Enabling and entitlement riddles college football


Published: Sunday, August 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.

College football provides us with a lot of things — intensity, excitement, tailgating, Jell-O shots.

But as this summer rolls on, it has shown us another feature.

Comedy.

Maybe I'm the only one who found these two items funny. Hey, I thought Seth MacFarlane was a great Oscars host, so what do I know?

And I know that college football has become all about the two “Es” — enabling and entitlement. And that there's no turning back, not unless we decide to award the national championship to the school with the highest GPAs multiplied by the number of community service hours minus the number of arrests.




The first laughable moment came when Les Miles allowed his team to vote on whether or not troubled running back Jeremy Hill would be welcomed back to the team. LSU lost a ton of talent to the NFL and needs its leading rusher back. So, of course, the team voted Hill back to the locker room.

(Other things LSU players voted for — practices in Maui, free Beyonce tickets and limo service to the French Quarter).

I'm not jumping on Miles here. I like Les. But he's an enabler. Like every other college coach in America.

There are just different levels to how much they will enable. They will hide behind different reasons for allowing elite athletes to take the field when even their most ardent fans wonder if it's prudent. They will talk about second chances, how they're trying to help the student-athletes, how we don't have all the facts.

But in the end, it's about winning football games.

We all put pressure on coaches to win games. So they enable. They enable when they recruit, when they evaluate and when they discipline.

And their enabling is part of the reason there is so much entitlement.

Johnny Sharpie is only one example. Anybody who thinks Johnny Manziel signed all of those helmets in the hotel room of a broker out of the kindness of his heart is living in a dream world.

But if you believe he is the only college football player who has taken money for his autograph, well, welcome back from the island cave you've been living in.

But that story wasn't the one that made me chuckle. The most hilarious story of the week is that a college basketball analyst forced the NCAA's hand when it comes to making a profit off its student-athletes.

For those of you who don't know, Jay Bilas went on a Twitter rampage this week and “exposed” the NCAA, and I cannot put enough sarcastic quotes around that word. He encouraged his followers to go to the official NCAA online shop and type in different college players names (such as Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney) and see what would show up. Of course, their jerseys showed up.

The NCAA, which is facing a lawsuit over the use of the likenesses of its student-athletes in video games, rushed to pull the jerseys from the website. Like this was the first time anybody realized the NCAA was making a profit from its players.

So we had a third “E” added to the equation — embarrassment.

College presidents should be embarrassed that they have someone heading their organization so weak and transparent that he would basically say, “Dang it. You found out. Well, we won't do it anymore.”

Kind of like getting paid to sign autographs.

Not only did NCAA President Mark Emmert pull a classic gaffe in admitting the NCAA has been doing what Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit accuses the NCAA of doing, he admitted it was wrong.

What a joke.

So we're back to the discussion about whether players should be paid or not. It's an argument that has no right answer. I still don't see how you're going to get past Title IX and still don't understand why it would be OK for a backup linebacker to get a stipend plus a full scholarship while an All-American golfer or right fielder might get books and breakfast only.

During my drive home from a trip to Northwest Florida, I heard a commentator talking about how football players should be allowed to have sessions where they can make money signing autographs. Talk about entitlement. Does the long snapper have that option? Can you use it as a way to recruit?

There are more questions than answers here. Perhaps college football, which is unlike any other sport on every college campus, should simply turn semi-pro, get rid of the rules and break away from the NCAA.

Or maybe — and this is a radical idea — college players should follow the rules, appreciate their scholarships and sign autographs only for children and disabled adults. Maybe coaches should have zero tolerance for players who violate rules and laws.

But that's a fantasy.

Like my fantasy about college football having a commissioner who would have a backbone.

Now that's funny.

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