Holy smokes, Batman! The day of reckoning is finally here (for some).
Major college football has a locomotive barreling down the tracks, not unlike the one almost killed Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters. Unlike the fourth Ghostbuster, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish find themselves in a position where neither the Statue of Liberty, baby Oscar, nor Rick Moranis can help them out.
That’s right: a Notre Dame academic scandal has been unleashed on the free world and the rest of the story is, um, you know — the story.
Here is the thing: We all know — or at least pretend to care to know — that cheating in college is wrong. Whether you are a football player at a major university or Willy McBoomsticks at the University of Broken Dreams. Cheating is just wrong, right?
But do you really care? Like, honest to whichever god it is that you worship, do you care that some twenty-something year-old kid is cheating the system? I’m not even talking about Jonny Fivestar football player. If it doesn’t involve him, the answer is probably not.
He is just cheating himself out of an education and/or being better prepared for the real world; because nothing says being prepared in the real world like never using what you majored in college in whatever field actually ends up being your profession.
Alas, I can acknowledge we aren’t talking about the McBoomsticks of the world. We are talking about four (or more?) Notre Dame Fighting Irish football players, Touchdown Jesus, a supposed academically inclined school, NBC TV deals, major college football, hundreds of millions of dollars and academic fraud, all adding to the shadow cast over Brian Kelly’s tenure that already includes a manager’s death, a fake girlfriend scandal and the academic fraud of his starting quarterback.
So, yeah, hooray college football offseason.
I guess the lens you view this story depends on your affiliations. Notre Dame fans will stick by their guys regardless. I mean, how was Kelly — a man much ballyhooed for his micromanaging — supposed to know that a handful of youngsters were not living up to their end of the learning from books bargain?
Either way, Bruce Feldman reports Notre Dame’s sprung into action, dismissing DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore.
Notre Dame puts academics even above winning, after all — at least, that’s the narrative told through university infomercials during NBC broadcasts
Then there are the people who dislike Notre Dame for whatever reason they hate them as much as they do the New York Yankees, LA Lakers, Marty Jannetty, and all other things that tend to be great for long period of times. Notre Dame’s detractors are more excited about this than Irish fans are disappointed.
Now, through 140 characters or less, they will get to poke fun at Notre Dame’s prestigious university because some players cheated. They will also throw out history and act as if this is something that has never happened before — as if UNC isn’t still in an academic scandal of their own — and say this is what is wrong with college football. And, hey, you know what? Maybe it is. Except that it isn’t.
We ask players to play on national TV, travel all across the country, spend as much time on the road as they do in their classrooms, all while we clamor for “our” teams to keep winning. Oh, by the way, we also want all you kids to get good grades and do it the right way — whatever the right way is.
Not just at Notre Dame but with college sports academic scandals as a whole are so much more complex than any of us typically give thought to. As we continue to ask more from players we also expect them to continue to keep up the end of previous bargains.
Get good grades; travel a lot more to play in more games with greater TV exposure; endure 24/7 coverage; be put on a pedestal until we decide to knock you off; be judged through a microscope that could detect the earliest stages of evolution; eat more (or less); watch your weight; play for free or a cap; let blogs talk about you as a player and person without treating you as an actual person; allow jokes to be made about you on social media; dismiss talk about the pros and cons of your abilities; and in the end you will likely go pro in something other than sports.
Do it this way — the way we say you’re supposed to — and we’ll love you for it. Maybe.
So, as we continue to ask these kids to stuff 50-pounds of awesomeness in a five-pound bag, they suffer. We ask, and ask, and ask for them to treat their bodies and minds like temples so we don’t have to. All in the name of the sanctimonious world of collegiate athletics (and academics now, I guess?).
A world, mind you, that has already been in need of reform for decades now, but let’s all ignore the need for reform because the Fighting Irish are evil and easy targets. Meanwhile, four students’ academic lives are in jeopardy.
Nobody cares. You don’t honestly care if Larry Wallyfullback gets a good education. You just care if he is good enough to help your favorite team win. And maybe if he helps the team you hate win, he can violate an NCAA rule and history can be rewritten to count your team’s losses against his as wins. Victory!
So, honestly, what is it? Do you care that four kids cheated? Or do you care that Notre Dame players cheated? Because there is a difference — neither of which solves any problems — but it might open you up to being a little more thoughtful before you tweet about a kid cheating at a school you hate.
This isn’t to say that Notre Dame should get a pass. Kicking kids out of school isn’t solving this issue and if they (meaning Brian Kelly or important members of faculty) knew about this, then this is a much bigger, systemic problem.
But, again, what about the kids? Because the public wants its blood, they get expelled from school so the university can save its own reputation — or its own ass.
A more detailed investigation is going to happen, and it will probably uncover more secrets and dirty tidbits that we already thought most major college sports programs operated on.
And yet, we will still gasp, feign shock, and claim that this is what is wrong with college sports. I will just never understand it.
We all know the ruse. I mean, we have been here countless times before this, nearly every year, since before college sports started making big money.
What did we learn about Notre Dame since the news of the scandal broke? Nothing new. Nothing new about how schools that get a large portion of money from sports operate, anyway.
However, there can be an open, honest, and — hopefully — smart conversation to be had about these scandals happening more frequently. So many questions to be asked.
Are there really more or are we more aware because we cover college sports so extensively?
Are student-athletes just being asked to do too many things to honestly expect them to act like full-time students?
Who is to blame for letting these guys do this?
Are we, as fans, culpable because we care so much about our favorite programs winning that we are willing to sacrifice and treat these kids as non-human humans?
And that just scratches the surface.
Alas, we know these conversations won’t be had. Instead it will be more mongrel talk, hot sports takes and pointing our collective fingers at everyone else while screaming about all the injustices of the world. Because, you know, we are all perfect– as long as we keep a good distance from the actual issue.
Just make sure we do all of that while we ignore things of more consequence and continue to act like the student-athletes (even the ones who cheated) are as much victims in this as is the school that Notre Dame may have beat when one of the players shouldn’t have been playing.
The Notre Dame academic scandal has bore down on all of us. Are you ready? Because I don’t think you are.