I'll start by stating I'm not a prude. I'm a fan of capitalism; I like being marketed to, and believe that college football epitomizes America at its best. That said, I also like order, I like rules, and I like accountability. These are also things that I believe are the embodiment of college football and America at its best.
But if there is one thing frustrates me, it's hypocrisy. Not the kind where a buddy sneers at you because you don't work out seven days a week, but smokes. But the buddy who works out seven days a week, judges you because you smoke, but smokes himself. Such is the NCAA and their leniency on gift bags. Gift bags are nothing new and standard fare to student athletes playing in one of this seasons bowl games.
This morning in my Facebook News Feed for ThePostGame, I saw lovely article about Virginia Tech junior Antone Exum. Instead of using the $470 Best Buy gift card provided by organizers of the Russell Athletic Bowl on himself -- Antone used the funds to purchase a PlayStation 3 for some kids who were playing the floor model.
A nice holiday story indeed.
When I finished the article, I realized the unadulterated hypocrisy of the NCAA and its unabashed willingness to take sponsorship dollars that allows the same activity they would otherwise punish at the university level. Imagine Alabama alumni giving a student-athlete a $470 Best Buy gift card. Hell have no fury like the NCAA scorned. Can you imagine? Players suspended, games forfeited, coaches fired, scholarships reduced.
I'm the first to admit the system isn't perfect. That without rules, there's chaos. Over the years there have been numerous versions of this story. Being from L.A., I can think of two -- Jim Harrick and taking recruits to a dinner beyond the 1:1 ratio of athlete to recruit -- and Reggie Bush. Yes, I'm oversimplifying the gravity of both as well as the content of this article -- but it does raise an interesting question.
If the NCAA requires each university to abide by a set of rules, then forces each university to self police and enforce said rules -- and then -- then breaks the same very rules it wrote by hiding behind 'a result of doing business' -- is this not the NCAA judging and punishing you for smoking but smoking themselves? Is this not a mixed message for the student-athlete?
When Antone and his teammates return for spring practice next year and someone offers them a Best Buy gift card just for the hell of it, where does the difference lie?
I'm not arguing the merits of what a student-athlete receives or what he or she can and cannot do. What I'm pointing out is that gift bags, well deserved or not, are exactly the kind of physical perk the NCAA spends countless hours and mounds of dollars fighting against.
It's a slow news week, other than the fiscal cliff, so perhaps all things being equal, none of this really matters. But it is interesting fodder.
For your enjoyment, here's a list of all the 2012-13 bowl game gift-bag goodies.
The kids from Notre Dame and Alabama receive a Tourneau watch for their efforts.
Pretty damn nice if you ask me.