The dynamic tensions inherent in big-time college football and their relation-
ship to a significant integrity threat – eligibility deception–are evident in the
pressures to win and grow revenues. Winning traditions generate significant
benefits, and recruitment and the retention of star athletes is vital to sus-
taining winning traditions. Star athletes are thus extremely valuable assets,
and the temptation to overlook rules regarding recruitment, amateur status,
and academic performance are correspondingly powerful. Given the pres-
sure to win and advance their own careers, for example, coaches and athletic
department officials may not adhere scrupulously to NCAA and university
rules. Similarly, university officials may value winning traditions above the
institution’s educational mission and permit different academic standards
for athletes. The student-athletes themselves, particularly if they come from
disadvantaged backgrounds and/or have little expectation of remaining in
school until graduation, may be tempted by illegal payments from agents or
booster groups.
In light of these dynamics in big-time college football, it is unsurprising that
controversies have afflicted the sport in recent years. Some examples:
In 2010, USC was placed on probation, forced to vacate past
victories in the 2004 and 2005 seasons, including a win in the
2004 BCS National Championship bowl game, endured the loss
of 30 football scholarships, and was banned from post-season
appearances for two years when it was confirmed that the family
of Reggie Bush, a star player for the university between 2003 and
2005, had received improper payments while he was a student.
Bush was stripped of the Heisman Trophy he had won in 2005 as
the nation’s top collegiate player. (After leaving USC, Bush moved
on to a successful professional career with the New Orleans Saints
and his coach, Pete Carroll, later became head coach and general
manager of the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL.)
In October 2010,
Sports Illustrated
published a long profile of former
agent Josh Luchs, who admitted making illegal payments to dozens
of college football players in the 1990s and early 2000s, including
several who became stars in the NFL.
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