State of college football: Strong yet sullied

By Ralph D. Russo

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 13 2011 3:41 p.m. MDT

Now, here come the dueling extremes of college football. Clotfelter also says the fans who invest in college football, both emotionally and financially, tend to have at least some sympathy for the athletes who break rules.

"They see it as a technical violation," Clotfelter said. "And, in a way, you kind of feel for the kids because the coaches are making so much money."

So if major college football as we know it is not truly in danger of being brought down by the weight of its own misdeeds, why have powerful commissioners such as Delany and Mike Slive of the Southeastern Conference tried to position themselves as lieutenants in Emmert's reform revolution?

Why so much worry about cheaters, rule-breakers and liars in major college football?

"Because it's being done in the name of universities that pride themselves on certain principles, one is following rules, the other is telling the truth," Clotfelter said.

"It makes it more unseemly."

Because no matter how popular college football is and how much they want to have successful programs, university presidents such as Penn State's Spanier don't want it sullying the reputations of their esteemed institutions.

Earlier this week Emmert and his fellow presidents laid out an agenda for sweeping change.

They want to simplify the massive 439-page Division I rulebook, enforce stronger penalties for rule-breakers, boost academic standards and more strongly link academic performance to possible postseason bans. And Emmert wants it done in the next 12 months.

At the SEC media days last month, Slive said "intercollegiate athletics has lost the benefit of the doubt" from those who are skeptical about its integrity.

What it hasn't lost, though, is America's interest, and as long as that's the case the state of college football is strong.

Ralph D. Russo can by followed at: http://www.twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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