Saturday night, I was watching the Notre Dame v Florida State college football game and I was conflicted. I was raised to despise Notre Dame (for reasons I can no longer remember). However, as most young adults grow up and step out of the shadow created by their parents (in this case my father), we tend to see things in a different light. The game symbolized the state of affairs in college football, college sports, and sports in general.
The entertainment industry has the ability to shape opinions and make a difference in the world. Sports has the same ability but I would argue more focused on the young minds of the world. In last night’s game, we saw two programs that have a markedly different approach to what they see as their responsibility regarding their players and their school.
Florida State University (FSU) has one of the most talented players to play football in the last few years. Quarterback Jameis Winston, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner for best college football player, is in contention for the trophy again this year. While deservedly getting the accolades he receives for his on field performance, his off field performance is less than stellar. He’s been accused of rape, breaking code of conduct rules, and receiving payment for signing memorabilia. So far, his only punishment is missing a half of one game where the opponent wasn’t expected to give FSU a challenge.
Notre Dame’s approach to disciplinary infractions is pretty simple, you break the rules you are off the team, no matter who you are. Their star quarterback, Everett Golson, missed all of last year due to an academic infraction. They have five starters out now for various reasons yet the team is still competitive while building responsible men for the future.
The sad part of the Jameis Winston story is that what may ultimately get him a serious punishment is the signing of memorabilia for money. And that is why the NCAA must go. Presently, the college football audience cannot see one of, if not the, best running back in the game because he got paid for signing memorabilia. Todd Gurley of University of Georgia is sitting out an indefinite suspension while the NCAA investigates the allegations. In contrast, while the State of Florida investigated the alleged rape charges, Winston continued to play. That means that players can do whatever they want on campus, up to and including physical assault, but when they try to get a small portion of the enormous amount of money these players make for their schools, suspension occurs immediately.
The answer to the question is a resounding YES. NCAA is no longer concerned about the sanctity of the game or the well being of the athletes, if it ever was. It’s purely a business set out to protect itself, its member schools, and its bottom line.
Sorry dad. May you rest in peace. But I have to support Notre Dame. Unlike the NCAA, it cares about its players and their future.