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A troubling year in sports

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The last 12 months have been marked with the ugliest portion of sports: Breaking rules, greed, and life-long consequences of injuries.

It all began with Cam Newton. Three sources associated with Mississippi State reported that his father, Cecil Newton accepted money to persuade his son to play for the Auburn Tigers. In a stunning move, the NCAA decided that no rules were broken, since Cecil Newton was shopping his son around and supposedly Cam Newton knew nothing about it.

In December, college football was put in a bad light once again. Five Ohio State players were charged with selling their memorabilia for money and tattoos. They will have to sit out the first five games next season, but they were able to participate in the bowl game.

What frustrated most in these two cases was the NCAA made a clear path for the student-athletes to break rules in the future. Now, all recruits must do is let their guardians deal  with boosters, who are willing to shell out cash. Also, if the NCAA is ever faced with a decision of punishing rule-breakers or making more money, the OSU case proves they will almost always go with the latter. Why else would the NCAA not suspend the five players for the bowl game? Terrelle Pryor earned $20,000-40,000 by breaking NCAA rules and will face no disciplinary action, since he is leaving early. Former UNLV basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian statement may have held some truth to it when he said the NCAA is "the crookedest organization in our society."

FIFA, who governs international football (soccer), could also be in the running as “the crookedest organization.” FIFA president Joseph Blatter was reelected, despite the controversy surrounding FIFA, which includes allegations that voters, who selected Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup were bribed. Anyone who watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 on “The Two Escobars,” should not be surprised by the corruption in international football. There is a difference between America’s football teams playing for a city or state, compared to international teams playing for their countries. The same rings true when it comes to measly cities trying to persuade the NFL to host the Super Bowl, compared to countries wanting to host the World Cup.

About three months after Ohio State players were found to have sold their OSU memorabilia, Jim Tressel’s emails were released to the public. It exposed a cover up by Tressel. He knew in April 2010, that his players were selling OSU items, such as gold pants, Big Ten Championships rings and signed OSU gear. What made matters worse for Tressel is he always professed honesty and wrote books on the values needed to be a great human being. What was found in the investigation by Sports Illustrated is he rarely practiced what he preached. Early in Tressel’s career, when he was an assistant at Ohio State, he rigged the raffle at Ohio State’s football camps, so only the talented players would win, even though the average players had to pay just as much to get into the camp and buy a raffle ticket.

After moving past the decades of tarnished records as a result of steroids, Major League Baseball has finally risen above the rubble. A couple years ago, nobody would have thought that baseball would have the most unscathed major sport as far as controversy is concerned. However, it has succumbed to some grumblings. 2010 National League Rookie of the year, Buster Posey suffered a season-ending injury as a result of a collision at home plate with Florida’s Scott Cousins. That sparked discussion on whether the play should be outlawed.

While the controversy around baseball players using performance enhancing drugs has subsided, illegal performance enhancers continue to be at the top of the headlines in bicycling. The federal investigation into Lance Armstrong’s dealings has continued. On 60 Minutes, Lance Armstrong’s teammate, Tyler Hamilton said Armstrong used performance enhancers. It now seems that Armstrong breaking rules to win races is a sure thing amid all of the allegations. It is disheartening for a lot of people who look up to Armstrong after all he has been through.

Concussions have been the lead topic of conversation when it comes to sports injuries in the NFL and NHL. The reason is the long-term severity of head injuries. A lot of ideas are circulating on how to make football safer. After a large amount of dangerous hits occurred in week six of the 2010 NFL season, the NFL banned the hits. Rutgers coach, Greg Schiano said football leagues need to replace kickoffs with punting and substitute onside kicks with placing a team on their 30 yard line with one down to gain 15 yards. Moreover, if more rules protecting players aren’t implemented, football could turn into boxing, which is facing a dying fate. Aside from the things boxers must face after their careers, boxing is also struggling to find intriguing matches. It doesn’t help that arguable the two best boxers, pound for pound, which are Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. refuse to fight each other.

Despite the hardship the NFL players face, the owners in the NFL are trying to get every cent out of them in the NFL lockout. In the coming weeks, the NBA might be facing a lockout of their own. Fans hope it doesn’t turn in that direction. Right now, the NBA is at its peak. The NBA Finals had its highest TV ratings, since 2004.

On a brighter note, the BCS decided to vacate USC’s national championship, which gives some hope that other rule breakers will be dealt the same punishments the Trojans are facing. Moreover, On June 21, news broke that another school is facing allegations by the NCAA. North Carolina has 90 days to respond to the major violations.

What has occurred in the past year should be a sign of what is to come with the advent of technology. Medical professionals are finding the ramifications of blows to the head. In the age of technology, it is also easier to discover who are cheating. Moreover, the sports governing bodies are also facing more pressure from social media and blogs, which should equal a cleaner sports environment.

Follow Agora sportswriter Jeff Papworth on Twitter. 

Replying to commentator:

These two sources would beg to differ, but I will make sure to write in my blog post that it was three sources from Mississippi State, who reported the allegations.

From ESPN News Services: 

”On Nov. 9, two sources who recruit for Mississippi State told ESPN of a pay-for-play scheme to gain Newton's services. The sources told ESPN that prior to Newton's commitment to Auburn, Cecil Newton told a recruiter it would take "more than a scholarship" to get his son, then in junior college, to Mississippi State, a request the source said the school would not meet. 

After Newton committed to Auburn, another source said an emotional Cam Newton phoned another recruiter to express regret that he wouldn't be going to Mississippi State, stating that his father, Cecil, had chosen Auburn for him because the money was too much.” 

Thanks for commenting,

Jeff Papworth




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