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The Media Finally Has It's Wish: The Downfall Of College Sports


Since the invention of Marconi’s Radio it has been coming. Truthfully, it goes back farther. Rome had it’s version of a newspaper. And there are other examples. In the Revolutionary War, and the days before, the colonists used books and newspapers to “get the word out” concerning the King’s malicious taxes and their effect on what would be the United States Of America.

Reporters are crusaders. It is in their nature to look for the corruption and evil in the world. The government believes so strongly in the rights of the press they expressly pointed it out in the Constitution. They made sure in there to show the world that in America, the press could print what it wanted when it wanted. They are policed only by their own version of morality and what they feel like they have the evidence to back up.

The law has had some modifications, or revisions, as it were. Judges have demanded that reporters produce their “sources” before. Mostly to no avail. One of the most infamous characters in media history, the mysterious “Deep Throat” was an anonymous sources until just recently. And his identity has not been completely verified to this day. Reporters possess character of such a dogged nature that Mike Wallace supposedly outbid everyone else to know who the character was in the song “You’re So Vain”. They just have to know what the real story is. Which brings us to the NCAA and college athletics.

Since it’s inception and even before, sports has had those who seek to turn the odds in their favor by any means necessary. In the above mentioned Roman Empire, gladiators were sent women and wine the night before a contest in an attempt to weaken them for the next day’s fights. Poisons, serpents, anything to put an opponent in a compromised position so money can be made. That leads one to quote that “money is the root of all evil”. And while not a 100% exact description of what money does, it tends to be pretty accurate among those looking to make a quick buck, or to improve their lot in life without a lot of hard work.

Of course hard work guarantees you nothing. And now it seems, although it would be the very definition of what most people agree is a preferred behavior, it is being used to corrupt and destroy what some of us hold dear as our family heritage. Much hard work is required to build a college athletics program. That same hard work is necessary for a reporter to tear it down when it is built not necessarily the wrong way, but not the way the NCAA says you have to build it.

Critics tell us that this is of our own doing in college sports, and they may very well be absolutely right. Fans demand performance, schools want to continue to fund their operations, conferences want championships and kids want to play pro ball, and go to college to get a better job, etc. The system has grown to the point where it is self-sustaining. But the reasons for that are where the trouble lies. Not just the system itself.

Let me say this without equivocation. There is nothing wrong with having a successful college athletics program, no matter what the sport. There is nothing wrong with colleges giving scholarships to players, and there is nothing wrong with providing to those same players whatever they need to attend that school. And any rule that violates that premise needs to be changed. And not changed to continue the system of corruption, but to continue to provide what schools were trying to provide in the first place when scholarships were offered. A chance at an education for someone who was not fortunate enough to have the means to pay for it.

So fast forward to today. The internet comes along and all of a sudden it is the reporter’s best friend. Internet reporting has no standards, so the reporter can interject feelings, or hunches about their subject matter. They can take a little bit of a journalistic license with not necessarily the truth, but what they actually have evidence of. And the definition of evidence has changed as well. Random “tweets” or texts and e-mails from unidentifiable sources are now accepted as fact by some. Photographs which can be altered or “doctored” can be used when it suits the less moral among the members of the media. And even defining the word media has changed. Myself, along with a host of others can now refer to themselves as “reporters” if they wish. The term “writer” which used to be reserved for the most intellectual literary scholars, or talented storytellers among the human race, is now applied to anyone who knows how to operate a computer and open a webpage. The last two years, I have been fortunate enough to join true professionals in press boxes and media rooms to interview players and coaches, and my only claim to being a professional is that I wrote a couple of stories that were mostly parodies of what happens in today’s athletics and some people got a good laugh out of it.

So, in effect, the media now has control over college sports. Their multi-billion dollar contracts for television and radio rights now outweigh sportsmanship, ethics, morals, or any other value that at one time was held dear to schools and their staff and students. the terms “basketball school” and “football school” are now applied to an institution of higher learning, not “medical school” or “engineering school”. The age of instant gratification is upon us. NBC keeps a “police blotter” report on it’s college football page. ESPN has it’s “insider” section as a “pay per view” of sorts for all things college and professional sports related. But even non-sports related sites are tracking the behavior of college athletes. TMZ, Arrested.com, etc, all have people who track college athletes.

And all of this information is used by schools as well. They do background searches and check on everything that goes on in an athlete’s life, which they well should, but it has just all gone to extremes. There is no middle ground anymore. It seems as though the train is not only headed off a cliff, there are two more behind it pushing.

So the real question is at this point, if you want to put it all together, is this? Who is now running the show? The NCAA claims it is in the process of reform. The media claims it is only doing it’s job, and the internet keeps showing clash after clash to the whole wide world. The problems associated with all of this are nonexistent if you don’t mind your college athletics peppered with scandal, money changers, and police reports. Call me sentimental, but I like recalling the days when sports were just a fun thing to be enjoyed by fathers and sons in a weekend afternoon. As the world gets smaller everyday, it seems that the media and the NCAA, and today’s society have pushed it far beyond that. Some people call it progress, I call it a crying shame.

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