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The rare college football scandal about ... football
We’ll watch all this stuff, but …
… the entire time, we’ll all keep talking about a team that isn’t playing. This weekend, one topic will star in tailgates and arguably unrelated game broadcasts across the country, including so many Halloween costumes in the crowds and GameDay signs (get it? signs?) in Salt Lake City.
That alone isn’t unprecedented. Shit, so far this year, the Deion Sanders phenomenon was briefly bigger than the rest of college football combined, in a way. And it’s happened in previous seasons concurrent with overwhelming scandals, something that occurs every few years in a sport with zero tact, timing, or chill.
Here’s what’s rare about Mich-in Impossible: It’s not just about football, but about football happening right now.
For a century-plus, most college athletics scandals have been about actual injustices happening off the field or about someone being “overly” generously compensated for their performance on it.
The former is typically straightforward to process: That guy did something bad (if he was your rival), meaning he shouldn’t compete anymore, especially if he’s in jail or whatever.
And the latter gets the blood boiling (if your rival did it), but still has a distance. A five-star recruit being rewarded an off-the-books car (that you couldn’t afford) feels upsetting, but it might be one, two, or five years before anyone can assess whether it actually altered any competitions. The car might not’ve even been discovered until the five-star left college anyway, and with so much temporal separation, there’s little reason to hasten the NCAA’s typical Six Days Of Creation investigatory process.
The last time we had a season-long, all-consuming drama about Rules Stuff, the kind that had masses calling for Somebody To Do Something in the name of competitive fairness, was probably 2010 Auburn. We’ve since had superstar players in both legal trouble and “legal” trouble, but those questions were usually about whether one guy should see the field now or in a few weeks or whatever.
2010 Auburn wasn’t about one guy, but about the guy, the greatest college football player (besides Barry Sanders) ever. Everyone sensed at the time, and confirmed in hindsight, that only Cam Newton separated those Tigers from winning the national title and appearing in one of Iowa’s 700 Tampa-coded bowl games. Therefore, to those who believed Auburn “shouldn’t have” had him because it’d compensated him, disqualifying him felt urgent.
In a way, the Mich-urian Candidate story is very different, because Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines would be an imposing 8-0 right now even if one of their underlings had instead been giving away signals. Additionally, unlike Auburn, Michigan was either complicit or negligent about following rules that, despite being antiquated, actually matter.
But it has some of the same energy, the sense that we can’t wait for the NCAA’s Entmoot process here, that the Big Ten must step in and … I dunno, hand the Big Ten East to Ohio State again, as it did in 2020? Otherwise, a team that — at very least — failed to keep one of its staffers from doing years’ worth of blatant espionage is barreling toward the trophy.
(Surreal scenario already drawing near: Two-time defending champion Georgia, a mega-recruiting behemoth, is cast as the good guy against the Do It The Right Way nerd school in the Playoff.)
Speaking of, the other thing I’m fixating on here: Because I’m a hater about a relatively short list of things, and the Big Ten Conference is on it, I can’t help noticing this is about the zillionth example of Big Ten figures taking college football way, way, way, way, way too seriously.
Michigan is far from the first or last high-minded school to reveal its football program breeds every bit as much psychosis as can be found anywhere else in the country. Oh hey, Northwestern.
A few people have suggested I fixate on this because I was born in the SEC’s jurisdiction, which is hilarious — like, literal laughs. Yeah, I broke away from decades of conservative Evangelicalism and don’t believe anyone actually feels the need to say “coke” when they mean “soda,” but just can’t help falling for Mississippi State vs. South Carolina propaganda.
I just suspect numerous circumstances have taught my eyes to always snap toward paragons of integrity who can’t seem to ever maintain the tidiness they preach at everyone else, and ah shit, that sound means it’s time to enter Promo World!!
Aww yeah, we’ve reached Promo World!!! Hell is a world without Promo World.
My novel continues to move toward you. I’m currently going thru proofread business in its first physical copy, and we’re waiting on one thing to click into place before I have final art. Pal, I’m excited. Not because it’s been years of effort (it has, more than I ever would’ve imagined, but every bit was a blast), but for two reasons:
I want to see people react to reading it.
Secret (for now) reason.
It’ll be available in ebook and paperback, we’re looking into hardcover, and I’d love to narrate my own audiobook, if sales demonstrate there’s demand. Plus, there’s talk of a sporadic book tour next year through some of America’s finest metropolises.
For now, won’t you become one of the next 54 people to sign up for day-one updates at Shutdown Fullbooks? We’re 54 away from 8,000 there, you see.