Buzz Bissinger is a grumpy man who likes to yell about sports and who was once, and still occasionally moonlights as, a pretty damn respected journalist. Of course, in his post as a sports columnist for the Daily Beast, he mainly sticks to his angry, self-righteous sports-guy shtick and last night dropped a column that puts him ahead of other angry, self-righteous sports guys in condemning the University of Miami Hurricanes.
His solution to the problem: Kill Miami football forever, make Donna Shalala resign, prance her around before Congress, and then charge her with perjury.
Here's the first point of Buzz's three-point plan:
The Miami football program must be given the death penalty by the NCAA. Not for one year. Or two. But forever. Gone. Kaput. Who will really suffer? Only the Wahoos who care about the Hurricanes more than they do their families--and need to get another life, anyway. The coaches? The players? If they have talent, they will all land somewhere else. In the real world, three strikes and you're out. In the athletic world, three strikes and you're just beginning. Who benefits? A university that perhaps may realize its primary mission is, can you believe it, academic and not athletic.
Oh, boy. First of all, I don't think the NCAA can really ban a program forever or is interested in setting such a precedent. So strike that.
As for the "wahoos who care about the Hurricanes more than they do their families," there are about five people like that left in the world. Has Buzz even seen the attendance numbers of recent Hurricanes games?
The inference that the University of Miami is more committed to athletics than academics is also based more on stereotype than truth. Maybe Buzz didn't realize, but as the football team has fallen to a midlevel ACC noncontender under Shalala's presidency, the school has risen to a Top 50 university, according to US News & World Report. (In interest of full disclosure, however, this is where I point out I hold a degree from UM.)
The only person who really benefits from suggestions that UM football be killed forever: Buzz's editors at the Daily Beast, who are looking for some anger-fueled page views.
Bissinger's second point is that Shalala should resign, either voluntarily or forcibly. It's not an idea Bissinger is necessarily alone in, but it's also one that seems a bit over-the-top. After scandals like this one, we all expect someone to get sacrificially fired. At UNC and OSU, the coaches were shown the door. The difference at Miami is that the coaches and athletic directors who were in charge at the time are now all gone. That leaves Shalala. That's not to say the president doesn't have some serious explaining to do, but calls for her resignation at this point seem more emotionally reactionary than anything else.
"But resignation is not enough," Bissinger continues. "She should be hauled before Congress, where the allegations against Miami are ten times more serious than all the steroid nonsense paraded about in Washington."
Yeah, you know what our horribly inept, broken Congress should deal with in the middle of a serious economic downturn? College kids partying on a yacht. No, don't even drag up NCAA officials, just Shalala, a 70-year-old former Clinton cabinet member who will surely be treated fairly by Republicans on the panel.
"Once she has done her murky dance of denial, a grand jury should be convened," he continues. "If it turns out she did know the outrageous conduct of booster Nevin Shapiro -- such as filling virtually an entire hotel floor with prostitutes for Miami players to gorge on, like grapes -- she should be charged with perjury."
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Oh, brother. It's not even clear at this point if head coaches Randy Shannon and Larry Coker knew the full extent of Shapiro's involvement. It's doubtful Shalala did. Again, it's just maybe a little to early to assume she should be facing perjury charges.
However, Bissinger returns to making some sense with his final point: "Booster programs supporting football and basketball at all colleges and universities should be banned."
But that assertion alone won't get him much attention or many page views.