The big name player in the midwest taking money and gifts from various boosters.
The elite national football recruit lured to the northwest after chasing booster and program dollars.
The national recruit out of the southwest and his father who sought and received booster money from various programs and were even involved in criminal activity on a recruiting visit.
These are but three easy to recall examples of scandalous, rule-breaking behavior happening within college football in recent years. There are many more stories out there like these: well-known within coaching and recruiting circles but rarely if ever reported to the press or the NCAA.
Why is that?
Here's a hint: every program is guilty of something, and most are unabashed repeat offenders.
From time to time, flare-ups occur between programs, mostly about recruiting but often simple jealousy is to blame. However, the war of words is often private. Vague threats may be made before the sides go back to their corners to simmer down and move on. At least, that's usually the case.
This detente of sorts between the majority of D-I college football programs is what is commonly called a Gentleman's Agreement.
An unwritten agreement guaranteed only by the pledged word or secret understanding of the participants
I'm sure most coaches wouldn't admit to something like this being in place, but it's a logical explanation for the lack of tattling through the papers and NCAA given the depth of widely-known violations that exist.
What's happened is that a mutual protection society of sorts has formed, and most squabbles are handled internally between football programs and their coaches.
The logic behind this is twofold:
1)Nobody wants to deal with the NCAA-As I mentioned earlier, the NCAA lacks a predictable, systematic response mechanism to the rules violations it finds. With so much left to chance, the NCAA has given itself a broad and powerful range of sanction powers.
Very often the sanctions are nonexistent or "slaps on the wrist", but there is always the threat of scholarship losses, postseason bans, and even stronger punishments such as the mythical "death penalty" imposed upon the SMU football program so many years ago. Yes, a program may know its neighbor or rival is cheating, but it's not like they're perfectly clean either. Being turned in by a foe thus becomes a form of Russian Roulette. This leads to No. 2...
2)Bad karma/breaking the agreement-I think the appropriate quote here is "there but for the grace of God, go I". It's one thing to be mad at another school for whatever violation is discovered, but it's another to rat them out.
Every program has its skeletons in the closet---thus, every attempt made at outing others is certain to be considered of poor taste and discretion. Who is to say that the program doing the ratting isn't the next to get turned into the NCAA? Investigations reduce the flow of booster money, they affect recruiting, invite bad press and truth is often lost in the hysteria. Few, if any programs can stomach the uncertainty and possible sanctions. Therefore it's in everyone's interest to play along and uphold the agreement.
Before we go further, I want to clarify that I'm not being naive here. I have several recruiting contacts who tell me interesting and devious tales about some of the rule breaking going on. In general we're in a newer, more clean era of football as the NCAA has strengthened itself over the years. Things certainly aren't as wild and wooly as they used to be, and everyone's the better for it.
However, violations persist and that's likely never to change.
Everything's kosher so long as everyone's on board
Boston Massacre Syndrome
As I said earlier, most combatants tend to simmer down and let bygones be bygones. But not all of them, and that's where we run into a problem.
Imagine being in a room filled with a hundred people, all with guns pointed at one another's heads. That's kind of what's happening here. Things are tense, but chaos and bloodshed (in this case, all kinds of accusations and NCAA investigations and punishments) has been avoided because for the most part everyone's playing by the rules---the aforementioned gentlemen's agreement.
When someone pulls their trigger, however, problems surface. The agreement loses its strength and people start getting hurt amidst all the shooting.
Three such programs have in fact pulled the trigger in recent memory. For that, they earn CFR's stamp of disapproval as certified tattle-tales.
On to college football, where the Clemson coaching staff is perturbed about an alleged last-minute recruiting heist Florida tried to pull with CJ Spiller, who signed with the Tigers anyway.
As the story goes, Florida sent one of its top players on a lengthy drive to see Spiller and keep him busy on the eve of signing day. If the story is true, Florida could be in for some trouble with the NCAA
Clemson's staff sat on that potential violation for a while---and simmered---and still couldn't get over what looks like a ticky-tack violation. Rear end sufficiently red, someone called the local paper to complain.
One more thing, and I think this is kind of important: Clemson's recruiting record under Bowden has been on the up-and-up, and he is to be commended for that. In fact, the Tigers haven't been busted for a major recruiting violation since 1992.
Well, it sure as hell better stay that way. He's just invited every school in the South that Clemson competes with for recruits to do to the Tigers what he did to Florida
This one's not as recent, but certainly the most entertaining of the bunch. Upset at losing recruits to Alabama from his little honeypot in Memphis, Vols coach Phil Fullmer secretly rallied boosters and NCAA officials to put the squeeze on Alabama. They dug up evidence about the out and out bribery involved in the recruitment of defensive line recruit Albert Means, and caught Alabama booster Logan Young in the act.
As a result, Alabama was sanctioned, lost Means, and Young went to jail.
Days before USC and Texas played in the Rose Bowl, Texas newspapers questioned USC about possible recruiting violations at a restaurant used for recruiting dinners, the Papadakis Taverna.
The not-so-strange strange thing is that everyone in the Pac-10 knew about USC's recruiting dinners, and the specifics of what went down there, but nobody complained in those first five years under Trojan coach Pete Carroll. Yet lo and behold days before the Rose Bowl, a complaint is made. The Texas papers wouldn't have known about something so specific without a tipoff from inside the UT program.
More recently, Yahoo! Sports writer Charles Robinson admitted to ESPN that the tips from his anonymous sources about the Reggie Bush housing story he broke were told to him at Texas' Pro Day and also Vince Young's individual workout. Again, more UT insiders playing games.
What's with UT's and the whole goody two-shoes act?
I can't stress enough, with the rampant level of violations out there, both intentional and accidental, everyone is guilty of something and everyone else certainly knows about it. Only by upholding the gentleman's agreement can the bloodshed of media firestorms and NCAA sanctions be avoided---think USC's happy about the beating it took two weeks ago? They're managing, but I'm not sure the next team who gets that treatment is going down without a heck of a lot of collateral damage to everyone nearby. Nobody wants that.
Bottom line: it's all all or nothing deal, where either the agreement stands or one too many teams gets self-righteous and collapse the whole system.
Getting back to the UT's and Clemson for a moment: assuming that everyone knows of the agreement, I wonder, "was it worth it"?
It's too soon to tell for Clemson, although they're already getting bad press. Texas won the national championship, but I'm sure there are some folks at Texas A&M and Oklahoma frothing at the opportunity to drop all kinds of dirt on them if the agreement eventually collapses. Think anyone is curious how Vince Young was able to get through school? For Tennessee, they had a nice recruiting class recently, but the football team is in shambles after a 5-6 season. I'm a sometimes believer in karma, and Tennessee exhibited poor form and bad karma in dragging Alabama through the mud like that. I wonder if similar fates await Clemson and Texas.
***Update: Like I sad, bad Karma. Texas running back Ramonce Taylor, already excused from the team to concentrate on academics, was arrested Sunday morning with more than five pounds of marijuana in the back of his car.***
I'm reminded of a quote from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, when Jack Nicholson's character is meeting with a psychiatrist. He's been put in a mental hospital but doesn't quite fit the profile as someone who is mentally ill. The drama flows from his constant bumping of heads with the woman in charge, Nurse Ratched. Right away Nicholson's character picks up that she's dishonest, but is in a power position and gets away with really petty power trips. During the evaluation meeting, Nicholson tells the psychologist this great line:
She likes a rigged game, you know what I mean?
That's how I feel about the programs listed above. They're playing a rigged game when they don't uphold the agreement like everyone else. It's not exactly the most fair thing to do when a lot of other programs have held their fire. They become villains, not unlike Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched.
Hint: she's not the movie's good guy