Ahhh... sweet summertime (to quote Kenny Chesney). Time for soaking up the sun, consuming copious amounts of barbecue, and vacating your football team's wins for a given season. That seems to be par for the course these days, anyways. Every SportsCenter brings tidings of the latest NCAA investigation or self-imposed penalty.
There is the obvious case of THE Ohio State University (they might consider dropping the 'THE' now that they've been knocked down a few pegs). The loss of a coach, a star QB, and a whole lot of wins have plagued what should have been a summer of preparation for Big 10 (+2) Conference domination. Now the program is mired in one seriously damaged reputation, and staring down the barrel of temporary irrelevance.
The latest vacation of a win comes for the 2009 Georgia Tech ACC Championship. This was due to some of its players receiving improper benefits (again, this is NOTHING new). This latest story, though so similar to its predecessors, has caused me to take pause and really try to analyze what is clearly a major issue in college football.
What good do these vacated wins do? Do they level the playing field in any way? No. Do they really even address the indiscretion? Not at all.
These players did not receive any physical or educational benefits over their opposing student-athletes. While I do not condone athletes taking benefits, their actions in doing so have no impact on the field. Taking the victories away does not change what happened in the course of the game, nor does it impact how people view who won the game. Is it reasonable to act as if the game did not exist? And is it fair to punish the innocent players who played hard and within the bounds of the rules? It seems absurd.
And let's look at the fact that we are in 2011 altering the outcome of a game that happened in 2009. Retroactive, much? One of the true issues is the sluggishness in the governing bodies of the sport to come to conclusions and decisions in their investigations. Some of it may be bureaucratic red tape, but let's look at the Ohio State case. The indiscretion was discovered before the Sugar Bowl. So why were the players not immediately suspended? There is a serious hypocrisy in this. The players are allowed to be used as a monetary tool for the bowl system, but once that use is fulfilled, then they are punished.
But back to the issue of vacating wins. There must be better ways to punish the teams. Heavier fines, perhaps? Obviously, as much as everyone likes to try to pretend that it doesn't, money talks in college football. Reduction of scholarships obviously make an impact, though that may be too severe for the crime.
Whatever the case, there seems to be no signs of slowing with the NCAA compliance machine. There is hardly a major D-1 program that has gone unscathed. Who knows what we will hear in 2 or 3 years about Auburn and Oregon. Will we have another vacated national championship?
Part of the fun of college football is the speculation. But that is better left to the game itself than the off-the-field quandaries. We need to get our control systems back under control.