By Joe Giglio
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This weekend should be a celebration of collegiate athletics. College basketball fans should sit down on Saturday night and admire the drive, passion and work ethic of the student-athletes that have made their way through a grueling tournament to earn a spot in Atlanta for the Final Four.
Instead, it’s the exact opposite. The court of public opinion, vitriol and interest lies within Rutgers, a New Jersey school that hasn’t seen a Final Four in decades.
While our airwaves should be filled with callers empathizing with Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s ability to join his teammates in Atlanta, the story lies within Piscataway, New Jersey.
Mike Rice has stolen the show, lost his job and cast another ugly shadow over collegiate athletics. The role of athletic director Tim Pernetti — who is now out at Rutgers — in the ugly scenes, first shown on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” is harder to dissect.
But the problem isn’t unique: High profile college coaches and administrators think they are above the rules.
It seems like an athletic department scandal hits the newswire every six months. From covering up information to violence to illegal funds to circumventing recruiting rules, it’s hard to fathom that there are actually any athletic departments that are compliant with the current standards.
In New York, there are unique and interesting storylines to grab hold of on Saturday night in Atlanta.
NYC products such as Russ Smith and James Southerland have a chance to meet, in a Big East vs. Big East championship bout, on Monday night. Rick Pitino, the New York City-born coaching legend, has reportedly received induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame.
Yet they aren’t the story.
The national media can descend down to Atlanta for basketball breakdowns, Cinderella stories and great games. But what they’ll get are callers and readers glued to the Rice fallout who are wondering where the next program to get caught in a sticky situation lies.
As the years go on, it’s become harder and harder to enjoy college athletics. Unless you are a graduate of a school that consistently wins or is visible enough for that pride to shine on a regular basis, the sport is impossible to latch onto any longer.
Imagine trying to explain the truth about collegiate athletics, specifically bowl season and March Madness, to a child. You would either have to lie, leave out significant parts of the narrative or pretend that it’s something different than the present-day product.
Despite the $100 million contracts, private jets and lifestyle that the average person could never grasp, it’s easier to understand the process and product delivered by professional sports in 2013. From the NBA to NFL to NHL to MLB, business comes first. It drives decisions on both sides.
As the years have passed, fans have grown to realize that the exact same thing happens in the NCAA. Only there exists a front for the billion-dollar contracts: Academics.
Rice was in a position of power in Rutgers as a leader of students. Those students happened to be athletes. That allowed him to keep his job until the tapes and reaction spread like wildfire this week.
From Miami to Penn State to Rutgers to the next institution that places athletics and profit over the student, college sports are no longer fooling anyone smart enough to open their eyes.
The jig is up for the NCAA. No longer is the product pure or different than the money-grabbing, greedy professional product.
Enjoy the Final Four for what it is this weekend: Basketball.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Are incidents and scandals such as this one making you less of a fan of collegiate athletics? Let us know in the comments section below..