Collier: That smell is college football

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With the NFL lockout now fully resolved, I don't suppose we could work up a good, cleansing, 135-day lockout of college football.

A pity.

Contracts have been signed, schedules arranged, and who knows which bowl committees already have made plans for bribes, for strippers, and for bankrolling (oh my god) politicians. So, no, there's likely no turning back now.

Get ready for all the color and pageantry, odiferous as it may be.

The big-time college game never exactly has passed the smell test without twitching at least every other nostril, but its aroma right now is positively wretch worthy.

It's so bad in the new 12-team Big Ten Conference that the respected leadership can't even talk about it. Even octogenarian oracle Joe Paterno, asked specifically about the Ohio State cesspool the other day, darted the other way faster than he has moved in 30 years.

"Ohio State to me has been a great, great, great college football program through the years," Joe said. "I sure as heck don't want to start being critical of situations when I'm not that familiar with them. I try not to even read anything about it. I try to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do, period."

Joe wasn't the 1942 Brooklyn Prep dodge ball champion for nothin' ya know.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wasn't so nimble, calling ousted Buckeyes boss Jim Tressel "a tragic hero in my respect, in my view."

That's some Shakespearean contortion right there. Tressel learns of serious violations involving his quarterback and others, discusses them with Terrelle Pryor's Jeannette handlers rather than his Ohio State bosses or the NCAA, then goes 12-1 with a fistful of ineligible players.

Yeah, that's heroic.

At least Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany called it "embarrassing" that Ohio State is neck deep in the NCAA soup and that Michigan is only now crawling out after deposed genius Rich Rodriguez over-practiced the Wolverines into losing 75 percent of their conference games in his three seasons.

But let's not dwell on local problems.

That was some media day staged at the new 12-team Pacific-12 (what a clever name), with Oregon coach Chip Kelly choosing not to explain how he managed to write a check to Texas recruit trafficker Willie Lyles for $25,000, which, as someone noted, is the stupidest thing of its kind since then-Cincinnati mayor Jerry Springer paid for a prostitute with a city check.

At least Jerry got what he paid for. Kelly got useless recruiting info from the previous year.

Meanwhile, Oregon's opponent in the supposed national championship game last season, Auburn, is proud to announce its historical position in the founding of the new Newton rule.

This is technically still in the works by something called the NCAA Division I Amateurism Cabinet (seriously, a cabinet ... a small drawer is more than necessary). It is named for Cecil Newton, who allegedly tried to convince Mississippi State to fork over $100,000 for the services of his son Cam (now of the Carolina Panthers). Cam wound up going to Auburn, which won the national title while NCAA investigators tried to figure out if the Tigers really got the $100,000 discount. But because Cecil was not an agent and Mississippi State did not boat the big fish, no rule was violated, at least not by its letter. The new Newton rule will make anyone, not just an agent, who tries to extort money in exchange for a player's services feel the NCAA's wrath, such as it is.

So, with all the work involved in the realigning of programs into new conferences (Utah's in the Pac-12 and TCU, which I'm not even sure is on the East side of Forth Worth, Texas, is headed to the Big East), it seems as if all of college football might have simply been split into two divisions, The Probation Division and The Under Investigation Division.

Southern California is on probation. North Carolina is under investigation for nine potential major violations including the alleged direct financial transfer of funds from an agent to a coach, which helped coach Butch Davis get fired this week with, he said, essentially no knowledge of anything improper.

Alabama is on probation, but only in 16 sports.

Florida International, Central Florida and New Mexico are on probation.

This summer, probation-bound Ohio State did the minimally honorable thing by announcing that it was vacating all of 2010's wins. I'm sure they were thrilled to hear that at Eastern Michigan, the victim of a 73-20 September thrashing at the hands of Pryor and the Ineligibles.

In ESPN's splendid 30 for 30 film series, the best work might be "The Best That Never Was," which is the story of star-crossed Mississippi schoolboy Marcus Dupree. The film shows in the most compelling ways possible the extent to which the leading college football programs of the early '80s, notably Oklahoma and Texas, were willing to prostitute themselves for Dupree's services. Its unavoidably nostalgic tone might suggest to the casual fan that this is not the way things are done in 2011.

And that's true.

It's a lot more sinister, a lot more elaborate, a lot more pathological today.


Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com .


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