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Start with Seattle and Boulder
Dealing with corruption in college football
By: Malamute, Updated February 29, 2004

The University of Washington’s football program is fair game for local sportswriters, who criticize it at every opportunity. Are these alarmists just Cougars and Ducks masquerading as objective columnists — albeit, dressed in blazing Nike garb?

If it hadn’t been printed on recycled paper during the last ten years, the multitude of negative articles written about the football program at Washington would have posed a threat to the survival of Evergreen Trees.

These writers and columnists inexorably skewer the football program with an unnatural fervor, even though the program is slipping into mediocrity. Geez, they’re beating a dead Dawg, it would seem.

A faltering program notwithstanding, the ticket sales (always near the top of the conference), the TV contracts, the large donations to the athletic program, and the present and former coaches’ salaries are what annoy a few scribes.

This annoyance plays out in tabloid style, where a wide brush, dipped in a bucket filled with omissions, double standards and unreasonable story emphasis, tarnishes the program.

Their real motives?

Many crusaders in the media want to end big-time college football as we know it, viewing big-time college football as beyond redemption. They offer the notion that big-time college football is big-time entertainment, divorced from the mission of the sponsoring institution, and at its highest level “too bizarre and too dangerous to serve any educational function.” [Telander].

Although the motivations of those in the sports media that offer this notion seem noble and well-intentioned, you can’t ignore the big picture — that these people are part of an elitist media that dislike and distrust anything humongous, like a big company, a large industry or a large sports program. To them, money buys corruption, hypocrisy, and rules breaking, and the big-money atmosphere turns players into criminals or miscreants. 1

You don’t get invited to a party held by one of your peers unless you are David hurling stones at Goliath. Hence, members of the sports media march in lock step, arm in arm, crusading against the evils, in their estimation, that poison our society and its universities.

To them, Washington’s latest set of picayunish NCAA violations are no different than those occurring at other universities, namely the ugly incidents that recently surfaced at Colorado. Unfortunately, many people in the NCAA share the same feelings, labeling the UW as an institution out of control.

A couple of days ago, David Locke and Art Thiel wrote companion pieces for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. In his article, Locke says that football at Colorado should be shut down, writing that “If any of the accusations of sexual assault are true in Boulder, it is time to close the doors on the college football team. It would be time to stand up for the university as an academic institution rather than a bleacher-filling institution.”

Thiel lumps Washington’s minor NCAA violations along with a set of more serious violations occurring at other institutions by writing, “So the recent misdeeds at Washington, Colorado, St. Bonaventure, Alabama, Baylor, Iowa State, etc., are just the latest in a long string of inevitabilities that come with the guilty pleasure of big-time college sports. 2

Locke indirectly drags Washington into the mess at Colorado by blaming former Washington coach Rick Neuheisel for the “culture” that existed at Colorado when Gary Barnett succeeded him in 1999.

“Rick Neuheisel ran a program as clean as a pig in slop, running up more than 50 rules violations in just four years. Now that culture has been accused of ripping away the security of women on the Boulder campus,” Locke writes. 3

A priori, Rick Neuheisel is blamed for anything that has gone wrong, on and off the field, at Washington or Colorado. For example, during his recent interview on CNN, Colorado coach Gary Barnett deflected blame to Neuheisel for Colorado’s latest problems, without naming his predecessor by name, saying he had "tried" to change the culture when he arrived in 1999. Barnett’s interview related to the alleged rape and sexual abuse of former kicker Katie Hnida and to his insensitive comments about her. 4

The "blame Neuheisel" argument will permeate the two campuses for years to come, still saturating Colorado's campus, even though the Buff's former coach is five years gone. 5

Thiel writes, “The need for reform in big-time college sports is so profound it has prompted a niche market in book publishing. He lists “a sampling of titles in the past 10 years from a variety of authors that include university presidents, professors, sportswriters and even the retired president of the NCAA, Walter Byers, that address the corruptions and hypocrisies.”

Rick Telander’s book “The Hundred Yard lie” is prominently displayed in Thiel’s library, which, in its entirety, deals with the so-called mess in college football.

Telander wants to abolish big-time college football and replace it with a model of his own making. At the end of his book, he lists 28 steps that college presidents should take to accomplish this mission.

In its place, in part, Telander’s proposal would set up a professional league, the Age Group Professional Football League (AGPFL), which would “be analogous to the junior groups that now exist in hockey.”

The Division 1-A universities that want to retain big-time football would form the nucleus of this league, about 50 institutions, Telander estimates, which the NFL would partially subsidize.

Players would receive pay.

AFGL teams would be owned by the universities. “The team’s primary functions will be to develop young football players, offer an exiting game to the public, and turn a profit,” Telander writes.

Telander’s plan would allow universities not desiring to be part of the AGPFL to retain their football teams, i.e., to just be “college football teams.” The universities would be prohibited from charging admission to games or using their teams as money-making enterprises. Among his proposals for them are the following:

-- The coaching staffs would be limited to four coaches, who would have university teaching responsibilities and be eligible for tenure.

-- The college football season would be no longer than eight games long and have single championship games.

-- There would be no spring or fall practices before classes begin, and teams would practice five times a week, no longer than 90 minutes per practice.

-- No grant-in aids or scholarships would be permitted, other than those available to any and all students of the university.

-- College football coaches would not be allowed to make money from TV or radio shows or from product endorsements.

Since his book was first published in 1989, not a whole lot of university presidents have championed his plan as far as I know. His plan is based on the assumption that big-time college football is out of control.

Telander ignores the ramifications of his plan and its effects on Title IX sports at the university level. In fact, Telander and his fellow detractors of college football in the media never talk about Title IX. Who pays for Title IX sports at the universities fielding non-money making sports programs, the taxpayers? Is big-time men’s basketball to be abolished as we know it?

In my estimation, his goal, one that is now championed by many in the sports media, is to shut down a big-time industry, college football, with little regard to the consequences.

In their pontifications, the detractors of the grand old game omit its numerous benefits to the universities and our society.

To accomplish their mission, ending big-time college sports in Seattle and Boulder are good places to start.

---------------------

Footnotes:

(1) It’s worth noting that many of the Seattle writers were nurtured during the Vietnam War era, during a period when motherhood and apple pie were reviled. Washington, a big-time college football program, has painted a purple-and-gold dollar sign on itself, one that takes a steady stream of flak from the fourth estate.

(2) Washington is guilty of undercharging recruits ($120 in total) for two boat rides made to the former coach’s house. By captaining the boat, a booster made impermissible contact with the recruits, according to the NCAA. Supposedly, the UW athletic department misinterpreted the NCAA Bylaw on gambling (10.3) by okaying (via a memo written by an assistant athletic directory) the participation in sports pools (March Madness) as long as it was done outside of the athletic department and as long as one of the participants wasn’t administering the pool. Several coaches threw a buck or two into sports pools run within the athletic department in 1999, 2001 and 2002. Former coach Rick Neuheisel tossed $54 bucks (if you adjust for his million dollar salary) inside two sports pools (March Madness) run by his neighbors in 2002 and 2003.

(3) More than half of Neuheisel’s violations (these include his assistant coaches’ violations)  involved “bumping,” that is, running into student athletes during the no-contact spring evaluation period when only evaluation is permitted. For example, motor-mouth Neuheisel should have been wearing a wool muffler around his larynx when he spoke to a high school coach during the evaluation period, speaking too loudly while a prospect stood within earshot — a bumping violation.

(4) Factoid: Hnida was recruited by Neuheisel when he coached at Colorado; Neuheisel accepted the Washington job in 1999.

(5) In a lawsuit filed on February 27, the attorney representing two women who are suing former player Roc Alexander for alleged sexual assaults occurring  in 2000 and 2001, "said the UW's and Neuheisel's failure to take action against (Jeremy) Stevens 'gave the green light' to other football players, sending a message that sexual assaults would be tolerated."

Stevens is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in June 2000, which he has denied. No criminal charges were filed against him 

In the Alexander case, the two women are suing the UW as well, for failing "'to take reasonable and effective measures to prevent sexual assault and abuse by student-athletes,' and is liable according to sexual harassment laws because of 'Alexander's position as a quasi-employee of the athletic department.'" [Seattle Times].

References:

 [Telander]. Telander, Rick, “The Hundred Yard Lie: the Corruption of College Football and What We Can Do To Sop It,” Illini Books Edition, 1989 and 1996.

[Thiel]. Thiel, Art, “College sports reform remains elusive, “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,” 25, February 2004.

[Locke]. Locke, David, “Locked on Sports: Colorado president should expel football,” The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 25 February 2004.

[The Seattle Times]. Miletich, Steve; Willmsen, Christine; Condotta, Bob; Carter, Mike, "2 women sue former player, UW, alleging sex assaults," The Seattle Times, 28 February 2004.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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