Bleacher Bits: A tale of two football programs
The contrast between the two headlines could not be any more striking.
On Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports ran a lengthy article titled "At Notre Dame, campus life differs little for students and football stars." Then on Thursday the headline on a Sporting News story blared, "Maurice Clarett says he lived 'NFL life' at Ohio State."
The Yahoo story was written by Pat Forde after he was given exclusive access into the daily lives of Notre Dame football players. So it's not like he's some rabid "Golden Domer" who only wants to paint a picture of rainbows filling the skies over the campus in South Bend, Ind.
His story details the daily and low-key lives led by the Fighting Irish football players in a campus culture that encourages players to live among, and socialize with, the everyday students.
"There is no separate society for football players here," Forde assures in his story. He went on to say that there is no football dorm or what he calls "bunny majors."
Columbus, Ohio — home of the Ohio State Buckeyes — is roughly 260 miles away from South Bend in distance, but at least in 2002 was light years away in terms of how they treated their football players.
Clarett was the running back who in 2002 led Ohio State to a national championship. He also unsuccessfully challenged the NFL draft eligibility rules that require a player to be at least three years removed from high school, and was later dismissed from the university.
In the Sporting News story, Clarett is quoted, "I took golf, fishing and softball as classes. Away from class, anything you can think of I did in my 13 months at Ohio State."
Along with dalliances that included drugs and women, it was reported that Clarett owned three cars, including a brand-new Cadillac and a Lexus.
"I was living the NFL life in college," Clarett said. "I got paid more in college than I do now."
His "now" is as a player for the United Football League's Omaha Nighthawks, after the demons of a life of drugs and crime sentenced him to seven-and-a-half years in prison, although he was released early for good behavior.
I'm not about to insist that Notre Dame is "squeaky clean," or that Clarett is to blame for his treatment at Ohio State.
I point the finger at "football factory" institutions that treat their football players either like demigods, or as commodities used to fatten their coffers with a steady stream of cash flowing in from boosters and TV deals.
The current system does not allow college athletes to be paid for their efforts, yet we blame the athletes who accept under-the-table payments or want those big paydays to begin as soon as they can.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.