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How Long Will the Center Hold?

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You'd be surprised to know that Kyle and I actually write things from time to time for this site that never actually make it to the site. The below is an example of that. It's a post that I wrote one Saturday back in the summer of 2009 after the NCAA issued its punishment to Alabama for some (relatively minor) indiscretions committed during the Mike Shula error era. I didn't publish it at the time because, to put it concisely, I don't write for Bleacher Report. I found it last weekend as I was cleaning out my drafts files and couldn't believe it. I had actually forgotten all about this unfinished draft until then. I post it now only because it's relevant to recent events. Plus I like epigraphs and this one seemed incredibly appropriate right about now.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon
cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide
is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction
, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

--------------William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

In case you missed it, last week the NCAA announced penalties against the University of Alabama arising from a drawn out investigation of improper benefits for athletes. In a nutshell, the allegations were that 201 Alabama student athletes in several sports received free textbooks in violation of NCAA regulations. Alabama will have to vacate some wins in football, and will be on probation for three years. They'll lose no scholarships, and you'll see Nick Saban raging across the sideline just as frequently as you have before because there are no television restrictions.

In fairness to Nick Saban and the Tide football program, only 7 of the transgressors were football players. And free textbooks aren't the same as $100 handshakes. I can't imagine what kind of competitive advantage could be reaped from extra meteorology textbooks. Finally, most of this took place under former coach Mike Shula, and Saban suspended the offending players immediately when the allegations came to light. Let me say with absolute clarity: this post is not about Alabama.

Instead, this is a post about SEC football at large, or perhaps SEC football writ large. Because that is precisely what has occurred. It's been heading in this direction for a long time. But SEC football is now omnipresent in the greater college football discussion. It claims the reigning National Champion, a plurality (or a majority depending on your rankings) of the top recruiting classes in the country, and the top pick in the recent NFL Draft. The SEC doth bestride the college football world like a colossus.

There is a great deal of money at stake here.

I'm no Pollyhanna. I understand that things go on during the recruitment of student athletes that would put some football program's under the proverbial jail. I understand that a lot of athletes get "assistance" from people who want something from them, whether it's access, or touchdowns or a piece of an NFL future. That's not the future, that's the present. But I suspect we're nearing a tipping point at which what we have long suspected about SEC football (that the pressure to win is so great that those charged with winning, or personally invested in seeing them win, will do anything necessary to win) will be borne out somewhere.

I'm not going to name possibilities or give odds. Because the SEC is full of enough crackpot boosters like Logan Young that I could see this happening just about anywhere in the conference. That includes the University of Georgia, as much as it pains me. I'm not saying that an SMU style brazen and systematic salary scandal is around the corner. But I am saying that the big business of SEC football is getting bigger in a hurry. That the revenue, and the pressure to bring it in are such that someone, somewhere just about has to cross the line. And with the internet, cellphone cameras and increased media coverage down to the high school level, the chances of somebody saying something are increasing as well. I just have a feeling that college football is spinning to fast to be controlled. Is that just me?

Go 'Dawgs!