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Free Form Friday Is Fiddling While Rome Burns.

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Unless you've been living under a rock these last few days you've probably noticed that it hasn't been a great week for college football's image.

Earlier today I put up a draft of a post that I wrote back in the summer of 2009 after the Alabama textbook scandal came to light. After writing it I thought it over for a day or so then decided not to post it. I thought it was too sensational, especially since that textbook curfuffle was such a tempest in a teapot. Little did I know that I was thinking way too small. But I've learned my lesson. From now on every half-baked, zany draft is going up just so that like a broke watch I can be right twice a day. By the by, while I'm cleaning out the old tips and drafts folder, Derek Dooley is a vampire. An energy vampire. He's also bringing on his blood brother "The Count" from Sesame Street as a consultant based on his offseason needs assessment.  I just thought you should be warned.

There's been a lot of analysis of the HBO Real Sports episode that aired this week, and in particular the claim by four former Auburn players that they were paid before and during their time on the Plains. For my money (no pun intended), the real story is Stanley McClover's allegation that while at Auburn he let it be known that he was not happy, and soon thereafter an unnamed assistant coach gave him an envelope with money in it from heaven only knows whom (a booster? a bake sale? his share of all the quarters pulled from behind Tommy Tuberville's ears by a succession of childrens' party magicians?). I imagine the NCAA has already placed a call to McClover to ask him who that coach was, and that coach probably has a voicemail or two from the gang in Indianapolis. Because assistant coaches serving as bagmen is a lot different than drunken alumni buying a player drinks out on the town after a victory. Such an episode would skirt the line between lack of institutional control (which is bad enough) and systematic cheating. This is the allegation from the whole show that I think really has some bite to it, and that I'm most curious to follow.

It's also worth noting the points made by some of you in the comments (I'm thinking of vineyarddawg and Kleph though there are probably others) that this does not bode well for anybody in college football, or the SEC. And I think that's entirely true. As much as some Auburn fans' "everybody else does it" defense is untenably all-encompassing (if Washington State and Iowa State are buying players, they're doing it wrong), the spectre of this practice occurring at other institutions is there. Money handshakes happen. That doesn't make it right. And the boosters doing it need to be excommunicated from their respective programs with all due haste.

It's also nothing new. I remember one story in particular of a Georgia player walking through a crowd of celebrating fans after emerging victorious in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party with helmet in hand, only to find when he got to the locker room that his headgear was filled with cash*. In other words, there's a very real chance that all this ends badly for a lot of people and a lot of different football programs. Often when these type of allegations come to light it triggers journalists and bloggers all over to hit the red button and preemptively launch the contents of their sleeze files, the little corners of the old computer with half-formed tips about Bobby Bowden's organ trafficking ring and Barry Switzer supplying the FARC with rocket launchers and Bud Light. In other words, there may still be some shoes left to drop. Stay tuned for a wild weekend.

And all this is to say nothing of Pat Peterson's trip to Texas A&M that never happened, unless it did, Jim Tressel's email account, Fiesta Bowl officials visiting strip clubs just to test drive them for "big strong athletes", and Willie Lyles' incredibly valuable scouting services. At a certain point, as a college football fan, you have to either suspend your disbelief and keep rooting for the nice young men toiling away on the football field for the love of the game and a free education, or you have to put on the rubber gloves and just dive right in there. I'd be curious to know where you folks come down on this dilemma. Can any of us really say that we're totally surprised by the allegations of the week that has been in college football?

Because if there's one immutable law of the universe, it's that sooner or later it all comes crashing down:

Your thoughts on weekend plans, college football's sewage problem, this spring practice thing I've heard a little bit about**, N.E.R.D., or whatever the heck else tickles your fancy are welcome in the comments. Until later. . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!

 *This story can be told now because we all know that the last time this happened was probably well past the NCAA's statute of limitations. #selfloathingontheSt.Johns

**You heard it here first: redshirt freshman Michael Bennett will have at least 15 catches in 2011. I'm not saying. I'm just saying.