Johnny Football’s Half-Day Off And The NCAA’s “Incompetence”

College Football, Games, Management, Media, Players, Politics

Apart from Texas A&M and the NCAA, it’s universally agreed that the half-game suspension of quarterback Johnny Manziel is an insult to society’s collective intelligence. What most are doing in their ravaging of the NCAA is looking at it from the wrong perspective. Once the way the NCAA runs its operation is examined for what it is, then there won’t be such moral outrage at the ambiguity of its rules.

Let’s look at the myths and misinterpretations regarding the NCAA.

The incompetence is unintentional.

It’s very easy to be stupid when one is stupid. There’s also less of a backlash. But when one is run by a large outfit of seemingly intelligent people who know the law, know the rules and know about ethics (even if they don’t apply its principles), then it goes beyond not knowing what one is doing. It extends to knowing what one is doing better than critics and adversaries. The NCAA knew that there would be this kind of reaction to such a silly penalty for Manziel allegedly signing autographs and getting paid for it. They also knew that there was an expectation that they’d let him slide if it was proven he did anything against the rules. They split the baby by failing to provide evidence that he signed the autographs and was paid, but punished him anyway. They didn’t let him slide, but technically didn’t use preferential treatment with him or his school. In a backwards way, it’s brilliant.

Fundamental principles apply

It was never actually proven that Manziel did anything wrong, but that’s never mattered to the NCAA. The key is that Manziel is the Heisman Trophy winner for a big-time college football school. He was the first freshman to win the award and is a rainmaking celebrity. If this was some walk-on kid who has a uniform and might get in for five plays in a season in a couple of blowouts, the point would be moot because no one would be asking for his autograph let alone pay him for it. If it was a mid-level kid who had a partial scholarship and signed an autograph for $10 because he played for a big time college program even though no one knew who he was, he would’ve been used as an example by the NCAA of what happens to those who violate the rules and punished to the fullest extent possible. Since it’s Manziel, he gets a tsk-tsk-tsk slap on the wrist, warning not to do it again (whatever it was he did or didn’t do), a wink and a nod and unsaid understanding that he and his school are special cases.

The NCAA is not a dictatorship

The NCAA is the dominant administration in college sports and acts like it. There’s a “what are you gonna do about it?” attitude for which there is a certain amount of justification. Precisely what, other than write angry columns and lampoon the penalty, is anyone going to do to bring down this monolith known as the NCAA?

It’s a dictatorship and like any type of government run in such a manner, the results are what’s important. If Manziel’s punishment was seen as appropriate, they’d strut around and use it to exemplify why the NCAA knows what it’s doing. Since there’s such an overtly negative reaction to it, it’s twisted into an agreement between the school and the governing body to function as a warning that even the biggest stars in college sports can be subject to sanctions.

In other words, if it works, I was for it; if it doesn’t, I’ll point the person next to me and blame him.

It’s not about money

Dictatorships need funding and funding comes from people with money. Boosters who support universities and their athletic programs are not going to sit idly by when the players who help the teams win are suspended for questionable reasons. Television networks counting on big ratings from broadcasting Texas A&M games simply because they have Manziel are going to demand he be allowed to play. The number of people connected by the NCAA reaches exponential proportions. That was never going to be placed in jeopardy over $7,500 supposedly paid to a kid who’s already from a wealthy family.

There are qualifications that can be made. Money from collegiate sports is used to increase a school’s visibility, attract students, promote research and raise the boats for all. Are any of the featured players in the drama going to allow one autograph session harm everything that is linked by college sports?

The NCAA must maintain its façade of being about healthy competition between schools side-by-side with the fact that it’s a business. It’s a big business with a don’t ask/don’t tell/don’t get caught policy. Depending on who it is that gets caught will determine what the punishment will be. Since it was Manziel, the punishment is one-half of one game that the team would probably win no matter who’s playing quarterback. It’s a non-suspension suspension to give the NCAA and the school plausible deniability that they’re looking the other way and that there are issues in play other than their contradictory rules.

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Leo Nunez? ¿Quién es?

All Star Game, Books, College Football, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires

Marlins closer Leo Nunez was placed on the restricted list by the Marlins.

At first there were the requisite snide comments about the Marlins being part of the problem; the questions as to why everyone with the Marlins misbehaves; wondering if they have a cage set-up at the new ballpark and other witticisms.

That one was mine and I didn’t say it publicly because—contrary to the popular notion that I’m a loose cannon—I think before I speak, tweet, write, link, comment.

Well, I do now anyway.

But as it turns out the problem isn’t any behavioral issue as it was with Logan Morrison, Mike Cameron and Wes Helms; it’s that Nunez has been playing under an assumed name and his real name is apparently Juan Carlos Oviedo and he’s a year older than “Nunez’s” age of 28.

The Marlins are out of contention and have been since the summer; his absence is not an issue. But what of the teams that have been affected by “Nunez” participating in games after the Marlins knew that Leo Nunez wasn’t Leo Nunez? Could the Braves—who have had their Wild Card hopes damaged by losing games to the Marlins—lodge a complaint that a player’s illegal status in the country automatically rendered him ineligible to play in the big leagues?

This could create a disaster of epic proportions if legal issues interfere with a player right to participate in games. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it after-the-fact in terms of game results, but is MLB going to let the Marlins get away with keeping this a secret (unless MLB knew about it and I can’t imagine they did) and having “Nunez” pitch when he wasn’t “Nunez”?

He wasn’t a legal worker in the United States.

Isn’t the failure to disclose the information, nor putting “Nunez” on the restricted list months ago, somehow sabotaging the validity of games he pitched after this was discovered?

If the Marlins knew about this, why didn’t they handle it immediately?

This isn’t the NCAA. Scholarships, bowl victories and other sanctions aren’t part of the process—they can’t wipe out the games in which “Nunez” played after the club supposedly knew about his status; but the Marlins can certainly be punished for this breach of competitive legitimacy.

This isn’t the decision to send a misbehaving player to the minors; it’s not the releasing of two finished veterans; it’s a willful act of criminality by “Nunez” and perhaps a coverup by the Marlins.

I’m curious to see what MLB does about it, if anything at all.

Bud Selig had better head to his rotary phone and handle this decisively or it’s going to explode into a political and competitive football.

He can barely handle baseball as it is; the last thing he needs is a football.


Jim Tressel And George Steinbrenner

Books, College Football, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Uncategorized

What would one of the most famous alumnus of Ohio State University think of the Jim Tressel scandal and resignation?

Would said individual have joined the brigade of those who leapt off the Tressel bandwagon of success as soon as the allegations of impropriety and rule-breaking forced him to step down?

Or would he have defended his friend?

What would George have done?

The George I’m referring to is the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner—a man who, like Tressel, knew his fair share of scandal and punitive measures being taken against him; and who, like Tressel, had reasons for doing what he did. Whether they were good, bad, self-serving, nitpicky, mean-spirited or politically motivated reasons is irrelevant—nothing was done just because.

If Steinbrenner fired his manager, it was because he wanted to make a change.

If he contributed to Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign illegally, it was because he wanted his candidate to win, circumnavigated legality and was convicted and punished.

If he tried to dig up dirt as a vengeful act against one of his own players, Dave Winfield, and got involved with a sleazy hustler like Howie Spira, it was because he was irate at having been essentially taken in a contract negotiation to sign the star outfielder.

Steinbrenner was friends with Tressel.

In fact, when the college football game dubbed The Boss Bowl was staged at Yankee Stadium last December, Bill Madden wrote about Steinbrenner only being seen wearing one ring other than a Yankees championship ring; that ring was the 2002 Ohio State National Championship ring given to him by…Jim Tressel—NY Daily News Story, 12.28.2010.

How would Steinbrenner have reacted to this mess in which Tressel is embroiled? The mess that cost him his job and sullied his reputation?

I think we know the answer.

As a total outsider and college football neophyte with no connection either way, I have to ask: Considering some of the things that are going on in big, massive moneymaker college sports programs, was Tressel helping his kids make some extra money and gain perks such an awful thing?

So they were trading memorabilia for tattoos—so what?

In 1989, Barry Switzer was forced out at the University of Oklahoma for a series of transgressions by players that included a shooting, drug dealing and allegations of rape—Sports Illustrated 2.27.1989.

Because Switzer won and won and won during his run at Oklahoma, his personal behaviors were never scrutinized to the point where he was either told to rein in his players and himself or he’d have to go. Many winked and nodded at Switzer, envying him for the way he lived his life without pretense or restraint.

But once the scandal erupted and the team wasn’t winning National Championships, it was easier to dump Switzer to show that the university was “serious” about cleaning up its act.

Were they?

Or did they want to put on a show of zero tolerance to get the media and angry public—and donating boosters—off their backs and continue the financial and practical support for the school?

Switzer’s personal life dovetailed with the way he ran his programs, college and pro. He was proud of his lack of hypocrisy as a poor kid who made good; a drinker, partyer and womanizer; the stories of his generosity with money and time are prevalent.

Because Switzer didn’t live with the preferred conservative, made-for-public-consumption face that many like to associate with football coaches, there was always a risk of something terrible happening; after the series of incidents related in the SI story, he was no longer viable as the leader of Oklahoma’s massive football program and once the threat of money no longer coming in from supporters was issued, it was easy to force him out.

How does this relate to Tressel?

The overwhelming sense I get from reading the articles and editorials is that Tressel is viewed as a wily politician who played the angles. If that meant looking the other way when he knew there were violations going on, helped his players line their pockets with feigned ignorance as his personal protective shield, or behaved in a manner that the public Tressel would consider immoral while the private Tressel shut his eyes and ignored what he knew in the interests of winning, so be it.

Part of Tressel’s problem appears to be that image that was so carefully crafted with the ends justifying the means. Quite possibly, in his mind, the young men he was in charge of weren’t doing something so awful that it was a detached brick in the foundation of a downgrading of society; in essence, “it’s just tattoos and the trading of collectibles”; “they’re getting no-show jobs and cars to drive and no one’s getting hurt”.

No harm, no foul. Just don’t get caught.

They got caught.

The integrity of the public and the games weren’t harmed by this as they would with the dealing of drugs or shaving points.

In comparison to some of the stuff the players could’ve been doing, was what they were doing worthy of this outrage?

I find it laughable at the speed in which those who were supposedly ardent supporters and “friends” of people who get embroiled in these types of circumstances abandon them when they’re no longer of use. Tressel wasn’t going to get past NCAA sanctions; his position was impossible to maintain; and the team wasn’t going to be as successful as OSU fans are accustomed with him staying.

That, more than his lying, is the reason he had to go.

Tressel’s rectitude was probably partially real, partially a salesmanship persona. In order to function in that world, it’s necessary. Those aghast at the dichotomy between the public Tressel and the private Tressel need to examine their belief systems. Switzer was the same guy privately as he was publicly; Tressel was being a politician as his “senatorial” image suggests.

Switzer’s players acted with the tacit acknowledgement of the coaches and university supporters, it was okay as long as they won and didn’t wind up in jail or the morgue.

It’s like this everywhere.

Was Tressel being a self-interested liar with ends justifying the means? Or was he functioning as anyone who wants to run a big time college football program has to function in order to win and keep the money rolling in?

George Steinbrenner understood how these things worked and would most likely have supported his friend.

And he wouldn’t have been wrong.


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