or drop off the team. The president was a Shakespearean scholar. I really admired the way it worked then....don't respect the way big-time sports dominate 100 schools or more.
10/14/2014 09:46:48 am
Division III, no athletic scholarships, gets an A minus in my book. The minus is because I believe that some athletes get a bit of an edge when regular scholarships are awarded. This is a belief, based on faculty chit-chat, not solid evidence.
10/15/2014 01:01:25 am
This is the finest yet simplest study of big time college sports that I have read. It is fitting to share the writings of others, but this commentary stands alone. To me, you ask: Why is this worth it?
10/15/2014 11:51:17 am
Brian, thanks. My thoughts distilled into one sentence. I do not thing big-time college football is worth. Presidents and other apologists are debasing themselves by being associated with it.
10/16/2014 08:05:12 am
I could not agree more. I am not interested in watching college sports and, to be honest, never have been. There's something so artificial about it, at least in the "big" sports like football and basketball. I would also add-and you know I had to find a soccer angle-that college soccer and the NCAA's governance of it are holding back the development of the sport in the US. Good players who opt for "college soccer" are essentially signaling that they are not really serious about playing the sport. That in itself is fine if that's what the athlete wants to do. But then MLS carries on with a college draft and the myth that that's where the best American players are going to come from and it is, frankly, a joke. Any young man who wants to play in the NFL or NBA must go to college-the de facto farm system for those leagues. But any good young soccer player with professional aspirations should skip college soccer, which with its very limited "season" and generally low level of play will only retard his development as a player.
10/16/2014 10:06:00 am
The soccer system is more honest than college and football, in which academics with otherwise good reputations connive to get world-level athletes enrolled in university. As John knows, people overseas shake their heads at the duplicity.
1/6/2015 03:00:51 am
hi geroge i'm a 7th grade student at broad meadows middle school in MA. every year we do a project to find a breaker, and i choose wat misaka, i know you wrote a story about him, so have some questions to ask you
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.