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And Another Thing

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Scandalpalooza

Nevin Shapiro is not exactly your most trusted source of news, seeing as how his current address is the Graybar Hotel, where he's doing a little vacay time for his involvement in a $900-million-and- change Ponzi scheme.

Nonetheless, eyebrows were raised when he told Yahoo! Sports he was the designated sugar daddy for 72 current and former University of Miami football players between 2002 and 2010.

If any or all of this is true, the NCAA has yet another self-generated headache on its hands. In the face of a widening series of scandals in which current and former student-athletes decided they could be just as greedy as the schools employing them, the En Cee Two Ays blathered about reform for the umpteenth time last week, proving once again it has no equal in moving hot air around to no real purpose.

And now, this. Now a fresh set of allegations in which some sleaze-monger booster claims he was running an all-you-can-eat ATM for an impressive list of clients that included a number of notable NFL stars (including Devin Hester of the Bears), not to say some notable current college stars (i.e., Hurricanes' quarterback Jacory Harris and, uh-oh, Purdue quarterback Robert Marve, a Miami transfer).

If even a tenth of this is true, the NCAA should exercise the nuclear option it's been loathe to exercise since it destroyed SMU's program in the 1980s. Frankly, what was going at SMU then looks like starter-kit stuff compared to what's alleged to have gone on at Miami (and what did go on at Ohio State, for which the university might yet suffer dire consequences despite its impressive groveling before the powers-that-be). So the death penalty wouldn't be inappropriate.

Here's the rub, though: The reason the NCAA is loathe to drop the big one, especially on a high-profile program, is because it would be a lousy business decision. And high-end college football in the era of the BCS is purely a business, driven by profitability and profitability alone. It has as much to do with the the academic mission of the universities it "represents" as a bowling ball has to do with a flight of geese.

You want to know when I knew this for sure?

It was at the news conference announcing the creation of the BCS' predecessor, 15 or so years ago. There on the podium were not only the representatives of the conferences who'd be involved in the nascent Alliance, but representatives of their corporate partners, ABC. And suddenly those of us who were there to report on the announcement were left in the uncomfortable position of de facto promoting a competitor's product.

College football divorced itself from the "college" part of its equation (or at least what the "college" part was supposed to represent) at that instant. That it might also have divorced itself from its soul is now just becoming apparent.

Ben Smith's blog.

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