With allegations swirling around Auburn star Cam Newton and to a lesser
degree former University of North Carolina star Hakeem Nicks getting
paid and paying, respectively, it makes you wonder what really goes on
behind the scenes during the college recruiting process.
I have believed and will continue to believe that universities have been
paying players in one form or another for decades. ESPN’s 30 for 30
movie “The Greatest That Never Was,” the Marcus Dupree story
(a must-see by the way), openly discussed the improprieties involved in
his recruitment battle for his services between Texas and Oklahoma (and
others), and that was 30 years ago.
With 13 different top D-1 colleges all vying for Dupree’s services, one
can only imagine the various offers and personal favors that were
afforded to one of the most highly recruited athletes ever. Oklahoma
flew Heisman Trophy winner (Dupree’s boyhood idol) Billy Sims in for a
personal visit to help “persuade” Dupree into becoming a Sooner while
both Oklahoma and the University of Texas had a member of its
recruitment team move down Dupree’s hometown for months to help keep the
Longhorns and Sooners fresh on his mind. Oklahoma eventually won the
“bidding war” for Dupree but after a falling out with Sooners coach
Barry Switzer Dupree left school after his freshman season and only came
back after a new double-wide trailer for his grandmother magically
showed up in her yard courtesy of Sooner Nation.
The point of the Dupree references are only being made to show the
correlation between then and now. The difference is … there is no
difference. Yesterday’s Marcus Dupree is today’s Cam Newton. And today’s
Cam Newton will be tomorrow’s sixth-grade standout. Dupree received
jewelry, women and cash and Newton likely received the same with
30-years of inflation factored in.
I’m not saying I’m a proponent of breaking NCAA rules and paying star
athletes for their services, but I’m also not naive enough to think that
it doesn’t happen each and every year when a star high school senior
starts considering where he’ll attend school the following Fall. Whether
it’s shoes, clothes, women or cars, star athletes having been receiving
“perks” to come play at schools ever since school officials figured out
there was big money to be made if their athletic programs were
Every time a Newton-like scandal is made public knowledge, the masses
cry for stiffer penalties and throw out the idea of paying the athletes
as a quick-fix solutions to the problem. While both ideas are
fundamentally sound, don’t expect either to ever stop the goods from
being delivered to the studs. As long as their are hundreds of millions
of dollars on the table for the nation’s top programs to battle for, the
best of the best players will continue to get “taken care” of by those
universities vying for their services.
Not sure how to fix the problem because with so with much money on the
line universities and their boosters will always find a way to
circumvent the rules. Let’s just all take our collective heads out of
the sand and understand that paying athletes is standard practice for
the top universities in the country and likely always will be. We can all treat this like the Steroid issue in baseball and pretend it doesn’t exist if we want to, but closing our eyes and singing “la,la,la,la,la” while your favorite school is being implemented for recruiting violations won’t make it go away. If you don’t believe me, ask Auburn and Cam Newton in about three months.