The Yahoo Sports article on the improper benefits provided to football players at the University of Miami by just one booster is certainly generating plenty of buzz this week. There is talk of University President Donna Shalala losing her job and the Hurricanes becoming the second school ever to suffer the "Death Penalty"--being forced by the NCAA to suspend its football program for major rules violations. It's certainly easy to sit here in Wisconsin and point at Miami and get all sanctimonious saying "I'm glad that's not the way we do things at our school."
The Badger fan in me wants to believe that the Wisconsin program--in all sports--is doing everything by the book and above board. But the reporter part of me has that nagging feeling that it's just a matter of time before the Badgers join the long list of schools with "reported improprieties". So far the only incident was the infamous "Shoe Box" scandal--where athletes were getting discounts that may or may not have been offered to all other UW students. You may recall, it cost a number of starters several games and created negative momentum for a team that was considered a favorite to make a run for the Rose Bowl.
In no way am I saying that I know about violations in the Athletic Department--and I'm not saying that I've even heard anything. I am saying that we just shouldn't go around with a "holier than thou" attitude--because we know those people usually end up getting their come-uppance in the end. Just ask Ohio State fan--who has seen that program brought to its knees by players trading their jerseys and game-worn equipment for free tattoos--compounded by their former head coach knowing about it and trying to cover it up--then lying about trying to cover it up. Michigan had its own scandal--with a former head coach violating the NCAA limit on practice time.
It's unfortunate we have come to this point--where everybody has to be held to a certain level of suspicion. (OK, maybe we don't have to worry about Northwestern cheating). You have to ask yourself why that powerful running back from Florida has decided to matriculate in the upper Midwest. You have to wonder who is the guy with the flashy watch and "special guest" credential standing with the Athletic Director on the sidelines during the game. And you have to question who owns the shiny new SUV with the custom rims parked next to the stadium--is that a coach's or player's (purchased by a single parent who couldn't afford to send their child to college without an athletic scholarship just two years ago)?
As the NCAA peels away the "layers of the onion" that could represent the Miami football scandal to find out who knew what and when--you will hear about everyone from the Head Coach to the Athletic Director to Donna Shalala herself saying that had "no idea such a thing was going on in our program." While they can claim to be so naive or worse--so blatantly ignorant--we the fans shouldn't be.