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Football Offers Many Lessons

Adam Notestine--7th grade

Football season is just around the corner and this year promises to be interesting. There is a shifting force at work and only time will tell whether it is for good or bad. Long time powerhouse programs such as Ohio State and Michigan are in a state of transition as they adjust to new coaches.

While Ohio State fans lick their wounds and wait for the dreaded judgment day to learn our punishment for breaking the NCAA rules, we learn that the University of Miami has an even bigger problem. Our Tattoo-gate seems amateurish next to Miami’s allegations of sex parties, prostitution, nightclub outings, cars, and even an abortion.

As a grandmother of a young football player showing great promise, all of this worries me deeply. Do I want him exposed to this ugly side of college sports? Will he have the moral fiber to resist the temptations? When he began in the sport in the first grade, it was just fun and games to him. He was usually too busy laughing and having a good time to pay attention to what was happening on the field. Even though he was usually the largest kid on his team he merely played patty cake with the opposing linemen rather than having his mind in the game. He showed potential but never got serious about the sport until one day it all clicked. From that point on he has been serious about his sport and has taken up wrestling in the off-season to improve his agility and footwork. He has even taken a special conditioning class to improve his strength and stamina. Entering the eighth grade, he is 6’2” and 252 pounds of pure muscle.

It looks like he will have the size for big time college football. He is also showing dedication, determination, and desire to continue to improve. All of these qualities are what coaches look for in their players. If he continues on the course he has set, I’m pretty sure he and his parents will be hosting college coaches in their living room in a few years to choose the school right for him. Although, if Ohio State comes calling no other school need apply since his bedroom is full of OSU memorabilia.

Will the NCAA, the colleges, and their boosters have a workable system for clean sports programs worked out by then? NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports,” Last week, Emmert led a group of university presidents in drafting an outline for change in college sports, including higher academic standards, a streamlined rule book and new parameters for athletic scholarships.

“The serious threats to the integrity of college sports are one of the key reasons why I called together more than 50 presidents and chancellors last week to drive substantive changes to Division I intercollegiate athletics,” Emmert said in his statement Wednesday.

In the past 18 months the NCAA has investigated or sanctioned Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU. The mere fact that eight leading universities across the country have been investigated shows that a serious problem exists in college sports. Many fans view the players as gods and the players begin to think of themselves as deserving special and privileged treatment. Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster and the source of Miami’s current troubles, said he did it because he could and because there was no one to stop him.

Young people learn a lot from sports. They learn life lessons that will be with them through their entire lives. They learn teamwork, goal setting, self-confidence and self-reliance, how to handle diversity, how to deal with defeat and how to win with grace. I once worked as a secretary for a minister who was a former football player and watched him verbally abused and attacked on many occasions. But when those same people needed help he was always the first one at their side. I asked him how he could bounce back so quickly and rush to their aid when they had been so cruel to him. He told me he learned in football “you play the game on Saturday, take Sunday to rest, and Monday is the beginning of a new week.” This was a life lesson that had served him well for many years and one I try to follow. The game is over so it is time to put the past behind you and go on.

Football is an honorable sport and I hope the players and fans can maintain this honor. I feel most coaches try to run a clean program but it is usually the people hanging on in the outer edges who bring trouble. Many players are also at fault when they expect privileges and adorations. I hope my grandson will be able to play a clean game and always be proud of his performances both on the field and off—and keep a level head.

I hope someday all of this nonsense will be part of the past. A new season is about to begin, so as the teams put on their fresh, new uniforms and the fans trot out their lunatic regalia, let us have fun with the sport and do it in a clean, honorable fashion.

 

What now for Ohio State?

A text logo for Ohio State University
Image via Wikipedia

Where does one go after a public fiasco? It is becoming clear that our beloved Buckeyes, their coach, and the school aren’t as squeaky clean as we thought. So what happens now?

The first step has already been taken with the resignation of Coach Tressel. The next
step is a lengthy investigation into the school, the athletic department, and
the players involved. If the allegations in the current issue of Sports
Illustrated are true, then the school is in a hell of a lot of hot water. It appears
the problem is much more extensive than we thought with the practice of selling
sports mementoes for cash, tattoos, and other favors going back eight years and
including over twenty students.

The school’s image is as battered and bruised as the football team after a Michigan game. As a fan I am not looking forward to hearing the scandal rehashed each Saturday
for the next several years. So what can be done to repair the image and gain
respect once again?

Once the investigations are finished the coach, school administrators, and players
should acknowledge their part in it and publicly apologize. No making excuses;
just man up and admit what you knew and when you knew it. Telling and accepting
the consequences will go a long way to regain respect.

Next, take all punishments and sanctions without whining. The punishment will hurt all involved, including the fans, but it is necessary. Next, clean house if needed to rid the
campus of guilty and unsavory characters. Start with a clean slate.

Institute and oversee stricter rules for all players in all sports. It is not a right but a
privilege to wear the Ohio State uniform; make it an honor to belong to the
team. This honor should be enough reward in itself. There should be no
pandering to special, elite athletes and their hangers-on. I know this
suggestion will be unpopular and many will argue it is unrealistic in today’s
world; but a team should be one cohesive unit, not a group of catered-to prima
donnas.

If the elite athletes don’t like these rules they can go somewhere else—and probably will. However, this puts Ohio State in a unique position to lobby the NCAA for reform and
insist on uniformity and fairness in all schools. Ohio State is not the only
school to find itself in such a mess, so we must look at the culture of college
football overall. It is time for the NCAA to get real and address the problems
of over-enthusiastic boosters going outside the rules to enrich the athletes’
pockets and their own image at the same time.

Everything boils down to money. Win at all costs because it brings in money and recognition to the school; athletes looking to turn pro in a few years because of big money;
impoverished young student athletes with no money. College sports is a multi-billion
dollar industry and the athlete is the only one not reaping a financial reward.
True, in the future, either armed with a degree or an outstanding sports
pedigree, these athletes stand to be financially successful; but what about
right now? Remember your college days peppered with work, studies, and fun? It all
took money but most students were able to hold a job while attending college. Because
of the intense pressure to be the best, particularly at high-profile schools,
most free time is spent in the weight and conditioning room when the athletes
aren’t actually preparing for a game. There is little or no time for a job. This
need has created the phantom job many boosters are guilty of when paying the
athletes for just showing up or signing autographs.

The world has changed and so has college sports. The NCAA must revamp its rules and bring sports into the 21st century and Ohio State is in a unique position
to lead the way for reform—once it has had time to lick its wounds.