Sports At Large: College Football Is Just A Joke, Y'All

Feb 1, 2016

U of Iowa beats U of Michigan November 2013
Credit Phil Roeder via flickr

They say that there’s a national championship college football game being played Monday night. I hear that one of the teams involved is Alabama and the other is Clemson. I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t watched a second of college football all season.

That’s right. I managed to avoid taking in a single second of what is purported to be America’s third most popular sport. That’s not entirely true. I did watch the second half of the Army-Navy game last month, but that doesn’t really count.

You see, the participants in that contest play the game with respect and dignity and honor, three qualities that are rarely associated with the rest of college football. Most of the rest of college football is an apparent perpetual slog to see whose roster can produce the next Adam Pacman Jones or Vontaze Burfict. Those are the two cretins who immolated the Cincinnati Bengals’ chances of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday night with a pair of ill-timed personal foul penalties at the end of their playoff game. Both had college careers loaded with disciplinary and emotional problems, but they could apparently run faster and hit harder than others on their respective teams’ rosters, so they were celebrated.

That’s the pattern with college football, where, in 2015, 197 players were either arrested, cited or charged, according to the website Arrest Nation, which monitors the criminal misdoings of athletes. That number led all other categories by 84 and marked the sixth straight year that college football has not only produced the most arrests, but has lapped the field by considerable numbers.

But there’s plenty of questionable conduct taking place among the paragons of virtue who are supposed to be leading these fine young men. In particular, there’s a tremendous amount of greed and avarice associated with college football. Investigative reporter Gilbert Gaul’s new book, Billion Dollar Ball, lays out how 75 college football coaches make more than $1 million annually and five earn more than $5 million a year.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, who is pursuing his fifth national title, brings in $7 million a year to coach a football team. In what universe does that make sense? Probably the same one chronicled in a recent series of Washington Post articles. It’s the world where 34 college football teams had support staff personnel who earned more than $1 million annually.

It’s the world where Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who, himself gets $3.4 million, has a chief of staff, who makes $252,000 a year. That’s more than twice what South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley makes.

It’s also a world where a man named John Junker could have used his position as the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl to, among other things, to encourage staff members to make campaign contributions, then reimburse them using bowl funds. Junker spent four months in jail and four months in a halfway house.

It’s too bad Army and Navy can’t play each other every week.

Until they do or until there are more coaches and athletes and officials like the ones in Annapolis and West Point, the world of college football is one I’ll avoid like the plague.