Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby made national headlines at Media Days last week when he said that “cheating pays” in college football. Bowlsby painted a bleak picture of the sport’s moral landscape, saying that schools are committing rules violations left and right and that the NCAA’s enforcement system is virtually non-existent.
“I think he hit the proverbial nail right on the head,” 60 Minutes Sports correspondent Armen Keteyian said on The MoJo Show. “I do believe that the NCAA – right now, in this moment in time – is overmatched and is outgunned. I have said this (before) and I’ll say it again: I don’t think there’s ever been a better time in the 30 years that I’ve been covering the NCAA to cheat than right now.”
Keteyian has the data and anecdotes to support that claim. In 2013, he – along with co-author Jeff Benedict – released The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football. In the book, Keteyian and Benedict told the corruption tales of countless students at countless schools, including Ricky Seals-Jones, a 6-5 wide receiver prospect from Sealy, Texas, who signed with Texas A&M.
“The number that was placed and that was floated to his father by people that were representing one school in the ACC and another school in the SEC was $600,000,” Keteyian said. “People would blanch at that and say, ‘How in the world is that possible that somebody would be worth $600,000 to a program?’ But when you start to do the math and you (realize) if you can bring in three or four or five game-changing athletes to a program – whether they be a wide receiver or a cornerback or a quarterback – and you’re dealing with payouts in playoff games that are in the multiples of tens of millions of dollars, (it’s a bargain). The money factor starts to make sense.”
“And the other thing,” Keteyian continued, “is it’s easier to cheat than ever. It’s gotten far more sophisticated. The money moves (and) is virtually impossible to trace.”
ATMs, cash, casino chips. There are ways.
Meanwhile, the NCAA, still reeling from the Nevin Shapiro case at Miami, remains in over its head. It doesn’t help that several of its top investigators are gone, having left to work as compliance officers in major conferences.
And yet, while Mark Emmert has been a punching bag for national media, he has tried to stand up and fight the system head-on.
“I’m not denigrating the hard work,” Keteyian said. “On the other side of the equation, Mark Emmert has been pounding the table about this since August 2011. And he has, through the executive board and everything else, simplified and strengthened the penalty structure. He’s added investigators. There are about 59 – up from 41 in 2010. He’s toughened the penalties. Plus, you can suspend a coach for a year.”
“The problem is, the investigators are overwhelmed and they’re inexperienced and they use these jobs as stepping stones to compliance jobs in the bigger schools,” Keteyian continued. “So on one side of the equation, you have a very sophisticated cheating structure. On the other side, you have inexperienced, overwhelmed (investigators) trying to fight off this corruption. I think Bob, to his credit, and (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delaney, to his credit, has called it out. It is what it is right now.”