View Mobile Site

Big-time college sports keeps falling on its face

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED December 27, 2016 12:08 a.m.

Grayson Allen sure picked a lousy week to take college sports on a bad trip down memory lane.

The Duke junior has NBA-caliber talent but the lingering instincts of a playground bully. His nasty habit of taking down opponents even as they’re going by him finally came full circle.

After Allen was hit with a technical foul and benched for tripping Elon guard Steven Santa Ana — the third time he pulled the same stunt in a year — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reluctantly did the right thing. He announced Thursday that Allen has been suspended indefinitely .

But even that small measure of justice required Coach K to do a little reflecting of his own. First, he put Allen back in Wednesday night’s game, handily won by the Blue Devils 72-61, then defiantly told reporters in a postgame press conference that he wouldn’t be bullied into punishing Allen just to satisfy others’ expectations.

What Krzyzewski couldn’t have known at either moment was that Allen’s latest trip was looping endlessly on Twitter and television, reinforcing what other images and headlines have made all too apparent about the state of big-time college sports in the last few weeks:

It’s as out of control as ever.

If you have doubts — and a strong stomach — go find the two-year-old, but-just-released video of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon punching a woman in the face in 2014. Or read the stories about how Minnesota’s football team pledged to boycott an upcoming bowl game to protest the suspensions of 10 players in connection with a sexual assault investigation; or how other players are voluntarily snubbing their teams’ bowl games to prepare for next year’s NFL draft.

While we’re at it, let’s not forget the comically dubbed “Wakyleaks” scandal at Wake Forest .

To be fair, the incidents vary widely in consequence and have only so much in common. But at the core of each is a serious lapse in judgment by college-age kids and the grown-ups who are supposed to be in charge. Their sense of entitlement has only swelled in proportion to the dollars flowing into the coffers of every big-time college program.

In the Mixon case, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops originally suspended the player for the entire 2014 season. But after the video was made public this week, Stoops said that had Mixon done what he did in 2016, he’d kick him off the team. Like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s similarly tortured mea culpa in the Ray Rice affair, it was too little, too late.

And while we’re on the topic of cluelessness, how about a shout-out for Alabama coach Nick Saban?

On hearing the news that LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffery were ditching their respective bowl games to begin preparations for the NFL draft, he blamed the decision on the college football’s power-that-be to switch from an all-bowl format to a playoff.

To his credit, Saban accepted some of the blame for dismantling what had been a quaint-but-unruly tradition and turning it into a multi-billion-dollar extravaganza. What he failed to mention, conveniently, was the lack of loyalty that mercenaries — Saban included — are now returning in spades at every level of the game.

To be fair, the kids are plenty culpable. They know the rules, and the overwhelming majority abide by them. Every big-time athletic program has at least one full-time compliance officer, and some employ as many as seven or eight. No one is telling them to abuse women, take envelopes stuffed with cash from agents, or even trip-up opponents.

But let’s be honest. Money keeps flowing into big-time college sports and the pockets of coaches and administrator because they’ve effectively become a minor-league system for the NFL and NBA. And they’re doing it largely on the backs of kids whose “schoolwork” is so demanding that many will never be able to take advantage of the scholarship that gets thrown in with it.

If that no longer outrages the rest of us, at least those same coaches and administrators can spare us the lecture about how much they care. Most of them genuinely care about their guys and would love to see them get through four years — or less — covered with nothing but glory.

Everybody stumbles. It’s how you handle the fall and get back up that college sports can’t seem to figure out.


Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...