“Cheating pays in the NCAA” says Big Twelve Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, and while I believe him based on my own experiences working with college athletes and teams, the bigger question remains: Who really cares?
My point is ever since NCAA football, and to a lesser degree mens basketball, began making tens of millions of dollars annually there has been very little effort to curb things back to the old days of “amateur” athletics. In fact, the money is so great in football and mens hoops that most DI coaches now make substantially more money (exponentially in some cases) than their university president bosses.
The NCAA is making big money, too, and the reality is that most competitive DI teams are not recruiting “student” athletes, but simply athletes……the type of athletes that make them big, big money. The academic success of these athletes, therefore, is more of a bonus than it is a requirement.
Folks wanting integrity and a re-emphasis on academics over athletics are seemingly in the minority, and the people making the big revenues (i.e. coaches) have no desire of ever going back to more modest payouts. Similarly, major recruits these days know dozens of college athletic teams will come after them and at least one school is going to be lenient with grades, allowing these young men to devalue academics and simply stay eligible.
The greed running rampant in college sports has created what Bowlsby calls easy cheating without much consequence, and unless caps and/or more appropriate redistribution of revenues occurs you will likely only see more cheating, more rule-bending, and more young men arriving at campuses across the country with little to no interest in making the grades they are supposedly required to achieve in order to stay eligible.
The word is out — star athletes today know they hold all the chips, and they know there will always be a number of schools out there who have so prioritized winning and the related financial profits gained that they literally build into their business model that they will eventually get caught, so cheat until you do. The current NCAA win-at-all-costs model reminds me of the model many infomercial ripoff artists use — specifically, they make outlandish claims that they know gullible people will believe (“lose 50lbs in a week!”), they cash in on that gullibility, then when the FCC eventually catches up with them they pay their fine, which almost always ends up being a mere fraction of the overall revenue they made while lying to the public about ridiculous claims (see Kevin Trudeau to learn more about this scam — remember, he was the guy with cures for everything!).
Bob Bowlsby’s comments are most definitely on-point, but as I have been writing about for years now I simply don’t see any way of continuing to smash a square peg into a round hole when it comes to the current NCAA amateur sports model. The money is so great that it breeds cheating, and the consequences for getting caught cheating pale in comparison to the earnings that can be made while cheating.