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In SEC, winning is worth the sinning

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An interesting poll came out Tuesday that will not warm the hearts of SEC fans.

Coaches do not believe cheating is rampant in college football. But if there's cheating going on, you know who is guilty.

The SEC.

"Out of the 130 FBS schools in FBS, I would say, in the SEC, 80 percent (knowingly cheat)," a coach said. "Everywhere else, about 20 percent."

The poll was conducted by CBS Sports, which granted anonymity to respondents. About 25 FBS coaches weighed in.

One said that players get up to $500 by wandering the parking lot after games and getting cash handshakes from admiring tailgaters.

"I guarantee (that sort of thing) is going to happen at Ole Miss and Alabama and Mississippi State and Tennessee and Texas probably and Oklahoma -- for sure."

And I guarantee SEC fans think the poll is garbage. As a born-and-bred Southerner, I'd like to agree.

I'd like to write it off as sour grapes, Yankee elitism, Saban envy, whatever. But as a born-and-bred Southerner, I know better.

That's not to say cheating alters the nation's balance of football power. The SEC would still rule thanks to tradition, facilities, recruiting base and passion.

But that passion is harder to contain down South. The medical term is Harvey Updyke disease.

Updyke is the Alabama fan who got upset over Auburn's national title run in 2010. To get back at Cam Newton, he poisoned the hallowed trees at Toomer's Corner.

I'm not saying all fans are Harvey Updykes. The vast majority would never peel off a $100 bill for a recruit, much less kill a defenseless tree.

They are also convinced every SEC school (save Vandy) cheats except their own.

And no doubt, Updyke disease isn't limited to the SEC.

"Everybody's got their issues," Vandy Coach Derek Mason said at SEC Media Days.

He didn't think any SEC schools intentionally cheat, which means he hasn't been reading any news out of Mississippi lately.

But in general, Mason is probably right. State-sponsored cheating waned about the time Terry Bowden became head coach at Auburn in 1993.

In an AP interview eight years later, Bowden said he inherited a system where boosters were paying players $12,000 to $15,000 to sign.

Bowden was told just to shake the boosters' hands and say, "Thank you. I appreciate how much you love Auburn."

Bowden said he ended the program. But fans' love for Auburn or any SEC school is deep and eternal.

What's changed is how it's expressed. A big reason is money.

Florida hired former coach Charley Pell for $45,000 a year. The average salary of SEC coaches is now $4.3 million.

As Hugh Freeze is discovering, it would be idiotic to risk that for even a latter-day Herschel Walker. And I'm still naive enough to believe most coaches want to play by the rules.

Today's cheating is more diffuse. Coaches don't condone it and maintain deniability, but street agents pay recruits through third parties.

"There is that deal in the SEC and ACC where they're funneling money through ... churches," one anonymous coach said.

Since college football is a religion in the South, I guess that makes sense.

I am certain some worshippers would pay the altar boy $15,000 if he could bench 500 pounds and run a 4.5 40-yard dash.

I remember a couple of them from a trip to Mississippi State in the early 1990s. We were on an airport shuttle and they started talking about how thrilled they were with their new coach, the infamous Jackie Sherrill.

"I don't care what he does," one fan said, "as long as we win."

It was a classic case of Updyke disease.

Thousands of cash handshakes later, there is no cure in sight.

Sports on 08/11/2017

Comments

drs01 says...

It took real courage for a Florida newspaper writer to point fingers at the SEC, especially when J. Winston at FSU was degrading women and breaking the rules as Jimbo and the campus police and administration looked on. It also didn't go unnoticed that two national championships were won by teams with controversial QB's (Winston and Scam Newton). Oh yes, don't forget Ohio State. Cheating has to go on to sustain college sports. How else could a "star" player pass college level material if he can't read, write or do math? Dribble, Pass and Shoot or Run, Pass and Kick are now substitutes for the three R's. There may not be money exchanging hands, but it's still cheating....cheating parents who pay big bucks to have their children sit in the same classroom with these clowns.

Posted 11 August 2017, 8:50 a.m. Suggest removal

MM03 says...

3/4's of all FBS scholarship athletes have no business being in college as the point of college is academics. These athletes' IQ's are so low, they cannot even pass remedial college courses. FBS basketball and football have become businesses rather than a way to provide students an outlet to rally around the university. Coaches making $5 million a year with a 5+ year contract proves I am exactly correct.

Posted 11 August 2017, 10:37 a.m. Suggest removal

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