Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/17/13
Some time ago, I began watching ABC's hit political drama Scandal starring Kerry Washington. I don't want to get too deep into the details, but long story short Kerry Washington's character is apart of a select group of people that had a hand in rigging the most recent presidential election. Upon the threat of being outed, and then, obviously, arrested, this group meets together to discuss how to avoid such a fate. During this meeting, the illegitimate president is present, and so is Hollis Doyle (played by Gregg Henry)—a business tycoon who was essentially the mastermind behind the whole idea to rig the election. Upon hearing that they are on the verge of being discovered, Doyle quickly suggest that they just kill the guy who knows and continue about their business, but he is immediately told: “Talking about murder in the white house, in front of the president, is like talking about sex in the Vatican in front of the Pope. We do not do it.” His response: “He wouldn't be the president if I hadn't made him the president. I think I can talk about whatever I want.” I reference this scene, or more Hollis Doyle's statement, because it expresses an obvious sense of entitlement. The same sense of entitlement that I feel resonates so clearly in the world of college sports—and more specifically, in the world of college football.Since the BCS National Championship, the most talked about individual within the realm of college sports has been Johnny Manziel. Starting with the 29-24 win over then the #1 ranked Crimson Tide in 2012, then being voted the first and only freshman to win the Heisman trophy; Johnny Manziel not only offered the NCAA football world something it hadn't had before, but, in many people's eyes, was singlehandedly on the verge of destroying the makeshift image it had painted of it's star athletes. I refer back to this show Scandal, I believe it has garnered so much attention because it shows this ugly and hidden side of politics and government; a side that we all know and believe to exist, but are kept away from, in an effort to keep the facade alive that American government could never be corrupted by those in power. Is this not the same flawed basis of NCAA football? Are we not kept away from the reality in order to make the vision more credible?The vision: players recruited from high school are given a 3 to 4 year opportunity to receive an education, and to develop their skills in preparation for the NFL. During this time, they are not allowed to receive any money for the development of their skills; they are not allowed to use performing enhancing drugs to develop those skills faster; and they are to be treated like every other college student because, “...Academics [is] first, football [is] second.” The reality: players recruited from high school typically have no money, they are given an opportunity to play football at a 'lesser' level for 3 or 4 years, and in hopes that they do not get injured, go on to the NFL. During this time, they still have no money, they are expected to play, and/or practice, football for 8 to 9 months out of the year (in turn making money for the school they attend), and they are expected to be either average or above average students because, “...Academics [is] first, football [is] second.”Without delving too deep Into the debate of whether or not collegiate athletes should be paid, there are a few things that should be acknowledged, last season the SEC garnered a record high $289.4 million—the players you avidly watched, i.e. Johnny Manziel, Todd Gurley, A.J. McCarron,...etc., received absolutely none of that money. They were the poster boys for the conference itself, but they are not considered professional athletes because...(insert your own answer here because I got nothing). They, like NFL players, are at the centerpieces of franchises (just for shorter periods of time); they, like NFL players, are susceptible to bodily harm (either immediate or in the distant future); and they, like NFL players, make their franchises millions of dollars annually, but, unlike NFL players, they do not officially receive ANY of the money that they are worth. But let's be honest, we know it's happening.We know that after Deshazor Everett's game clinching interception to secure the Aggies win over Alabama in 2012, and to secure Johnny Manziel's road to receiving the Heisman trophy, somebody rewarded him. I'm talking beyond stickers on a helmet, or the game ball in the locker room. I'm definitively saying that that catch could have easily been worth $200+ and, in all honesty, I find nothing wrong with that. These players are going to receive money with or without our blessing, AND WE KNOW THIS, yet we continuously try to paint them as delinquents for doing so. We try to act as if rules are meant to be followed; no matter who they hurt; no matter who they keep down; and no matter what they make you susceptible to—we act as if NCAA football is nothing without these misguided guidelines; when, in reality, NCAA football is nothing without these players.Take the previously released series of articles on Oklahoma State's football program and their rise to the top the Big 12 conference using 'questionable' tactics. I have to tell you, there is nothing that is surprising to me about the credibility of these claims. I actually found it somewhat laughable. It seems as if, in the sport's world, there is this ridiculous sense of purity that we think exist within competition. And I honestly want to know where it comes from? As if being a flawed human being somehow dictates whether or not you're a phenomenal athlete; whether or not you deserve an opportunity to be remembered as one of the greatest. Newsflash: it doesn't. Baseball Hall of Famer Babe Ruth was an unofficial alcoholic. Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin was arrested for cocain and marijuana possession back when he played for the Cowboys. Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was caught on camera smoking marijuana not even a year after he broke world records. So, the question becomes: is moral corruption a right? Does it come with age? Are we, as sports fans, so naive that we think that we think our athletes are all morally grounded up until they become professionals. Look at Oklahoma State—players were allegedly paid, the educational benefits of going to college were ignored (because of course education is why they're there), sex with women was used as a tool to encourage recruits to attend, and drug policies were often ignored; but is this not the reality of sports. In high school, do we not enthusiastically support the up and coming talent, and, in whatever way possible (even if these ways are somewhat negative) push them to make it to the next level. I've watched high school coaches question star running backs, star quarterbacks,...etc. about whether or not their grades were up to par, watched that same star hold his head in shame as he revealed that he was ineligible, and then, Friday night, seen that player on the field giving his team an edge in the match up. The next week, there was no more shame; just an assumption—an assumption that whatever happened, Coach would make sure it was taken care of by Friday night. I've watched high school girls flock towards guys who dominated on the football field. Not because, they knew anything about the sport, but simply because that was the guy to be with. The next week, he gave her no choice; just an assumption—an assumption that at the end of the day she wanted him, and if she didn't, it didn't matter any way, because if something happened, Coach would take care of it by Friday night. An extreme case, I know, but let's not act as if it hasn't happened before (I'm sure you remember Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays, the two football players sent to prison for rape in Ohio); and let's also not act like this doesn't happen every day on a lesser scale—with grades (as aforementioned), with drugs, with crimes,...etc. The truth is that Johnny Manziel isn't necessarily the one who needs to grow up, it's YOU; or, more to the point, that Les Miles, Mike Gundy, and the Oklahoma State football program aren't the corrupted ones, it's the players, and, that's only because they've been corrupted by YOU. You give athletes the leeway to do whatever they want, up until they play collegiate football because then they're role models; then our kids watch them every Saturday, and dream of being in the same position. So then, and only then, is when we hold them accountable for their decisions. After a lifetime of not being expected to do any school work, they should excel at it now; after years of being privy to the availability of drugs, now they should be against the use; after a lifetime of being monetarily worth nothing, now they're worth something and they should be strong enough to resist the temptation.Because they're collegiate athletes, right? And for a collegiate athlete his moral compass is the end all, be all of whether he'll make it to the next level, right? Wrong. There is no Scandal at Oklahoma State, it's simply reality. Les Miles, Mike Gundy, and those boys made it possible for their players to worry about one thing: football. Not schoolwork and grades, but football. Not whether or not they'll get laid, but football. Not a recreational bout with marijuana, but football. Because in reality “...As [Les] Miles said, 'Academics first,' he would hold up two fingers. And as he said, 'Football second,' he would hold up one.” 
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