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Frank Deford - Your NCAA in action

Published 10:32 am, Thursday, January 6, 2011
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The NCAA can fairly be called cynical and calculating and just plain stupid, but the latest of this year's many scandals primarily shows that big-time college football just doesn't work any longer with a model developed for a 19th century culture.

OK, latest scandal: Ohio State. Five players, including the star quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, are caught selling their own memorabilia. That is: Doing business with stuff that is your property, like uniforms you wore -- yourself -- merits punishment when you go down the NCAA rabbit hole.

Previous scandal: NCAA declares that the father of Cam Newton, Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn, tried to sell him to Mississippi State.

Other recent scandals: reports from various and sundry agents and investigators that one way or another, college players are taking money. Probably lots and lots of them.

Why should any of this be surprising? College football is a billion-dollar enterprise now, and everybody involved is making money -- sometimes millions -- except the players themselves. Human nature tells us that it is impossible to expect that the performers wouldn't also want to share in some of the bounty.

You know what the NCAA looks like now? Like the Soviet Union as it struggled to maintain communism in a changing world that wouldn't tolerate its outdated nonsense any longer.

Proof that the NCAA is being whipsawed by reality comes in its decisions in these last two scandals. It decided that somehow Cam Newton didn't know that his own father was hustling his talent. No penalty.

It listened when the Ohio State athletic department pleaded that it hadn't done its job right in advising the players.

Newton and Auburn suffered no penalty. The Ohio State five were suspended ... but, get this now: only at the start of next season.

Obviously, the NCAA made these curious decisions because it realized that expelling Newton or suspending the Buckeye players now would deal heavy financial losses to its distinguished member schools and its meal ticket, the bowl games -- taking Auburn out of the championship BCS game and damaging the Sugar Bowl, which Ohio State played Tuesday night on ESPN, the network that the NCAA wants so much to please.

The NCAA is influenced by all the money at stake. It mouths crazy, old-fashioned moral pretense, keeping its players as serfs, yet is primarily just looking after the economic welfare of its so-called educational constituents.

Where is Ronald Reagan to holler: "Mr. NCAA, tear down that wall of hypocrisy!"

Westporter Frank Deford originally aired this commentary on National Public Radio Wednesday morning. Deford's NPR sports column may be heard in Westport at WSHU. 91.1 FM or 1260 AM.