Why College Football Fans Don’t Really Want Reform

For many weeks the talk surrounding college football has been whether players should receive a portion of the large sums of money their efforts generate for their schools and television networks. Last week news began to surface that several players received illegal payments while in college. Then Houston Texans running back Arian Foster admitted to being paid while at Tennessee and railed on the NCAA for being “big bullies.” Everyone believes there is something wrong with the system, players generate ridiculous amounts of money for their schools and some don’t have money for food. For all of you fans yelling for reform, if the NCAA changes it’s guidelines it will only get worse for college football fans.

The NCAA can only go two directions with the latest scandals in college football:

  • Crack down and penalize the offenders based on the existing rules.
  • Amend the rules to allow some form of benefits to be paid to players.

Either way is bad for us as college football fans. If the NCAA cracks down on Tennessee and the other programs on which there appears to be proof of “wrongdoing,” those programs will be penalized for getting caught when 99.9% of the public readily believes that all major programs have comparable violations. At that point, the programs which haven’t been caught yet will hold an advantage over those who were caught simply because they are better cheaters. I don’t want to see one school succeed because their opponent got caught and have fewer scholarships. Unless the NCAA has some magic scenario which will root out all improper benefits, not just at the schools which have already been caught, but globally, then the games will be influenced by sanctions that are not even handed. As unfair as this is and would continue to be, I believe it is much better than the alternative.

If the NCAA goes the other way and provides players with some compensation, for which many sports journalists have been clamoring, then you open an entirely new can of worms. To quote Barney Fife “if you let them go thirty, they’ll take thirty-five…” if the NCAA creates some sort of profit sharing program or increased stipend it will get even worse. If every school can provide a certain stipend then some booster will provide something more over the top and ultimately only the schools with deep pockets will have upper tier talent. The gap between the high profile programs and everyone else will get even wider. Even if you believe you can realistically reform college football’s compensation system: how do you differentiate between the revenue generated by a star quarterback and a third string offensive lineman? Who decides the depth of one player’s contributions over his teammates?

I feel strongly that between mega conference realignment and whatever the NCAA does to attack corruption in college football that the product on the field will never be the same, but I 100 percent believe that whatever widespread violations occur in college football today would be exponentially worse if compensatory system is put into place. If the mega conferences create a pay for play system we’ll be left with the NFL and the equivalent of a minor league system then everyone else. However this ends will be bad for college football fans, but I hope it doesn’t go where I think it will.

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Feature image courtesy of Sherman Report.

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