Against the backdrop of the increasing politicization of football, the sports journos and announcers have failed to note some important issues during the national championship series.

The game between Alabama and Washington was played in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the conservative company liberals love to hate.

The company’s leadership donated money to oppose same-sex marriage and is influenced by Southern Baptist beliefs, including closing its restaurants on Sundays, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The announcers dodged any discussion of these important issues.

Then there was the other semifinal game between Clemson and Ohio State, which was played at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

According to the New York Times, the university and its holding company have been the target of “state and federal investigations into allegations of shady recruiting, deceptive advertising and questionable financial aid practices.” The University of Phoenix has received millions of federal dollars from programs intended to help veterans and low-income students. But the students end up with heavy debt and few marketable skills. A Defense Department ban that prohibited Phoenix from recruiting on military bases was recently revoked, but the company remains under heightened scrutiny. The Times also reports that enrollment at the school “has been falling and profits shrinking, casting doubt on the future health of the industry.”

Hmm… I didn’t hear anything about the problems during the game, only the glowing ads promoting the U.

Then there’s the final matchup, which will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Raymond James Financial has had a number of run-ins over questionable securities practices.

In 2011, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ordered the company to pay restitution of $1.69 million to 15,500 clients for charging excessive commissions on more than 27,000 securities transactions. The trades were made in client accounts between 2006 and 2010. FINRA also fined the company nearly half a million dollars.

Earlier this year, the company was involved in a $350 million real estate scandal in Vermont, agreeing to pay the state nearly $6 million for violating securities laws. Here is some background on the case: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/money/2016/06/30/vt-reaches-595-million-settlement-raymond-james/86550308/

In a separate case, the company agreed to pay $17 million in fines for violating money laundering standards. It was the highest fine in the history of such investigations. Here is some background on this case: http://www.wsj.com/articles/raymond-james-to-pay-17-million-fine-for-anti-money-laundering-lapses-1463590634

The financial company will get a lot of good publicity during the game because it’s unlikely viewers will hear the rest of the story.


Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist who teaches media law.

Ford Field
Ford Field, site of the Quick Lane Bowl

By John Ruberry

One has to wonder if college football is headed to an every-participant-gets-a-ribbon level of competition. Not including the NCAA championship face-off, there will be a record 40 college bowl games this season, which means 63 percent of FBS programs will play in a bowl contest. And despite some of these teams fattening up against next-level-down teams in non-conference games, for instance Illinois clobbered Western Illinois 44-0, there aren’t enough teams with 6-6 records or better to fill all of these bowl slots.

Which means some 5-7 FBS teams–Illinois could be one of those squads–may still be graced with a bowl entry. At least two losers–and as many as five–will be bowl invitation winners. But another 5-7 Big 10 team, Nebraska, may have a leg up. The NCAA has a loser contingency plan–I’m sure they call it something more palatable–which rewards schools with the highest Academic Progress Rate. The Cornkuskers have the highest APR among the 5-7s.

Hey, studying finally counts for something in college sports! That’s an improvement. On the other hand, Nebraska’s fans are intensely loyal and even a Cornhusker team with a losing record makes them an attraction for a low-level bowl. Follow the money.

And what about the games themselves? Let’s take a look at Detroit’s Quick Lane Bowl, which will be played at Ford Field on December 28. It has tie-ins with the Big 10 and the Atlantic Coast Conference. But because there are not enough B1G or ACC bowl-eligible teams, Campus Insiders projects that another Big 10 loser, Minnesota. will face off against Central Michigan of the Mid American Conference. The Chippewas are 7-5–good for them.

NCAA football: Where you can be a winner and a loser at the same time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

Last week the NCAA agreed to restore the 111 victories it forced the Penn State Nittany Lions football team to vacate as part of its penalty for covering up the child sex abuse crimes of the team’s longtime defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky. Once again Penn State’s College Hall of Fame coach, Joe Paterno, is the NCAA’s all-time winningest head coach at 409 wins.

Paterno, who died in 2012 two months after Penn State fired him, knew of two of Sandusky’s sexual assaults: a 1998 incident that led to Sandusky’s surprising (at the time) retirement the next year and Sandusky’s 2001 rape of a ten year-old boy in the showers of the football team. By then Sandusky, who received a cushy retirement package that included full access to the Nittany Lion athletic facilities, was also given emeritus status at the school.

I watched Paterno’s last victory–although no one knew that it would be so at the time–on television against Illinois, a dull and sloppy home game in the snow that Penn State won, or I should say, didn’t lose, 10-7. That 409th win was one of many landmark victories for Paterno–he passed Grambling’s Eddie Robinson to become the all-time Division 1 leader in wins. But JoePa coached his team from the press box, protected by glass from the unseasonable cold.

A similar glass wall of protection shields Paterno to this day. The public became aware of the Sandusky scandal a few days after win 409 and Paterno, along with the school president, was fired the following week. But JoePa couldn’t be fired in person, supporters had surrounded his home and Paterno got canned by way of a telephone call. Students rioted in response to JoePa’s dismissal. The next summer Penn State was hit by brutal NCAA sanctions, including a ban on bowl games for four years, drastic scholarship cuts, a $60 million fine, and the removal of those 111 wins. Those victories dated back to 1998, when Paterno became aware of a Sandusky sexual assault.

Paterno’s able successor, Bill O’Brien, left Penn State after two seasons working under those draconian sanctions. He had decried the pressure of the “Paterno people” at the college, that glass wall. O’Brien committed the sin of not being JoePa.

In 2013 some of the pulled scholarships were restored by the NCAA and last year the team’s bowl-ban was removed.

John "Lee" Ruberry
John “Lee” Ruberry

Perversely, the Penn State hockey team chose to celebrate, yes celebrate, the restoration of the Paterno wins by donning “409” stickers on their helmets for its game against Michigan State Friday night.

Paterno’s glass wall is getting stronger–and I believe there is something wrong with that. Penn State–you have a problem.

There is some good news. Penn State lost that hockey game.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By Steve Eggleston

For decades, there has been a major criticism of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-A); namely, that it didn’t have a playoff to determine a champion. That is a legacy of two things – the bowl game regime, and the fact that the football subdivision is the only sport/division combination where the NCAA does not run a championship. While various organizations, most notably the Associated Press and the American Football Coaches Association (released by various media organizations throughout its history, currently USA Today) run polls to rank the teams, a post-bowl unofficial champion declared by the two biggest polls is a relatively recent feature, with the AP beginning a permanent post-bowl poll in 1968 and the AFCA doing so in 1974.

The biggest problem is that the various bowls had, and for the most part, still do have, well-guarded tie-ins with specific conferences well after the regular season (and later, conference championship games). That meant that, for decades, it was likely that the top two ranked teams would not play in a post-season bowl game, and that there could be multiple undefeated teams after all the games were played.

That changed a bit for the 1992 season, when 5 of the 7 “power” conferences, plus Notre Dame, and several bowl committees got together to ensure that the two best of their members would play in a bowl game, with the AFCA declaring the winner of that game their national “champion” despite not having any Big Ten team, the Pac-10 champion or any team either in a “mid-major” conference or independent not named Notre Dame eligible for that “championship”. The Bowl Coalition (1992-1994) and its successor the Bowl Alliance (1995-1997) lasted until it created a split “championship” in the third year that was a significant possibility going into the bowl season.

After that happened, the 4 surviving conferences finally convinced the committee that runs the Rose Bowl to release the Big Ten and Pac-10/Pac-12 champion to a “championship” game in exchange for hosting that game once every 4 years, and thus the Bowl Championship Series began. It survived a “split” championship in 2003 when the humans and computers disagreed on which two teams were the best, and a serious challenge from the “mid-major” conferences in the mid-to-late 2000s, but after the 2012 BCS “championship” game was a rematch of a SEC West matchup, plans were made for a very-limited, 4-team playoff.

Contrast that with Division I’s Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). It has a 24-team playoff, including all 12 of the conference winners from conferences that don’t bar its teams from post-season competition. The time of year isn’t an issue there, as since the NCAA expanded the field to 20 teams for the 2010 season, the championship game has been in January. The number of games isn’t an issue either – depending on how many Saturdays there are between the Labor Day weekend and the end of November, the champion can play as many as 17 games.

The reason I bring it up is Marshall, currently at 10-0 in Conference USA, and now one of only two unbeaten FBS teams, is likely going to be shut out despite having a good shot at going 13-0 through its conference championship game, with none of its wins thus far being closer than 15 points. Of course, the fact that only 2 of Marshall’s opponents had a winning record going into today might have something to do with that, but that didn’t stop either the coaches or the AP from declaring BYU the national “champions” after the 1984 season.

This story doesn’t do a thing for me:

In interviews with Yahoo! Sports, a former Miami booster named Nevin Shapiro said that while he was cutting checks to the university of from 2002 through 2010 he was also providing impermissible benefits to 72 athletes — most of them football players, including 12 on the Hurricanes’ current roster.

Among the benefits: sex parties with prostitutes, nightclub and strip club visits, cash, cars, jewelry, clothing, travel, televisions and bounty payouts to players for knocking out quarterbacks, “hit of the game” and “big plays.”

Let’s cut to the chase: College football players are cash cows for universities. They generate millions of revenue for them and they are prohibited from profiting from it. It is an inherently unfair and dishonest relationship and because of that it leads to the type of corruption you see here.

I think the system should be scrapped and a percentage of the take be paid to the players as a stipend. The majority of these guys are here in the hopes of making the NFL and the big money, lets acknowledge that and pay them accordingly instead of using them as indentured servants

Anyway that’s my take.