College football in need of major reforms

Ohio State fans must be outraged over the lack of moral outrage, public mea culpas, public investigations and hand-wringing that have followed the Sports Illustrated revelations about Oklahoma State University.

From allegations of dope smoking before games to using coeds as sexual escorts for recruits to paying salaries to players, the SI series laid bare the raw nerve that is major college football, namely, that it is not the educational tool helping young men prepare for life while allowing them to set an example in athletics.

The portrayal in SI, rather, confirms the worst fears about what college football, serving as the NFL farm system, has become. Statistics reveal most football players don’t graduate, don’t make it into the pros and don’t learn lessons, either in the classroom or about how to live life. Rather, for many, it’s a form of exploitation that continues what they may have experienced in small-town high school football programs: People love the winners and discard them when their time under the lights is done.

Ohio State University had run afoul of NCAA rules, to be sure, and had issues that revealed that players simply are not the rah-rah team spirit people fans want to believe they are. Memorabilia can be sold, and players received compensation, eventually running afoul not only of the rules but of a coach who thought the right thing to do was to keep those sins hidden to prevent becoming embroiled in an unrelated FBI investigation.

OSU, the one in Oklahoma, has a multitude of sins revealed in the articles in Sports Illustrated, but the school is quick to point out nothing points to current players or staff being involved.

It is the basic problem of major college football: Players are playing in hopes of a ticket to the big time, are playing often as part of a football team that funds the rest of the school’s athletic programs and as stars to boosters. The myth that they are compensated with an education is killed by statistics that show many aren’t.

It’s about far more than the NCAA and its banana-republic regulatory function, where it stands self-righteously against players profitting personally while raking in the funds its member schools generate off the sweat of those players.

Reform is far overdue, and not just more regulation and confusing enforcement. Major college football needs to recognize its real role, as a moneymaker for the schools, and then move forward with that in mind.