Division I (NCAA)

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.