Sick Sick Sick
With Penn State's romp over Northwestern and Ohio State's complete destruction of Nebraska, both on Sunday, the Big Ten finds itself in a very embarrassing position. It is becoming obvious that the two best teams in the Big Ten this year (in which, don't blink, there are twelve teams), are both on probation, both ineligible for the post season, both already eliminated from competition for the conference title and the paperweight formerly known as the Joe Paterno Trophy. This is bad. Penn State is supposed to be in a shambles after losing four years of eligibility, eighty scholarships (twenty per year) and most of their best players to transfers, following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Ohio State, playing under a more mundane one-year bowl ban for recruiting violations, actually poses a bigger problem, not just for the Big Ten but for the NCAA. Sitting at number 8 and undefeated, Urban Meyer's Buckeyes are undefeated and have a very good shot at running the table--particularly considering that they only have conference games remaining (the toughest one being against those self same Nitatny Lions of Penn State). As explained in this piece from Florida Today, the Buckeyes could end up being declared national champions in the AP poll, even without playing a post-season game.
This scenario is a nightmare for the NCAA, just as the success of the two banned teams represent a black eye to the Big Ten. If the best team in the country is not allowed to play in the title game the game will be even more meaningless than it already is. The rampant hypocrisy of the NCAA, with its bogus sanctions and sanctimonious penalties, will be even further exposed. As proponent of the old Bowl system, antipathetic toward any so called "national championship" (I am still upset at the Rose Bowl for joining the BCS), I find this at best amusing. But it is in fact deadly serious for the NCAA
Last year, before realignment forced the BCS to go to a plus-one format (the death knell for traditional post-season football), there was talk that the big conferences, once realignment was complete, would remove their football programs from the NCAA entirely and form their own league with their own rules regarding eligibility. This scenario could lend even more fuel to that fire. Coaches, athletic directors, and alumni all hate the NCAA and their rules. They rightly point out that the NCAA reaps millions of dollars in profits from their football players but refuse to let the university give those player money to buy clothes, go to a movie, or even eat off campus. Presumably, the change would mean more realistic scholarships, cash stipends for players, and a tacit acknowledgement that big-time college football is really a semi-pro farm system for the NFL. In that world, neither Ohio State nor Penn State would likely have been sanctioned at all. The so called "recruiting violations" of Ohio State would be the accepted norm, and Penn State's issues would be dismissed as "not a football matter." They would be happy banning Sandusky and possibly JoePa for life, donate to a victim's fund, and get on with the real business of football, which is putting quality competitive entertainment on television. This new league would of course be organized around a play-off system with an undisputed national champion, and the NCAA would be left trying to hype the successes of the Marshals and Fresno States of the world (maybe not Fresno State. Like TCU and Boise State, they would likely find a place in the New Football World Order).
I would hate it, but the world would love it, and the NCAA will be stuck with basketball, which isn't such a bad thing, after all.
All that aside, you can bet everybody at the NCAA, let alone the Big Ten, will be rooting for Ohio State to beat Penn State when they play, and then for Michigan on Rivalry Week. Because their hypocrisy knows no bounds.