Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Joke of NCAA Suspensions

The college football season begins this Thursday. Over the past seven months, we have heard one of three topics: Alabama going for a three-peat, Ohio State improving on perfection, and Johnny Manziel's off-the-field issues.

On Monday, Manziel reportedly met for over six hours with the NCAA at College Station. Reports say that this meeting is to determine whether or not Manziel accepted money for his autograph and if he will be suspended for any games in the 2013 season.

I can promise you that he will not be suspended, and not because he is innocent.

Johnny Manziel will not be suspended because he is the face of college football right now. He is the one who makes people show up and tune in on Saturday. Do you really think the NCAA will suspend him for an infraction that everybody in the country has said is outdated and incorrect?

He SHOULD BE SUSPENDED! He broke a rule (and it's obviously not a new rule that nobody knew about) and must suffer the consequences. Terrelle Pryor was suspended for five games for selling his autograph for tattoos. If the NCAA wants to be consistent and not hypocritical, Manziel ought to be suspended for the same amount of time.

However, all eyes look to Texas A&M's September 14th game against #1 Alabama. Manziel and the Aggies defeated the defending champion Tide last season AT Alabama. This has been identified as the game of the season since January. It won't be a game if Johnny Manziel is not on the field. I will guarantee that you will see Johnny Football on the field for that game.

He won't be suspended. The NCAA loses too much by suspending the defending Heisman winner.

However, with all of the issues lately with the NCAA (especially Jay Bilas trying to single-handedly take down the corporation), don't be surprised if Mark Emmert and the NCAA try to save face a bit. My gut feeling is that Manziel WILL BE SUSPENDED, but only for a game or two. If he gets a suspension, it will be short enough for him to return against Alabama in the third game of the year.

The NCAA will suspend him for at most two games (which would be against Rice and Sam Houston State). Those two games will not affect national ratings, will not affect the Aggies' season, and will not affect the outcome of the "game of the season" that the NCAA needs.

Too often now have suspensions for college athletes been obsolete. Even the Terrelle Pryor suspension back in 2011 was a joke. He was suspended for non-conference games against Akron, Toledo, Miami (going through their own NCAA sanctions), and Colorado. Those four teams finished a combined 19-31 that season, with seven of those wins coming by Toledo against MAC opponents. The only game that really mattered in the suspension was the fifth game, the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. The Buckeyes lost 10-7.

Now of course Pryor went to the NFL and missed the entire season, but other players (including Dan Herron) missed those first five games. What I'm trying to say is that the suspension was irrelevant. If you suspend an entire starting lineup of a top 25 team for the "preseason" (the non-conference games to start the season) then a majority of those teams will enter conference play undefeated still.

Those cupcake games are meaningless. What message do you send by suspending a player for a meaningless game?

Let's take another step forward. Urban Meyer has suspended RB Carlos Hyde for the first three games of the 2013 season due to his involvement in an incident at a Columbus nightclub. He has been cleared of all charges, yet the suspension holds. Meyer said he still suspended him because he wants to have the harshest punishments of any team in the country.

That's a joke. He's sending a message to his team without hurting his team. He's sending a message that he WILL supsend you if you do something you shouldn't. However, he does it in a way that does not hold Hyde accountable for his actions. Being suspended for games against Buffalo, San Diego State, and California will not hold Hyde accountable.

If you want to hold your players accountable, suspend them for MEANINGFUL games. Suspend them for conference games against quality opponents. That when when the team loses (and at least this way they have the CHANCE of losing...) you can look a young man straight in the eye and tell him that he let his team down.Especially with drugs, where you see players suspended for one game against North Catholic State A&T for smoking weed. You sure showed me!

It's not just the college game. Even MLB has this issue. They suspend players for two games. That player appeals so he can play that night in the series finale against their division rivals. After that game, he says "you know what, forget it, I was wrong, I'll serve my suspension." He accepts his suspension now for the series against the bottom-dweller of the league. It's sad. Then they suspend Ryan Dempster for five games for hitting Alex Rodriguez. The way the schedule played out with off days during that suspension, Dempster never even missed a start. How did that suspension punish him or the team? It didn't.

MAKE SUSPENSIONS RELEVANT! HOLD PLAYERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR ONCE! Until these leagues begin to do so, these players will just feel entitled and that they can get away with whatever they want. And then you end up with guys like Aaron Hernandez (who was suspended a single game in college for drug use, failed a drug test at the combine, and had numerous other issues that never led to any suspensions).

Why are these leagues holding back? It's the money. Period. ESPN Radio host Paul Finebaum said it perfectly on ESPN today: when it comes to sports, "money trumps justice."

That's what's wrong with sports.

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