I have been watching the NBC syndicated series “Friday Night Lights” the past couple of weeks. In the current season, the head coach for the fictional Dillon Panthers Eric Taylor, portrayed by Kyle Chandler, informs his players that any recruiting violations will hurt the player and team. Many of the recruiters for the universities push for Dillon’s top-rated running back, Smash Williams. The majority of these recruiters offer Smash special treatment, money, and even cars if he will chose to attend their university or college. But in the end, Smash never accepts any bribes because his mother and Coach Taylor do not allow him to accept these offers and settles for a lower football program where he could be a star.
It has come to my attention though that many college prospects/athletes are being suspended under NCAA recruiting violations. These violations are a problem; yes I did just say it is a problem because these violations have been around forever. I would not have to dig far into the past to find examples of paying players and giving away “gifts” and preferential treatment to players. Look at the “death penalty” sanctioned placed on Southern Methodist University’s football program in 1987. After years and years of boosters making contracts with SMU players, the NCAA finally cracked down on the Mustangs for illegal methods of recruiting. Though bad recruiting was rampant during the 80’s, especially in the Big Eight, somebody had to be the example, unfortunately that was SMU.
The new problem now is not involving the university program directly, but the involvement of program boosters, prospects’ families, and prospects’ advisors.
Recall the case of former Mississippi State Power Foward Renardo Sydney. Sydney was a local idol in Jackson, gyms were packed to watch the Junior High wonder perform on a basketball court. Yet there seems to be a shady figure in a young star’s career, for Renardo this figure was his very own father. Instead of allowing his son to play for his local high school, Jackson Forest Hill, Renardo Sydney, Sr. pulled his son out of Mississippi and shipping his son to California to play for Los Angeles Fairfax. During his illustrious high school career, Sydney, Sr. opened a non-profit. The non-profit organization funneled the funds to get Renardo free hotel accommodation, athletic gear, and even skills training. The NCAA cracked down on Renardo Sydney, Jr. though honestly it was Sydney, Sr. who caused the trouble.
It is not just Renardo Sydney that have had that shadowy figures come into their lives and try to take control. The fall from glory for Reggie Bush has wiped away his household name status, and made him the ire of college football and the Heisman Trophy. But it was Bush’s own family members who accepted these improper benefits from USC boosters.
People want to blame the NCAA for doing too much in the case of recruiting violations. But I think that they are doing the right thing. In the times of almost every parent wanting to find the big bucks through their child’s athletic ability, and going to great lengths to insure their child success. And sometimes using that great success to insure they too get a big slice of the pie.
I just want people to remember this; the reason behind playing a game is not to get money or benefits. The main reason kids go outside and play is to have fun. It is not to get a big house or condo or even the flashy car. Games are meant to teach right from wrong and what some parents, relatives, or advisors are doing is wrong and needs to be ruled out to keep the purity of high school and college sports.