College football is suffering from ‘win at all costs’ mentality

Nov 14, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban shake hands after the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama won 31-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 14, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban shake hands after the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama won 31-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports /

Two things would be better if money were removed from the equation – politics and college sports. College football is in the forefront of that problem right now.

College football provides some tremendous opportunities for young men in this country. If you can run, pass, block, catch or kick with any amount of brilliance, you can have your ticket punched to a free education and a possible shot at the professional level.

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Of the thousands upon thousands of students who enroll in any given school each year, only 85 at each school will receive a football scholarship (sometimes less). That means those students are in a very select group.

It also means that playing football on scholarship should be viewed as a privilege, not to be taken lightly and with strict guidelines surrounding what it takes to maintain that privilege.

Unfortunately it all too often seems to be viewed as an entitlement, with an invisible sphere of protection that would make a Star Fleet admiral envious.

Gridiron Now’s Rachel Baribeau recently stated that ideas of entitlement and enabling are born early in a player’s career and are reinforced by a coach’s “savior complex”, and she’s absolutely right. A change in the culture of this beloved sport has to come about soon, or the ramifications could be incredibly damaging.

All of this – the entitlement, the feeling of being untouchable and above the law, the lack of regard for opportunities being presented – all boil down to one thing…

college football baylor art briles
Nov 5, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles looks on from the sidelines against the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. The Bears won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports /


College football coaches, administrators and even fans have a win-at-all-costs mentality which is doing irreparable damage to the game, and it’s all driven by money.

In many cases (as we saw at Baylor) coaches will do whatever it takes to keep a program winning and to protect their bloated salaries. Administrators look the other way or distance themselves from problems for the same reason, and fans just simply want wins regardless of how they’re obtained.

The only ones not profiting from this twisted game of three shells and a pea are the players, and they are being used as pawns, with little or no regard for their development as decent students and citizens. With the thousands of decent young men out there playing college football, the actions of those sordid few are endangering everyone, and it’s dragging this sport through the sewer.

The sad part is, Baylor – with all the ugliness surrounding the program in the wake of these sexual assault charges – gave us some hope. A program already in the national picture was being focused on for something that has gone unchecked for too long. With the severity of the problem in Waco, it was an opportunity for the leadership within college football to make changes.

Instead, one of the nation’s most visible programs, Mississippi State, decided to enroll a player who had been arrested for repeatedly striking a woman in a parking lot brawl (on videotape, no less). Oh sure, he was admitted with “conditions”, including a flaccid one-game suspension.

So much for grabbing that opportunity to make changes.

The leadership at Mississippi State sent out a message loud and clear, and if you don’t hear it, you have to be deaf.

Character doesn’t matter, violence against women doesn’t matter…only winning and protecting these players matter.

But it’s not just Mississippi State who sings that song, and it’s not a new chorus. Last year Nick Saban and Alabama admitted Jonathan Taylor, who had been dismissed from the Georgia program by Mark Richt after being arrested for domestic violence, only to see him dismissed from the Crimson Tide for yet another similar incident.

Baylor admitted Sam Ukwuachu after his dismissal from Boise State for violent actions toward a former girlfriend, and that was after he had been diagnosed with a dangerous depression disorder, and then of course went on to cover up many more cases of sexual assault.

Tennessee has an ongoing investigation as to whether or not Butch Jones attempted to cover-up a sexual assault, as well as using intimidation against a former player who blew the whistle on the incident, and there are still questions swirling around about what actually happened at Florida State with Jameis Winston and the woman who accused him of sexual assault.

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This culture of complacency and showing more concern about damaging the future of a football player (because we don’t want to cost them potential millions of dollars) rather than the life of an ordinary student who is the victim of a violent crime is tearing at the very fabric of the game.

There are already some who believe, such as Ohio University’s David Ridpath, that college sports is headed down a road to becoming a semi-professional league because the ensconced problems of eligibility maintenance rather than education and the shroud of secrecy within these programs will force the hand of those charged with guarding the sport.

“We can no longer brush the problems facing college sports under the rug. It’s systemic, it’s deep, and eventually it’s just going to cause the whole enterprise to blow up,” Ridpath told me last year.

It’s time, ladies and gentlemen…it’s time to just bite the bullet, and do what’s needed to take the money at the root of all these problems out of the game. Fines, loss of scholarships, postseason and TV bans are just a start. Set a cap on coach and administrator salaries, remove the massive payouts from conferences and bowl games, and slowly phase out any corporate sponsorships.

Turn college football (and all the other sports) back into the enterprise for which it was originally intended, a way for those who want an education badly enough to be able to get it, and for a select few to find their way to professional success.

If the networks want to make their money, that’s their business, but it doesn’t belong in the world of college sports – not to the degree to which it’s been taken.

Money above student safety is what it has become, and the secrecy permeating throughout these locker rooms and athletic dorms is only rivaled by a suburbanite’s weekend binge in Las Vegas.

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When the wins and losses no longer translate to millions of dollars for everyone at these schools (besides the players), coaches and their bosses may take more seriously their role in developing leaders and strong citizens rather than doing anything it takes to field a winning team.