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Thursday, May 15
 
Mercenaries lurk just about everywhere you look

By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to ESPN.com

The galling ingratitude of the nine University of Georgia football players, selling those $300 Bulldog championship rings on eBay for greater riches and polluting the purity of the most noble of higher-learning pursuits: the SEC title game. Unless they were studying under Professor Jim Harrick Jr., in Athens, why would these kids ever get the idea that the premise of participating in this extra-curricular activity is bleeding every dollar out of a December date in a dome.

Kedric Golston
Kedric Golston won't be rushing quarterbacks after selling his championship ring.

"If there's one thing I would like to get out there, I would like to say that those rings mean a lot to the football team and the state of Georgia," Kedric Golston, a Georgia freshman nose guard, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I didn't show how much the rings meant to me. I know some Bulldogs fans are going to ask, 'How could he do that?'"

Well, these people need to stop asking. Everyone should stop asking why Golston had his 2002 SEC ring, his 2003 Sugar Bowl ring and a game jersey floating on eBay. If Saturday afternoon's muscled football props are watching closely now, they're learning the essential truth of these $12 million conference football championship games: Market value is determined by what the public will pay for your product.

"We have to do a better job of educating our student-athletes on the worth of achievement awards, which far transcend monetary value," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

This is unreal, isn't it? Unreal. Truth be told, these lessons preached to players are basically Miss Manners pamphlets being passed out to prostitutes by their pimps.

For goodness sakes, the University of Miami at Mercenary is on eBay today, selling itself to the highest bidder. After watching what it is worth to score touchdowns and make tackles for Miami, why wouldn't Johnny Recruit on his visit to Coral Gables grab a bullhorn, stand on the steps of the student center, and demand that he get an immediate meeting with that old "friend of the program," Luther Campbell?

From the highest levels of ivory tower power down to the coach's 2003 Lexus, college athletics is a culture celebrating the art of the deal, the ability to get yours and get it now. America's football and basketball stars should stop to watch the unprecedented money-grab starring the tweed-jacket wearing presidents, the Sears-suited conference commissioners and Chino-clad athletic director's starring in this first season of MTV's, "The Real World, University Free Agency."

This is such an illuminating time for college athletics. I love it. I absolutely love it. All these backdoor dealings and unholy agendas come tumbling out of the shadows and into the light. Everyone is exposed. Just take a look around at the way these schools are shopping themselves, the way they're selling out friends and foes alike for that monopoly money the networks pass out like cotton candy.

All these university presidents preaching academic reform -- you know, the ones standing to cheer new NCAA savior Myles Brand when he declared it time to "turn down the volume," on big-time sports. Now, they're reaching for the surround-sound speakers and turning it louder and louder until everyone's ears are bleeding.

Everyone is shrouded with shame. Miami president Donna Shalala promised the rest of the Big East that they were perfectly content to stay the course in the conference. As it turned out, her word wasn't worth that of her old White House boss' in the Clinton administration.

The ACC has been carrying out clandestine operations in the cloak of darkness, concocting this coup to cripple the Big East and send conference alignments into complete chaos. All those fine, fine ACC presidents ought to understand that bigger, better and richer college football guarantees far lower graduation rates and far more cheating.

Of course, Boeheim and Orangemen football coach Paul Pasqualoni will fly charters out of the Clemson, S.C., and Tallahassee, Fla., for trips home, but do you think ACC and Syracuse officials will spend five minutes considering what it will be like for that Wake Forest volleyball team to miss an extra day of classes because it has to fight its way out of an upstate N.Y., snowstorm and three USAir connections to get back to Winston Salem?
Around the Big East, old friends are double dealing, tossing aside women and children on its sinking ship to climb into that life boat with Miami. Despite the objections of national championship basketball coach Jim Boeheim, Syracuse sounds prepared to hustle with the Hurricanes to the ACC. Some reports say Boston College is the second choice, and Virginia Tech fighting for an invitation. Without Miami, the Big East loses its BCS cache, its prestige and, well, sorry to leave you with Rutgers, but we've got to run now.

Of course, Boeheim and Orangemen football coach Paul Pasqualoni will fly charters out of the Clemson, S.C., and Tallahassee, Fla., for trips home, but do you think ACC and Syracuse officials will spend five minutes considering what it will be like for the Wake Forest volleyball team to miss an extra day of classes because it has to fight its way out of an upstate New York snowstorm and three USAir connections to get back to Winston Salem?

So, feel free to keep studying those wire stories this week, waiting to hear one university president, one commissioner, one athletic director or one coach apologize for this lawless, low-rent free-for-all they've reduced themselves and their schools to lately. Thanks to these sordid soap operas, college sports has never looked more out of control, never more like it's hurtling toward an Armageddon.

The promise of $27 million to three Big East defectors, the $12 million for an ACC Championship football game, the $13 million that goes to a league for reaching the BCS title game, it is the sweetest Siren call. The University of Miami is going back on its word to the Big East, turning campuses into complete chaos and setting the market for a historic mercenary mission.

And when Hurricanes A.D. Paul Dee meets with Big East officials at meetings this weekend, he won't be apologizing but waiting to hear what Mike Tranghese counter-offers to keep his conference in business, and keep Dee's fiefdom the most valuable college football property this side of the Golden Dome.

Oh, you wanted someone to sound sorrowful for chasing market value on a college football championship game? Absolutely.

Kedric Golston? Come on down.

"I know some Bulldogs fans are going to ask, "How could he do that?" Golston said. "I'd like to apologize to them."

Too late.

The NCAA declared eight teammates and him ineligible.

So, Miami's Paul Dee should sit back, relax and have a wonderful weekend getting wooed at the Big East meetings in Ponte Vedra, Fla. Just a little north in Athens, Ga., they're busy cleansing the greedy underbelly of big-time college sports, one money-grubbing perp at a time. These kids, they'll never learn.

Adrian Wojnarowski is a columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPNWoj@aol.com.





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