Disclaimer: You may discredit my opinion because I root for USC, but generally, I try to be consistent about my stance on money-making college sports.
Adam Rose of the L.A. Times‘ All Things Trojan blog is apparently the first to post his initial thoughts of Don Yaeger’s book, based mostly upon the tapes agent Lloyd Lake played for him, on the accusations that Reggie Bush and his family took more than six figures in cash while playing on USC’s split and unified championship teams. If NCAA investigators are able to follow the leads chronicled and lay punishment on Bush and the program within the organization’s rules, so be it. When you accept an athletic scholarship, when you run a football or hoops program in Division I-A, those are the trade-offs you accept, and no amount of bellyaching regarding the fairness of the system negates that. If Bush is found to have violated those rules and USC found to have a lack of institutional control, that’s what happens.
But I don’t know just how many people really care about whether Bush got money on the side or not. Haters of the USC program probably do, but outside of that, how much do people care about a violation in a sport that revolves around so much fraudulence in its post-season and how its champions are decided, among other things? An athletic scholarship is certainly a form of compensation for the blue-chip athlete, but when the sport brings in multi-millions every year, does the education seem like enough when everyone knows you’re not really at school to study anything other than the hashmarks or the parquet floor?
A simple “pay the players” doesn’t address the inherent problem and contradictions, but every time a violation of benefits comes up regarding money and amateur student-athletes at the Division I-A level, it’s worth keeping in mind — and I’ll be interested to see the further reaction once the book is officially released and its citations posted online.