This has been a good week for those who like the predictable. It got hot again, and people complained. The calendar flipped another month while the NFL, and its players continued to dawdle away time. The Phillies lost a couple of games, and everyone went crazy. And a college football program was found to be rife with corruption, and people decided again that the answer is to pay the players.
As a test of reflex behavior, hitting a patient's knee with a hammer has nothing on this one. People do bad things? Well, then. Let's give them a reward. That'll teach them.
Total nonsense. When people rob banks, do we give them money so they won't do it again? No, we put them in jail. We don't sit around and wring our hands and say, "Well, you know. It's very understandable. The banks have all this money and they don't share it. They just keep it. Doesn't it make sense to spread some of that around?"
You can go back and catalog the college scandals and chart the predictable arguments that follow them. The latest case, of course, is the mess at Ohio State University. And what a mess it is.
Football coach Jim Tressel looked the other way or covered up while Columbus-area boosters, car dealers, tattoo artists, and members of his own staff put on a zany production of Program Gone Wild. The details are spelled out in Sports Illustrated this week, and it is truly a mind-boggling story.
But, hey, none of this would have happened if the players were getting $100 a week from the school. Or $200. Or, whatever. Pick a number.
The first rule of human nature is that whatever a person has, he or she will want more. Let's use OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor as a reference point, not because what he did was any better or worse than anyone else, but, well, he was the dude with the eight cars.
At some juncture along the way, one might have suspected Pryor would say something like: "Well, four cars is enough. I don't need that fifth one." But that apparently didn't happen, and there is little doubt that he stopped at eight only because he ran out of time.
But some people think Pryor wouldn't have gotten into this situation if he had bus money in his pocket. I think otherwise. And I think that paying the players will not convince them they are being fairly compensated - however large the payment. It will merely convince them that they are entitled to get whatever they can.
This brings us to the "fairness" portion of our program, which is a favorite of those lobbying to pay players.
Is it fair that these schools make great gobs of money, mostly from football and basketball, and the players get nothing aside from their scholarship and whatever minor perks the NCAA allows?
Sure it is. What they get is not only an invitation to pursue a valuable education, but they also get four (sometimes five) years of specialized training and instruction in what serves as the minor leagues for the professions to which they aspire.
Not all of them are going to become professional athletes, but anyone who doesn't think colleges get rich on the promise of what might happen in the future hasn't written a tuition check lately.
While we're on the subject of fairness, what about track athletes, soccer players, wrestlers? Their sports don't bring in money to the university, but the athletes train just as hard, devote themselves just as sincerely to the twin demands of competing for the school and trying not to flunk out of it. Their representation means nothing because Dick Vitale doesn't go to lacrosse games? Doesn't seem fair, either.
So, here's what you do. You make it a very bad idea for anyone to break the rules.
Use the Ohio State situation as an example. In all probability, the NCAA is going to take away a few scholarships from the Buckeyes, maybe make them give back some postseason money or something. It will sound like a decent punishment, but business will resume pretty much as usual.
When Southern Methodist got the death penalty in 1986 - because the Mustangs thought paying players was a good idea, too, and didn't wait for the idea to be officially instated - that was the right course. SMU was barred from fielding a team for a full season in 1987. (SMU was also barred from having home games in 1988 and opted not to play at all that season.)
So, let's start there, but make it hurt. No football at Ohio State for five years. Very simple. You can't run a program, you can't have a program.
Tressel? Banned for life from working at an NCAA institution, and the same goes for any assistants or other employees who knew about or aided the infractions.
The players? Every scholarship athlete gets orientation. Here's what you can do and what you can't do. If there are gray areas, come ask us. We'll tell you. But, as of this orientation, you have been made aware of the rules. Should you violate them, you will lose your scholarship and your eligibility to play at any NCAA institution. When the time comes and your class is eligible for the professional draft, best of luck. Hope you were able to stay in shape and get some good training in the interim.
Just a guess, but if the rules are enforced stringently and with consequences for all involved, there will be cleaner programs. You think coaches are going to look the other way when they can be banned for life? I don't.
Maybe it won't clean out college athletics entirely, but demanding accountability would do a lot more toward that goal than would handing a guy some money and telling him not to want more.