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Unlike the NCAA, the NFL admits it's all about winning

Rochester Business Journal
September 9, 2011

Yes, Hank Jr., I am really ready for some football! But unlike all those gridiron guzzlers out there, I’m not ready for all of it.
 
What’s that? Sure, I’ll explain. I don’t live and die with pro football, but I enjoy watching NFL teams play, even though the game is way too brutal. I’m fired up about what I’m hoping will be a significantly improved Buffalo Bills team. I’m squeezing for the Saints to bring another Super Bowl victory celebration to Bourbon Street down in New Orleans. I want to see QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Drew Brees light it up.
 
I’m anxious to see how well Michael Vick plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m curious to see if Reggie Bush performs better for the Miami Dolphins than he did for the Saints—and since he’s now in the AFC East, I hope he doesn’t, at least not against the Bills. I wonder when (if?) Peyton Manning will be back under center for the Indianapolis Colts.
 
In other words, questions abound, and only time will provide the answers. This should be—and let’s hope I’m right—an interesting season.
 
I’m sorry, Hank, but that’s where my interest in football ends. No, college football, especially Division I college football, does not turn me on. In fact, it’s 180 degrees from there: It not only turns me off but almost makes me toss my cookies.
 
See, Hank, in case you haven’t noticed, there is nothing phony about the NFL. It’s all about winning, and the owners, general managers and coaches don’t pretend anything else means anything. As Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis said decades ago: Just win, baby.
 
In the NFL, there are no so-called “student athletes.” They’re all there for fame and fortune and make no bones about it. It’s the same for thousands of college players, but they just won’t admit it.
 
There are some exceptionally studious athletes, of course. My favorite is former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page, a Pro Football Hall of Fame player who is now a Minnesota Supreme Court justice. I remember him once describing how surprised he had been at training camp that so many of the defensive linemen couldn’t even read the Vikings playbook.
 
Why? Well, in case you haven’t noticed lately, several big-time football programs have broken the rules to keep players academically eligible so the head coach can win enough games to keep his job. Or the schools have seen to it that some superstar gets enough of whatever under the table so he won’t leave.
 
Thanks to the National Collegiate Asinine Association, coaches, cousins, wealthy alumni—in fact, everyone except Mom and Dad—cannot provide anything to a college player that can be counted or has a price tag on it. It’s a problem that needs to be solved. A friend of mine suggested the other day that it would be better if big-time college football players didn’t have to enroll at school, just get a year of free education for every year they played for the team.
 
There has never been any doubt in my mind that there are many more D-I programs that haven’t been caught cheating yet. Maybe even many more than many. And I was right. The NCAA reported this summer that 103 of the 120 colleges in the Bowl Championship Series have committed a major violation in one of their sports programs. And only four of the clean 17—Boston College, Northwestern, Penn State and Stanford—are in one of the six BCS conferences.
 
The problem is, of course, that there is so much pressure on D-I head coaches to win enough games to get invited to a bowl game that brings money to the school. Still, if you tied the college president and the athletic director in a chair and whipped them with a rubber hose, they’d never admit that. Hey, sometimes the truth hurts worse than a rubber hose.
 
Having said all this, I will still cheer for the Demons of my alma mater, Northwestern State University. And if they lose to the LSU Tigers on Saturday night, which is highly likely, I won’t mind if LSU has a great season, even wins the national championship (and doesn’t get caught).
 
Otherwise, it would tickle me pink if Auburn, Miami, Southern Cal, Ohio State and those other you-know-who cheaters all went 0-11. Sometime, somewhere and somehow, the NCAA should clean up all the garbage piled up in D-I athletics.
 
Will it happen? No way, as long as it remains the PFO—the Phony Football Organization.
 
Rick Woodson’s column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, “Words of Woodson,” is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, “The Golf Tee,” at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.3.9/09/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.


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