Start with Seattle and Boulder
Dealing with corruption in college football
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
(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
(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."
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
[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.
Art, “College sports reform remains elusive, “The Seattle Post-Intelligencer,”
25, February 2004.
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