Don’t Be Fooled: The horror of Sandusky’s predations, alone, was enough to knock you off balance. Then,, in just half-a summer, Sandusky gets slammered for four “lifes,” Louie Freeh focuses his old FBI flashlight on the primodial consumptive slime which has all the while been oozing backstage at the Sandusky/Paterno forty-year production of “The Football King and I,”’ and the NCAA’s Mark “I-May-Look-Like-Ken-Doll-But-I’ve-Got-a-Gun-and-I-Gotta-Use-It-NOW” Emmert, with the acquiescence of PSU’s President Rodney “I’ll Read-That-Damned-Freeh-Tome- Only-When-It’s-Out-On Audiobook” Erikson, sucker-punch the entire State of Pennsylvania.
Keep your wits about you; don’t let the thunder and lightning fool you. It’s a downpour of a rainstorm, but, as always, most things involving big time college sports and the NCAA are not what they appear. And you thought that all this Mark Emmert/NCAA high dudgeon was just about Jo Pa having let a pedophile sociopath buddy run rampant across Happy Valley these past fourteen years. That’s only part of it.
This is Not About Stamping Out Pedophilia: I know the Consent Decree demands $60 million from PSU be paid to a foundation for child protection, but the NCAA is more worried about two of the biggest foundation-cracking earthquakes to have hit the NCAA and college sports since the City College, then Lou Groza-led Kentucky Wildcats’ basketball point-shaving scandals of the early ‘50’s. These two recent earthquakes will lead to fundamental changes in the operation of the NCAA – and the public’s perception of the NCAA.
Cracks in the NCAA Foundation: In fact, take a deep cleansing breath and do a virtual Google Earth tour past that spankin’-new NCAA Big Bureaucracy Headquarters in downtown Indianapolis. Does the foundation look somehow less solid? Are there a few unsightly cracks creeping up and down that recently-poured concrete? Is that corner over there bowed and sagging? Were the forms for that concrete ever even leveled and squared? Who poured that foundation anyway, and did they forget the re-bar? And by the way, what’s that foundation made of?
To understand why those questions arise, and to see better where we’ve been and where we’re going, let’s first look back in history a bit, to 1912, 1956, and 2011, and in the process I’ll show that that NCAA foundation is not made of concrete, but three Big Lies:
1912: Doin Plays in ‘Female Drag’: , or This Student is ‘NAB (“Not a Boy”): It’s 1912 and you visit the all-male campuses of the University of Pennsylvania, or Dartmouth College, or Princeton University; wherever you go, you find theatrical performances in which half the performers are males dressed-up as females! Can you believe it? – those schools back then didn’t allow women! How quaint! How silly! How steeped in odd, irrational, but habitual tradition and doctrine. That’s all obvious now, in our enlightened state, now that our eyes are opened to a silly cultural norm which worked back then to so substantially oppress women. Thank god, you think, for rational change, so that we’re not now, in 2012, forced to watch all those bizarre plays and musical productions with half the men running around in skirts, dresses, and bloomers.
1956: Doin’ Plays in ‘Amateur Drag’ — NCAA Big Lie No.1 – Players are Not Employees
Then jump forward to 1956 , when the NCAA decided for the first time to allow “athletic scholarships.” All the NCAA honchos back then fully recognized the risk that the payment of tuition and other costs was exactly the kind of remuneration-for-services which would most likely cause state and federal governments to classify players as “Employees” of the university. But the NCAA leaders, like Walt Byers, were in a bind: they wanted to stop all the under-the-table payments to athletes by alums and others which were then so predominant, and the individual schools badly needed to “bind” a player so that they could plan ahead. So what did they do? They made up a euphemism, out of thin air: “Student-Athletes.” A silly, intentionally deceptive term – they could just as easily and deceptively have called them “NAE’s” or “Not An Employee.”
This was the NCAA’s First Big Lie. And since 1956 the NCAA has, figuratively, been requiring every athlete to dress up in “Amateur Drag” –even though most every legal and pragmatic factor back then, and many since-added factors, demonstrate that they should now, and should always have been, classified as employees.
NCAA Big Lie No.2: The NCAA is Not-for-Profit
Makin’ Myths in Not-for-Profit Drag: The NCAA bureaucrats didn’t buy their costumes in 1956; it was only later, along about the mid-1980’s, when the tsunami of television and sports-apparel billions of dollars flooded college sports, that the NCAA Bureaucrats bought their costumes. Walk through downtown Indy now, you can see all those well-dressed upper middle class bureaucrats in silk-tie and dark suit “Not-For-Profit Drag.” Or walk across any big-time campus, anywhere, and you’ll see many of the same for-profit sports management bureaucrats, dressed up in Not-For-Profit Drag.
The NCAA is anything but ‘Not-For-Profit’. I don’t care what anyone says, even that wacky IRS tax code: I know a not-for-profit when I see one. The NCAA is a Trade Association of For-Profit busineses which stage live and televised sports entertainment in stadiums and living rooms all across America.
NCAA Big Lie No.3: Coaches Are gods
Callin’ Plays in “I am God” Drag: There has a long line of these would-be saint-coaches, who smile and ingratiate, like Mafia lieutenants at a Rotary meeting. Many seem to have brayed about their penchant for military history (Woody Hayes.) Many begin to think of themselves in the heroic Victorian third person. (Coach K, who says Coaches become “Ambassadors” for universities, as if he were some eminence gris, like Lord Mountbatten, or Averill Harriman.) Many now live in Coach McMansions on 5 acres exurban estates (Ex-Coach Bobby Petrino, OSU Coach Meyer.) Most have been worshipped as gods by a gullible public.
The NCAA’s Troika of Lies as a Foudation for its’ Athletics-Entertainment Complex: These three falsehoods — Players aren’t employees, the NCAA and the school athletics operations are Not-For-Profit, and big time coaches are gods – are the troika of Big Lies at the foundation of the entire NCAA Athletics Entertainment Complex. Put in other terms, those NCAA bureaucrats like $2 million-dollar Mark Emmert push a lie about their own status (that they don’t work for profit) to allow them to more efficiently sell the other two lies that players aren’t employees, and coaches are gods.
The NCAA is Myth-Machine: And the primary function of the NCAA has evolved, since 1956, to this: Players do the work of entertaining, while the NCAA’s dirty work is to fool the public by propping up the Three Big Lies at its’ very foundation.
The irony is that sport tends to draws us precisely because so much of it is plain, unvarnished and indisputable reality: the basketball, for example, either goes in the hoop, or it doesn’t. But like basketball – a game of feints, double pumps, and no-look passes, built on gaining advantage through repeated use of human deception – the NCAA is an organization rife with deceit. Basketball’s deceit is both overt and within the rules; in contrast, the many fundamental deceptions fueled by the NCAA’s myth-machine are covert and morally illicit.
The Tressel-Quake and Paterno-Quakes Which Have Rocked the NCAA:
A Tressle-Quake and a Paterno-Quake have demolished Big Lie No. 3 (Head Coach is a god): Louie Freeh told us in no uncertain terms on July 12 that god-Coach Jo Pa was a serial liar and con man who lied to a Grand Jury, and who acted affirmatively to cover up crimes. And back in December 2011, the NCAA told us in no uncertain terms that former OSU God-Coach Jim Tressel concealed evidence from the NCAA, with uncontroverted evidence showing that Tressel engaged in a long, affirmative and intentional campaign in which he repeatedly defrauded the public, his players and the NCAA, by lied serially lying to everyone about his knowledge and coverup of NCAA violations.
It seemed like just yesterday when these two god-coaches – one in cheesy sweater-vest, spouting treacly nonsense about his solemn duty to call-back servicemen in Iraq who somehow needed his advice, the other trilling for all those locker-room literati sports reporters about Virgil and the Ivies – were bulwarks of the NCAA’s gold-leafed Amateurism Myth who mixed elements of the sage teacher, the wise leader of men, the humble, probably burdened but always self-effacing deep thinker, and -more than all that –paradigms of purity and virtue.
Tressel and Paterno haven’t just tripped and fallen; they fell from a cliff. From off a god-mountain. So much so that – if you find your mouth agape, looking closely at photos of these two former gods — you come up with the same kind of question that arises upon looking at Sandusky, or the pink-haired, raised-eyebrow, bulging-eyeballed James Holmes at his July 23 arraignment: Who is this man, and how could he do what he did?
The NCAA myth-making machine won’t recover. Tressel and Paterno never were, we now know, what they appeared to be, and Emmert and his NCAA can no long contend otherwise. The paradigm has changed, so that we now must presume that, like Tressel and Paterno, big time coaches are not just scoundrels and con men, but liars. Sure, Emmert can now start pushing “Integrity Monitors”, and Ethics Education, and Outside Compliance, but it’s all just window-dressing.
In fact, I’ll suggest that Jo Pa and Tressel, and many other coaches, have, until now, succeeded within the NCAA’s myth-making theatrical production precisely because they are good liars, able to promote and push the NCAA’s Troika of Big Lies with a straight face to a heretofore adoring public. “Integrity Monitors” won’t work.
I’ll also guess that, because of Tressel and Paterno, Big Lie No. 2 — that the NCAA is Not-For-Profit – is looking a little more shaky these days, precisely because god-coaches like JoPa and Tressel were the marquee stars in the grand NCAA myth-movie: these men of supposed probity, character, courage were, the NCAA has wanted you to believe, uniquely qualified to “educate” and train our student-athletes and teach them to be successful citizens. Instead, we should warn kids: Don’t believe anything they tell you. Scoundrels and con-men.
Think back then to those men wearing bloomers on stage in 1912, playing pretend. We got rid of all that. Big change happened to bring small minds around, and women were admitted to colleges.
College Presidents need to lead the way now. Big change is needed to bring small minds around. It’s easy, or at least no more difficult than the transition to co-education which took place all across colleges. There’s no need for the NCAA myth-machine. Everyone can stop walking around in phony costumes, and the Three Big NCAA Lies can evaporate. College presidents need to actively push to require that players be denominated employees. They can still be students. And there’s plenty of money to go around. Let the “free market” chips then fall where they may. Recognize that the NCAA operation is for-profit. And hire head coaches for their expertise as coaches, not as the scoundrels and con-men we now should presume they are.