The decision has come down and Terrelle Pryor has avoided the hellish limbo that swallowed up Maurice Clarett. While Pryor’s eligibility for the NFL’s supplemental draft is cause for celebration for the embattled Ohio State quarterback, the terms of the deal should be setting off warning bells. Pryor, facing a five game suspicion for the Buckeyes, will have to sit out the same number of games before he can play in the NFL. He is allowed at team facilities and to play in preseason games, but can not officially practice or play until week six.
Pryor first came under fire when it was revealed that he and other Buckeye players had been selling memorabilia or trading it for tattoos at a Columbus based parlor. The hypocrisy of the NCAA making money on Terrelle Pryor’s back while he could not sell the clothing off said back aside, the fallout from the Ink Incident had huge ramifications on the program. Casualties included the eventual loss of Buckeye boss Jim Tressel.
The five week suspension extension is a double edged sword at best and thuggery at worst. While the NFL claims a specific decision and that each case is different, the idea that the NCAA has a new and powerful enforcement arm is mainly cause for concern. Being a known ray of sunshine in a darkened world, however, I will start with the potential positives of this arrangement.
The one positive aspect to this alarming development is that, with the ability to punish the true offenders, the NCAA may refrain from harming current and (possibly) innocent student athletes. When the hammer fell on USC, did Reggie Bush suffer? He already had the fame, the fortune and the NFL contract. Current Trojans, who had no involvement what so ever in that mess, are the players who are now paying the price. While the idea that Bush could face punishment in the NFL while current players are left alone is a nice one, it is unfeasible. More importantly, it would have to work on coaches too, and there is no way the NCAA Cartel will let that happen. The NCAA has long hidden its blood money in coach’s salaries and athletic budgets; it can not risk its largest stash spot. If Bush or Pryor can be retroactively punished in their professional careers, than Pete Carroll should be staring down sanctions up in Seattle. He jumped ship right before the meteor hit, leaving a smoking crater and a debris cloud he could surely see from the Pacific Northwest. He guided that doomsday device right into the Coliseum, than took off for safe harbor in the NFL. But where was Carroll’s punishment, or Bush’s? No where, for acts that may be far more egregious than those that Pryor was guilty of. The possibility of these players and coaches paying their dues in the NFL while student athletes who were high schoolers when the infractions happened play unimpeded is a nice bit of wishful thinking. The NCAA and NFL will weald this weapon only when it serves them, and that is a danger.
The NFL can not be the Cartel’s new hired gun. While many bemoan the NCAA’s ability to accurately and swiftly target, reveal and punish infractions, one must also remember who is to blame. The NCAA has built an empire on the hard work of student athletes. These students risking life, limb and education see little to no compensation while their coaches and administrators get fat and happy off of enormous contracts. Without a doubt, many coaches are indeed in it for the players. But when a weasel coach decides to leave his kids for more money, the stark reality is that the athlete would be cost a year in most cases to do the same. The NCAA flexes classic cartel behavior, an organized group who is the only game in town, with immense repercussions for those who dare to step out of line. If the NFL gets involved, Goodell is making himself nothing more than a common thug. Never mind the charges against Pryor amount to anger that he had the gall to make money off of his hard work, like the Cartel in Indianapolis does on a daily basis. Goodell and the League have determined that he must never escape the Cartel’s wrath. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted that you can not break the rules and “get a free pass into the NFL,” according to ESPN. So why did Carroll? Perhaps because he was making the Cartel’s money; a capo, allowed to escape before the soldiers beneath him caught the heat.
While Pryor is rightfully giddy at his chance to play on Sundays, and will undoubtedly file an appeal as soon as he signs, the mere idea that the NFL will become some sort of an enforcement arm is frightening. With massive scandal looming in Miami and the state of college football approaching Romanesque levels of debauchery, powerful new gun thugs is not the answer. By creating an arcane and impossibly (purposely?) tangled web of rules and regulations to aide in making millions while keeping the athletes out of the pool, the NCAA is being swallowed by its own beast. Hiring Goodell to pull the trigger does nothing to change the fact that the teeth are closing in.
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