SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not hard to see there are big changes coming for college football, given the money involved. TV rights are one thing, but now Google, Twitter and other platforms are entering the sweepstakes.
The richest football programs may get richer, but others won’t be able to financially compete. Some believe unchecked spending will eventually lead to a collapse. Just like the national debt, the money tree can’t grow forever. For that matter, maybe college football can’t, either.
But in my mind, it won’t be money — or lack thereof — that is most likely to bring down college football. It will be constant scandal.
I may be naïve to believe there are still colleges that exist for education and research, rather than touchdowns. But there are agencies to aid victims of sexual violence. And there are lawyers. At some point it could become too risky and expensive for universities to field teams, thanks to the sexual misbehavior issues. Because every team is going to have them. Every single team.
Unlike the impossibly wealthy NFL, most college athletic departments don’t clear enough cash to constantly defend themselves against lawsuits. Meanwhile, professional sports don’t pretend to have a higher objective than entertainment. Which makes it ironic that the Atlanta Falcons didn’t wait upon learning of sexual assault accusations against former Utah State linebacker Torrey Green, this week. The Falcons released him, saying through team owner Arthur Blank, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “We don’t want anybody connected to the organization who has those kinds of accusations around them.”
Meanwhile, USU, its counseling services, the Logan police, the Cache County attorney’s office and the coaching staff all must ascertain who knew what, and when, in the Green case. Coach Matt Wells said he was unaware of the situation until a few days ago. So Green, who has not been arrested or charged with a crime, played out his 2015 season with the Aggies without hindrance.
“Things that have been brought to me have been recent, in the last week or so. What you know is what I know,” Wells said at a Thursday press conference. “It was all news to me very, very recently. I can’t comment on that any more.”
Regardless of what procedural flaws might exist in the Green cases, which began in 2015, such occurrences are a threat to the continuation of college sports. USU is far from the only school to cringe in the light of scandal. Even BYU — which has never been sanctioned for NCAA violations — endured a scandal involving allegations of rape in 2004.
In 2015, USU player Hayden Weichers pleaded guilty to distribution of a controlled substance and sexual battery after reportedly meeting with a prostitute in Logan. In 2013, Ute defensive lineman Niasi Leota was dismissed from the team after being charged with allegedly beating and threatening to kill his wife.
Penn State, Notre Dame, Florida State and countless others have had scandals. Name the school and there has been a football player involved in a sexual assault case. Put 100 young men on a campus, add the twin instigators of entitlement and hormones, and you get disaster.
As if that weren’t enough, the Washington Post cited a study showing a dramatic rise in college campus rapes when football games occur. An increase in alcohol consumption among celebrating students was cited as a possible reason.
Green's case has drawn quick attention, in part because Baylor football coach Art Briles was fired and university President Kenneth Starr demoted when it was determined accusations of sexual assault were improperly handled.
Many believe there’s too much power in college football for the game to disappear, regardless of the epidemic of sex-related crimes. But there are victims, families and activists who would say the best way to stop "football crimes" is to stop football. It's not inconceivable that protests could become as prominent as those for other causes that have changed the world. Some universities might even decide football is too dirty.
I worry about criminal behavior killing football. But I worry about the victims even more.
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