College sports: A culture of corruption?

| June 8, 2011

A Culture of Corruption?

That’s what we’ve been hearing about college athletics. If it’s true – and I don’t doubt that it is – there’s nothing new.

Jim Tressel, who was forced out as Ohio State’s football coach (excuse me! THE Ohio State) is the latest to be caught up in the cesspool of college athletics.

Just about everyone cheats and just about everyone knows who is and who isn’t cheating.

To illustrate the last point, let me tell you a conversation I had with John Ray when he was the head coach at Kentucky.

We sat in the stands at UK’s old Stoll Field during a freshman football game.

“I’m getting the best running back in Kentucky, someone who every coach in the Southeastern Conference has been trying to get.

I told him that there was a story in the Knoxville newspaper that Tennessee couldn’t get him in school.

“That’s right, but I can,” said Ray.

I countered with, “But won’t Tennessee spill the beans on you?”

“No,” said Ray. And he continued, “here’s how it works. I know that Tennessee is getting another back from Virginia who has poor grades. They know that I know and that’s why they won’t complain about us taking the kid they couldn’t get in school.”

Honor among thieves?

Is that what they call honor among thieves? Maybe so, but the Kentucky kid did play for UK and was one of the Wildcats’ all-time greats.

Believe me, there’s nothing knew in the recruiting game. Sure Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor drove a succession of used but shiny cars. That something new? Of course not.

More than 60 years ago, Tennessee gave Kentucky great Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones a car that wound up in his hometown. But thank goodness his sweetheart, Edna Ball of Middlesboro, told him that he could go to UT if he wanted to, but that SHE was going to UK. That settled that. Wah’s high school classmate, HumzeyYessin, drove the car back to Knoxville.

Much, much worse

I’ve heard of worse, much worse. Such as a college recruiter who would meet recruits at the airport and tell them to go to “that car parked over in the dark spot.”

Inside the car, the recruiter’s sister was waiting to show the recruit a good time.

That story was substantiated by several Louisville high school recruits who got the same treatment on their visits. Some went to the coach’s school, some didn’t.

To this day, some colleges have “spirit girls” who are on hand to show recruits a good time.

It all boils down to money. Assistant coaches who can recruit get raises and are promoted to something like coordinators. If the coaches can’t recruit, they lose their jobs – and may take the head coach and the entire coaching staff down with them.

The media can play important roles. If media members do their jobs, a lot of the mess would be cleared up.

Win or else

One coach told me, “We brought some kids to school who you wouldn’t want associating with your daughter – or son. I’m not proud of it. We simply didn’t have any choice. It was win or else.”

Here’s a story I’ll bet you have never heard. Before the National Football League, some football players from southern schools would use up all of their eligibility. Rather than try to find a job, they would come north and enroll at another college. One such player enrolled at Georgetown College and started all over.

He wound up as a sports columnist in Knoxville and was one of the funniest and most popular writers in the South.

Tressell’s backers

Two of Ohio State’s most successful and most famous graduates are now in Tressell’s corner. Bob Knight immediately defended the Ohio State coach last fall when some Buckeye players and Tressell were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. Now Jack Nicklaus has defended Tressell, saying that he wished one of his grandsons could have played for Tressell. Nicklaus called Tressell “a good man.”

New UK position

Did you see that UK’s director of athletics has added an assistant whose job it will be to keep him up on what goes on in the basketball office, specifically with coach John Calipari? One writer hinted that the new man’s job will be to help Coach Cal’s coaching staff.

You wouldn’t believe how far UK athletics have come since the director of athletics and head football and basketball coaches had offices in the basement of Alumni Gym.

If A.D. Bernie Shively wanted to talk with Bear Bryant or Adolph Rupp, he could just stick his head out of his office and yell for them.

And that didn’t change when all of their offices were moved to Memorial Coliseum. Their offices were just down the hall from each other.

That led to a little battle when  football coach John Ray got a Lexington merchant to put new carpet in his and Shive’s offices. Rupp pitched a fit with Shive over that because he didn’t get a new rug.

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Category: Sports

About the Author (Author Profile)

Earl Cox, Sports Columnist

Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.

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