Dave Sittler: Stoops wrong about state of college football
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
6/21/11 at 4:33 AM
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The next debate I win with Bob Stoops will be the first one.
It's not that Stoops truly believes he has always been on the right during his 12-plus years at Oklahoma. He's just not about to concede defeat to any media member.
I get that. But Stoops is wrong when he defends the current state of college football like he did when I asked OU's coach if the sport is in trouble.
"Not at all," said an emphatic Stoops two weeks ago, while in Tulsa as part of the Sooner Caravan. "Look at all the great programs out there. Look at all the great players out there who are doing it the right way."
Stoops has good reason to toe the company line. His profile is one of the highest in all of college sports, as is his salary.
Trust me; this is one debate I'd love to lose to Stoops. But the evidence that's stacked against his point of view continues to mount.
Shoot, the most heated competition in college athletics these days seems to be the battle between football and men's basketball to see who can create the biggest cesspool.
Perhaps Stoops will change his opinion after he retires, much like Urban Meyer. A month after he left Florida, Meyer revealed his true feelings about the escalating problems in the sport he had long defended.
"It's out of control," Meyer said in a February interview with an Indianapolis radio station. "We have to get that back on track."
Also the head coach at Bowling Green and Utah, Meyer said he wouldn't have picked the coaching profession if he knew 25 years ago what he's witnessed in recent seasons.
"If (I knew) you had to deal with some of the stuff you are dealing with ... the off-the-field (problems), the agent issues, the violation issues," Meyer said, "and all the garbage that is out there right now, I certainly would not have gotten into coaching."
Stoops' claim of greatness is countered by Meyer's contention of garbage.
It's the dramatic fall from grace by a couple of powerhouse programs that has brought national attention to the fact that the college game is indeed in serious trouble.
Names like Ohio State and Southern California are as big as it gets in college football. The Trojans have already been slapped with stout NCAA sanctions, while Ohio State might be headed for even stiffer penalties.
Jim Tressel's profile was on the same level as Stoops', perhaps even higher. But Tressel is now the former Ohio State coach, forced to resign after getting caught lying to the NCAA and attempting to cover up a scandal involving some of his best players.
Cheating in college sports started long before Tressel or Stoops were born. Indiana professor Murray Sperber, a relentless crusader to clean up the mess, points out in his speeches that rules were violated in the first collegiate athletic event, when ineligible athletes were used in the Harvard-Yale rowing race in 1852.
Some of the most flagrant cheating in history occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne recently recalled that slimy era, when schools used the three "C's" to buy players - clothes, cash and cars.
Some college administrators fear the serious nature of the problems uncovered at USC and Ohio State are signs we're headed back to those wild, lawless times that diminished somewhat when Southern Methodist was given the so-called death penalty in 1985.
What can be done to stop this disturbing trend? Ever since Mark Emmert became president of the NCAA in April 2010, he's talked tough and called for stiffer punishments.
But Emmert sounded a lot like Stoops when he delivered the annual state-of-the-NCAA speech at the 2011 Final Four in Houston in April.
"What I want to make sure, having seen firsthand and come to understand all the things that are right in intercollegiate athletes, I don't want that to get lost because of a small portion of things that are wrong," Emmert said. "Like it or not, the things that are wrong often wind up being highlighted. That's not a shot at the media; that's just the way the world works."
When Stoops debated the health of college football a fortnight ago, he said, "There will be a national championship this year, there will be a Top 10 and there will be a Heisman Trophy winner."
All of those points are valid.
But so are these: USC's Reggie Bush had to return the Heisman Trophy he won in 2004, and the Trojans have been stripped of the 2004 BCS national title.
Auburn could lose the 2010 national title and Tigers quarterback Cam Newton could suffer Bush's fate if an ongoing NCAA investigation uncovers violations.
Yes, the 2011 season will happen as scheduled. But will the national champion and Heisman winner eventually lose those honors because the college football mess that definitely exists wasn't cleaned up?
Sadly, the debate must continue.