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Ben Smith

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NCAA logic is simply impossible to understand

I swore I wouldn’t do this.

I swore I would swear off trying to decipher the logic of the NCAA, which is no logic at all and therefore makes my head ache like a thousand gnomes with sledgehammers were laying a railroad through my brain. The secret to thinking about the NCAA’s fantasy world, I’d discovered, was not to think.

And so “I think, therefore I am,” becomes “I don’t think, therefore telling former Colorado player Jeremy Bloom he can’t play football because he skis professionally makes perfect sense.” Simple.

Of course, then I read that, as with every football team in every college bowl game, Notre Dame’s football players will be getting a bunch of free stuff for playing in the Pinstripe Bowl – including, but not limited to, a Playstation 4.

And suddenly, here come the gnomes with the sledgehammers.

Suddenly I’m wondering why it’s perfectly kosher for some moneybags in a bowl blazer to give college football players Playstation 4s, but if some other moneybags not wearing a bowl blazer did it, the NCAA would throw the players and their school in its roomy hoosegow.

I get that the latter is an “impermissible benefit,” but why isn’t the former?

And, yes, in theory, I know why. It’s because college football is a business above all else, no matter how much it pretends to be otherwise. And so a school’s dealings with a bowl game are a business transaction: You help sell tickets and plump up the TV ratings for our bowl game, and in return we’ll pay you large sums of money and, while we’re it, show you a good time.

Which includes free stuff for the players. And which is OK in this case, because it’s all part of the contract between the school and the bowl game.

Still ... how can taking free stuff in one instance be a crime against humanity, but taking it in another instance isn’t? If the principle of an “impermissible benefit” is that it’s something that’s not available to all students ... well, how many regular grade hounds at Notre Dame are getting free gaming systems from the Pinstripe Bowl? Right. Zippo.

And here’s something else: Let’s say one of Notre Dame’s players decides to sell his PS4 to his roommate. That would be an NCAA violation, but how, exactly?

Didn’t the bowl blazers, with the expressed permission of the NCAA, say, “Here, this is yours”? Well, if it’s yours, aren’t you free to do with it what you wish? Isn’t that what “yours” means?

My head. My aching head.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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