College sports’ dirty little secrets on serious public display

By Staff Writer
February 19, 2004

Here’s a partial list of what happened recently in amateurism while America clucked about a scandalously exposed nipple:

The University of Colorado began investigating whether football recruits were provided prostitutes.

A North Carolina basketball recruit was released on $40,000 bond after allegedly selling copious amounts of drugs.

The president at St. John’s discussed disbanding a run-amok basketball program that had just had a bunch of players involved in a sex scandal.

Miami’s best football recruit was arrested for the 11th time.

Then, of course, there were your garden-variety bar fights, rape accusations, academic issues, domestic disputes, booster payments, suspensions and other abuses that don’t feel quite right near the campus library.

All this stuff didn’t happen in the past year or past month. It happened in the past week. While we were leading newscasts with Janet Jackson’s malfunctioning wardrobe.

Speaking of boobs, the NCAA announced Thursday it was forming a task force to look into the tawdry recruiting practices. That should solve everything. A task force! When it convenes, who’s bringing the booze and strippers?

We love to talk about the purity and tradition of college sports, about Duke’s bobbing basketball crowd and Touchdown Jesus and the charm of the alma mater’s fight song, but shamateurism gets exposed as nothing more than the big business of minor-league sports with every incident, every arrest, every porno on a St. John’s player’s cellphone.

Did you hear the details of this charming scandal? A bunch of St. John’s players go to a strip club after a game and leave with a 38-year-old woman who allegedly agrees to have sex with them for money. They don’t pay. She claims rape.

None of the players are arrested because one of them taped the encounter on his cellphone. That’s the kind of discipline and attention to fundamentals you want from your squad. If coach has said it once, he has said it a thousand times: When having an orgy with a prostitute you don’t intend to pay, make sure to have your cellphone at the ready.

After the recorded incident was shown to police, the woman was charged with filing a false report. She then explained to the New York tabloids that she wasn’t a prostitute but a married flight attendant. Would have been fun to hear her try to explain all this to her husband. He must have been soothed when he heard that, yes, his wife had sex with a bunch of basketball players but at least it wasn’t for money _ making her unfaithful and a bad businesswoman, perhaps, but at least not greedy.

Sorry for all the naughty talk, but that’s where we are today in college sports as Rice and Houston and Colorado look into whether their recruits were wooed with strippers. That newly formed NCAA task force is entrusted with finding out if Johnny Recruit is handing over his next four years of education to Miami instead of Nebraska because South Florida has better exotic dancers.

The recruiting process is a petri dish for scandal. You lure young and often poor kids with private planes, lobster dinners, big parties, nightlife, liquor and cute student hostesses and are surprised when he acts entitled or gets into trouble? Give kids enough head-swelling free stuff, and pretty soon you have those rape accusations in Colorado where players turn lobster and women into part of the same take-as-much-as-you-want buffet. But never mind all that. Let’s just close our eyes and sing the fight song again.

Published to the web by: Cecelia Francisco

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