On ESPN’s The Sports Reporters this morning, the panel of John Saunders, Israel Gutierrez, Bob Ryan and Mike Lupica spent the first five minutes of the show talking about yesterday’s shootout between the Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Manziels. Then they spent about one minute talking about the report this week alleging that former Alabama star DJ Fluker and other SEC players had received cash payments from agents in recent years. Saunders noted, in introducing the topic, that it was possible that ‘Bama could be stripped of its 2011 and 2012 national championships, if it were determined that it was using an ineligible player. (Earlier this year, as a reminder, Selena Roberts reported that, based on conversations she’d had with players on Auburn’s 2010 National Championship team, there had been multiple violations involving grade fixing and illegal payments to players. So, a pall has now been cast over the last three college football champions. And of course, none of these has been proven to be true so far).
The Sports Reporters this morning very much acted as if they felt compelled to say *something* about the Fluker report, but really didn’t want to dwell on it. Lupica offered that he didn’t know what kind of scheme should be used to pay college players, but that they had to be able to make money from jersey sales and such. Ryan said it would be complicated to find a way to equitably pay all athletes. Gutierrez said no one would take seriously the stripping of Alabama’s national championships after the fact, citing USC’s loss of a championship during the Reggie Bush era.
It’s now widely recognized that the NCAA’s amateur ideal, or collegiate model or whatever they are calling it these days is a charade. And it’s certainly becoming increasingly mainstream to assert that it’s a travesty not to pay the players something, given how much money college football (and basketball) are making. And yet the charade continues. Every broadcast makes some nod to the athletes’ student status, celebrating at least one player’s academic achievement in order perpetuate the myth that the players are brought to campus for reasons other than to play the sport for which they were recruited.
Increasingly, it seems, everyone involved in broadcasting or marketing big time college sports is going through the motions. It’s an odd time.