Auburn University won what passes for the NCAA football championship, beating Oregon 22-19 last night in the BCS championship game.
Because of it, Auburn’s 2nd year coach, Gene Chizik,will pocket a cool $600,000 in bonuses, increasing his total salary to over $3 million for next season.
Yet I watched the whole game and I didn’t see Gene Chizik make a single play. I saw some great short yardage runs and a few pretty decent passes by his Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Cam Newton. I saw Nick Fairley dominate the interior of the Oregon offensive line. But Chizik did nothing except pace up and down the sideline.
Gene Chizik is no better or worse a coach this year than last (when the Tigers went 8-5). The difference with the outcomes this year and last is his players, especially two junior college transfers, Cam Newton and Nick Fairley. But no player is allowed to share in the bounty of riches winning the BCS championship brings to the school.
According to Bloomberg, Russ Campbell, Chizik’s agent, defended his huge bonus, which totals roughly half of Chizik’s compensation last year, by observing, “The financial gains to the university are going to be long term and they’re going to far exceed what any of the coaches gain”. Indeed. And neither Newton nor Fairley nor Josh Bynes nor Zac Etheridge nor Lee Zumba nor Michael Dyer, nor any of the others that made Chizik’s bonus for him are allowed to share one thin dime of the long-term financial gains to the university, else they lose their amateur status.
Big time collegiate football is an utter and complete fraud. The players bring millions of dollars to the NCAA member institutions, yet the NCAA pretends them to be amateurs. Coaches are paid exorbitant salaries that still are only a fraction of the revenues generated. The schools rake in tax-free donations on the backs of their athletic programs, awarding the biggest donors with the biggest perks. The NCAA claims it doesn’t want a playoff system to award a national champion because an extended season would cut into the players’ academics, yet pushes the final BCS championship game further into January each year, while somehow wrapping up the championships for its lower-tier divisions (that may actually have athletes that are also students) before the bowl season for the big boys concludes. Big-time NCAA football is a fraud.
Given that athletes–not only coaches–have the capacity to bring millions to the member schools, it is easy to see why money or other valuables often find their way into the hands of the athletes, no matter the NCAA’s cockeyed views on amateurism. Economic forces are far more powerful than are rules and laws.
The NCAA gets this. Which is why it rarely ever prosecutes an elite athlete or his school while the kid is still playing. It waits, pretending it hasn’t definitive evidence, a la Reggie Bush, until its member schools have raked the green off his back, and then retroactively lays into the institution, and the kid, but the kid is long gone, so the effects of the punishment are felt only by the school’s present players, who had nothing to do with the infraction.
My guess is that Auburn University will suffer, within the next two or three years, a severe probation because of the antics of Cam Newton and his dad. Cam Newton had to have known exactly what his dad was up to, tacitly admitting as much to Mississippi State’s coaches when telling them he was sorry, but had to go to Auburn. Cam didn’t get to Auburn by accident. If pushed into a corner by the appearance of irrefutable evidence that Newton’s dad shopped Cam to Auburn like he did to Mississippi State, the NCAA will have no choice but to force retroactive forfeiture of the games in which Cam played, i.e., all of Auburn’s 2010/11 season. Cam will probably give back his Heisman. But it won’t matter by then. The games were won on the field, by the best team, and the fans get this, even if the NCAA doesn’t. Cam Newton was the most exciting player in college football this year. None of that will change. But Auburn’s players will suffer for sins they didn’t commit.
Tickets to the BCS championship were said to run into the thousands of dollars apiece. And these are amateur athletes? Give me a break.