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.

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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.

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The National Football League is America's passion. It dominates the Top 10 of Nielsen television ratings, with estimates of 180 million people watching part of a game last week. Whether they are fantasy fanatics, bettors or otherwise, this is our collective obsession. This was the marriage made in heaven for contemporary appetites for quick bursts of action in tightly contained segments, made for television and every platform of content supply.

But this pacing and immediacy are being severely impacted by endless instant replays and late calls. And the sport is starting to drag.

Scoring plays carry a thrilling ending. There is a buildup and development to a long pass pass play, a dramatic return or a brutal struggle by a runner to score. The player dives over a pilon or breaks free into the end zone and the in-stadium crowd and television viewers erupt in exultation or frustration. It is a moment of extreme excitement that separates the sport from others.

But not anymore.

Every touchdown is reviewed by a team of supervisors upstairs in the stadium. None of the process is visible on the screen or in person. There is an endless and boring delay. The excitement is replaced by uncertainty. And then comes the announcement: "Upon further review" ... it's disconnected to the play and anti-climatic. This destroys the immediacy inherent in every scoring play. Zzzzzzzzzzz. These delays give defenses a subtle a edge over offenses. They can break the rhythm of a quarterback's play and destroy momentum while giving the defense extra time to rest.

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Turnovers are impactful moments in NFL games. A frenetic scramble for a fumbled football is untangled to reveal which player and which team has recovered.

Since turnovers can completely alter momentum and the course of a game, they lead to collective reaction. A key interception is exciting. Not any more. The play is reviewed. Young men turn old, autumn turns to winter, and still there is no decision. Boring. And virtually every pass reception or incompletion seems to engender an interference call. On pass play after pass play, either the wide receiver or the defensive back seems unable to conform to the standard of legal conduct and flag after flag after flag ensues. This destroys the immediacy and flow of most pass plays. It is impossible for a fan to display emotion without the referee altering the result. There is no certainty. Zzzzzzzzz.

The action on a NFL field is largely subject to the head coach's perogative to challenge a play. Second after second, minute after minute the replay process slugs along and most calls on the field end up being confirmed. Why do we have highly-trained, experienced officials on the field to make calls on the field at all?

If their judgments are going to be reviewed non-stop, what was all the controversy about the ineptitude of replacement referees? If play after play is subject to review, we can have fans volunteer as officials, no matter how many times they blow a call it will not matter since boring reviews have replaced real football action and pacing. Who ever guaranteed that football would resemble slide rule or adding machine exactitude? A certain number of questionable calls occur in every team sport. It is desirable to minimize these officiating errors, especially if they alter a game result, but even replays produce debatable decisions. This will always occur as long as fallible humans are evaluating film through imperfect human perception. Every behavioral experiment in observation of identifical events shows that honest people have different perceptions of what they see. Fans and players have always complained about but tolerated occasional bad calls as "part of the game." When the urgency and immediacy of fan experience becomes replaced with uncertainty, doubt and enervating delay -- it is time to take a new look at these rules changes.

The games are becoming longer, and the additional time adds nothing to the fan experience. Week 3 in 2011 saw an average game time of 3 hours, 11 minutes. Week 3 in 2012 had games that averaged 3 hours, 23 minutes. The longer games are not a one-season aberration. Games in 2011 were longer than games in 2010, and 2012 was slower.

The NFL adjusted halftime length and time between plays some years ago because it feared the games were running too long. Replays have resulted in slower game times and pacing. Fans accept the commercial breaks and use them as a time to visit the bathroom or kitchen or debate past plays. When thrilling action is replaced by interminable delays and the NFL pacing is replacing by snores, it is time for a instant "review" of the use of instant replay.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

Photo Credits: Getty Images

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How many deaths will it take till he knows,
that too many people have died?
Bob Dylan,
Blowin' In The Wind

Professional football was shocked by the news that Kansas City linebacker Javon Belcher had shot his fiancée nine times, before driving to the Chiefs' training facility and killing himself. He left his infant daughter an orphan. Media outlets were filled with talking heads conjecturing what the cause had been and the consequences on the Chiefs season. Life went on without anyone stating a basic truth -- guns kill people. The ease of simply pulling a trigger finalizes conflict, which might otherwise be resolved. It transforms rage, which might manifest itself verbally or in fist fighting into the most extreme form of violence. This was not the first incident of gun violence associated with anger and it will not be the last.

Sports figures have the ability to serve as role models and trigger imitative behavior. They could serve as powerful figures campaigning against the excessive availability of automatic weapons. Instead, large numbers of athletes own firearms in the belief that it will help them protect themselves. History shows that more people are killed misfiring or spurring a violent response from intruders in a home invasion than lives are saved by guns' "protection."

Instead of the Belcher tragedy being a spur to a review of the availability of guns, life went on. Not long ago a disturbed individual terrorized a Portland shopping center with his gun. Friday, an almost unthinkable tragedy involving young children occurred in a Connecticut elementary school -- 26 deaths (20 of them are children) -- all from gun violence.

When is enough enough? What kind of atmosphere do we want prevailing in this country? If someone wants a rifle to hunt, they should have it. If someone wants a gun for self-protection, they should have it. But where in the Constitution or in public policy does it state that an unrestricted flow of automatic weapons is a protected right?

The Second Amendment states clearly that state militias have the right to bear arms. This is because our Founders feared the re-emergence of a potential Federal tyranny. They did not want a future King George to leave citizens helpless and enslaved. Nowhere in the thought process of our Founding Fathers was the individual right to bear arms contemplated. This is an invented right that the National Rifle Association has propounded. They were able to convince an extreme Supreme Court to validate that right. They have a stranglehold on Congress and legislatures across the country. Even President Obama and otherwise enlightened leaders go along with the charade of constitutionality out of fear of the NRA wrath.

Our most sacred duty is to protect our children from harm. The parents in Connecticut were powerless to do this because of the availability of automatic weapons to psychologically imbalanced individuals. This has nothing to do with depriving hunters or fearful citizens of their weapons.

I am just in the process of re-launching my practice and representing athletes again. If I did have clients in critical positions, I would be urging them to speak out. My father used to say that there is no "they that will cure problems or fight for what is right -- the they is you and me.”

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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The move by Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema to accept a higher paying job for himself and his assistants at Arkansas weeks before his old team is slated to play in the Rose Bowl raises the perpetual question: Are massive football and basketball salaries for coaches at institutions of higher learning justified?

Bielema will be paid a base salary of $3.2 million a year for a guaranteed six years with incentives that can push his revenue to roughly $4 million per year. If Arkansas were to fire Bielema in the first three years, they would owe him $12.8 million. His assistants also received hefty raises. When Tennessee fired Derek Dooley last month, the Vols obligated themselves to pay him $5 million in monthly installments.

Six years ago, 42 major college football coaches made at least $1 million per year. Today 42 coaches make at least $2 million. The average annual salary for head coaches at major colleges is $1.64 million, up nearly 12 percent over last season -- and more than 70 percent since 2006, according to USA Today.

Head football coaches like Nick Saban of Alabama and Mack Brown of Texas make $5.5 million and $5.3 million, respectively. The assistant football coaches at Clemson share a compensation pool of $4.2 million -- do the math. According to Esquilar, an executive compensation data firm, between 2007 and 2011, CEO pay including salary, stock, options, bonuses and other compensation, rose 23 percent. In that same time period coaches' pay increased 44 percent.

This massive explosion of spending on coach's compensation is occurring against the backdrop of funding crises at universities across the nation. The economic recession has dropped alumni giving levels and public universities have had tax funding reduced. This has caused a decline in instructional spending, and resources and dramatic increases in tuition. Compensation for university presidents is under attack; they average $421,000. Athletic director salaries average about $450,000. These figures are dwarfed by the revenue generating athletic coaches. So under what rationale are these coaches compensated?

There is no figure with as dynamic an impact on the success or failure of a college athletic program than the coaching staff. Unlike professional sports and high schools, they have to recruit every athlete who plays for them. This is a Social Darwinian cutthroat competition. The pressure to recruit is year-round and inescapable.

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They have to project the growth rate and maturation of 17-year-olds over the next four years. Guessing correctly is part of what makes the difference in roster strength. Coaches are then charged with supervising the nutrition, weight training, behavior, academic prowess and practice of older adolescents who are often still in a growth and maturity phase. The players are not being paid and need constant motivation and mentoring.

These same coaches face constant external pressure and second guessing from athletic directors, parents, administrators, boosters, the public, and the press. To gracefully perform all these functions and produce a perpetually winning team is an extraordinary achievement. When attendance drops, the college coach is the first blamed.

Most alumni sustain a large part of their interest in their alma mater's through following the progress of the school's men's basketball and football programs. It binds and unifies alums. I have talked with university presidents who indicate that they feel that 50 percent of alumni gifts to their schools may be triggered by athletic interest. The gift may be given to the music department rather than athletics, but it is spurred by athletic achievement and the pride it engenders. This giving plays a crucial role in university funding. Revenue also flows from the sale of memorabilia and merchandising with school logos. And clearly, monies generated by successful football and basketball programs can subsidize less profitable men's and women's sports that provide valuable experiences for other student athletes.

It is the explosion in television revenue that is altering college athletics. The network packages for football conference rights fees are rising exponentially. The new deal the Pac-12 signed with ESPN and Fox totals $3 billion over 12 years. This eclipses the previous deal. The Conferences are operating or starting their own television networks, adding to the bonanza. The success of an individual team can lead to a richer cornucopia. Those teams that have unique following and brand, like Notre Dame, can do their own network deals. The University of Texas has created its own Longhorn Network. And college athletics is availing itself of internet opportunities as well as tablet and mobile phones.

No factor is more important to insuring a winning collegiate sports program than the vision, system, development techniques and coaching provided by its coaches. Nothing is more important to television and other revenue streams for universities than creating a winning and distinctive brand. No achievement by a university stimulates more critical alumni giving than a winning sports program. The decision as to whether operating such a program in pressure-packed Division I sports fits with a universities' other values and priorities is the prerogative of each institution to make. But if the school makes the decision to compete, no money is better spent than that to secure the most productive coaching staff.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.

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