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Thursday, July 21, 2011

College football cheating and vacated victories

Eric Schulz
Forgive me as I veer from marketing talk today to vent on the state of college football's rampant cheating scandals.


Last year, USC "vacated" all of its victories achieved in 2004 when Reggie Bush was playing for them as a result from his accepting "improper benefits" as a student-athlete there. Then, earlier this month, Ohio State "vacated" its 2010 season as a result of the problems that recently have surfaced there from football players selling memorabilia to a tattoo parlor, again receiving "improper benefits". More recently, Georgia Tech "vacated" its 2009 ACC Football Championship for similar violations. Auburn won the BCS game last January, and they too are under investigation, and my hunch is their waterloo is not too far away. Again, when they get caught, they'll vacate victories and hand back the trophy....

Pardon my disgust, but vacating victories is an insane concept. There are no Mr. Clean Magic Erasers in sports. It's history. Done. In the books. You can't rewrite it. This is akin to Germany vacating any association with Auschwitz. USC and Bush were the dominant team in college football in 2004. They won the BCS Championship. No magic eraser can change that.

The fans paid their money for tickets...the viewers tuned in....the advertisers paid for their spots....I think, since, now that these games and victories have been erased from the books....shouldn't they all get their money back, their time back? Not a chance. And that's why this thing will never get fixed in the current system. The athlete that cheats, in most cases, has "vacated" town before his "improper benefits" surface, with no penalty on him. The university gets embarrassed, but they got rich, so OK, they take the slap on the hand, get out the magic eraser, and go forward, business as usual.

So here's a radical idea. Make the acceptance of improper benefits while a college athlete a criminal offense. Yes, I said it. Make it a criminal offense, so that even if the athlete has already skipped town and moved on to the NFL or NBA, they can be prosecuted for their crimes. Then, have the courts nail them with major fines and jail time. That will make a student-athlete (that's a whole 'nuther blog for another day) think twice before accepting the gifts. This would move the onus off the schools and onto the athlete where the responsibility lies.

Schools also need to take responsibility, because they recruited these delinquents. So rather than just having to use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to rewrite history that really can't be rewritten, FINE them. That's right. One of your student-athletes breaks the rules -- they go to court -- you pay a $500,000 fine. That's a big enough incentive to want to steer clear of misdeeds. While that still doesn't help the fans or advertisers that paid their money to see these "invisible" games, it will make the institutions and their coaches think twice before looking the other way (which is what happened at Ohio State, and without a doubt, happens every day at most of the "power" athletic schools that reap in millions to their university every year.)

Under the current system, there is no reason not to cheat. The hollow practice of "vacating" victories is a joke.

Eric D Schulz


Eric D Schulz is a senior lecturer and co-director  strategic marketing and brand management at the Jon M Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.  He is a brand marketing expert and the author of The Marketing Game, How The World’s Best Companies Play to Win, a book that has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide.  Follow him on FACEBOOK at The Brand Cop and on Twitter @thebrandcop.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree this is a good point to start from, where is the penalty and responsibility to those who are tempting these student athletes? We are all responsible for our own actions, yet if you take a student athlete who comes from less than ideal circumstances and is using his or her athletic prowess to place themselves and their lot higher in life and then have a booster or fan, coach, school dangle a golden carrot what can you expect? I'm not excusing their decisions, only pointing out the obvious fact you missed.