Cam Newton won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, amid considerable hand-wringing over charges of theft and academic fraud during his short stay at the University of Florida, and his father's subsequent shopping of his talents to Mississippi State. The NCAA is a semi-voluntary institution that governs the organization of intercollegiate athletics. Of particular importance is maintaining the sanctity (and dignity) of university sports and, particularly, the amateur status of its athletes.
Thus Cam Newton's past reminds us of Reggie Bush, the phenomenal running back at USC who won the Heisman in 2005, but whose team was stripped of its victories over improper recruiting and payments to himself and others. Bush took a brave and unprecedented stand of returning the trophy, saying the scandal should not stain "the dignity of this award."
The NCAA holds very dear the sanctity of its amateur athletes. So too does the Heisman, whose award "annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity." But this rant isn't about the Heisman.
While Cam Newton was being flogged by charges of pay-for-play and undermining the dignity and integrity of the sport, this is the schedule of the 36 NCAA Division I football bowl games:
New Mexico Bowl • Humanitarian Bowl • New Orleans Bowl • Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl • Maaco Bowl • Poinsttia Bowl • Hawai’i Bowl • Little Caesar’s Bowl • Independence Bowl • Champs Sports Bowl • Insight Bowl • Military Bowl • Texas Bowl • Alamo Bowl • Armed Forces Bowl • Pinstripe Bowl • Music City Bowl • Holiday Bowl • Meineke Car Care Bowl • Sun Bowl • Liberty Bowl • Chick fil A Bowl • TicketCity Bowl • Outback Bowl • Capital One Bowl • Gator Bowl • Rose Bowl • Fiesta Bowl • Orange Bowl • Sugar Bowl • GoDaddy.com Bowl • Cotton Bowl • BBVA Compass Bowl • Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl • BCS National Championship Game
Never mind that each bowl game brings millions into the NCAA and university athletics—and thus are designed less for showcasing the best teams and more for drawing television and stadium audiences.
Consider the sanctity of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, the Go Daddy.com Bowl, or the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Now tell me for what is the NCAA preserving the purity of the amateur athlete, if it is willing to degrade the amateur nature of university sports in general?
Traditional rivalries like the Rose Bowl, even the Army-Navy game (now in its 101st year), take lifetimes to build, and can be torn down in an instant by slapping on a corporate logo. In doing so, the NCAA robs not only us but also our grandchildren, who will ask: who was Beef O'Brady and what's he got that Cam Newton doesn't have?