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The National, 5/9/12: BAN EVERYTHING.

Utter Waste of Time Department: So, last night noted smart person Malcolm Gladwell, noted curmudgeon Buzz Bissinger, noted loon Jason Whitlock, and not all that notable former player Tim Green got together to debate the future of college football. (This particular piece goes unlinked, as there's no currently available video feed or transcript, but you can find commentary and analysis regarding the debate all over the place now.) Gladwell and Bissinger, in favor of banning the sport, did raise cogent points. In a startling development, Bissinger outsmarted his partner.

Gladwell's argument is essentially one of player safety. Unfortunately, you can't raise that argument vis-a-vis college football without also raising it for the NFL and high schools. Furthermore, it seems to me that there are other sports which one might need to think about banning before getting around to football -- namely, any sport whose entire objective is knocking your opponent unconscious. Boxing and MMA, you're on notice. You also need to ban fighting in hockey, and institute serious penalties for hitting batters in the head with fastballs whether deliberate or not. Heck, I might even suggest going after horse racing before football, what with living creatures unable to give consent to their participation in a "sporting event" which far too often ends up being a suicide mission. It's the typical pattern of the moral panic; latch onto something which is currently in the news and sure to raise a stink while ignore more serious yet basically similar problems.

Bissinger, on the other hand, took the academic approach, complaining about the damage football (and, by lesser extension, all other collegiate sports) does to the academic environment. Buzz spoke about worthless degrees, athletic departments having larger budgets than English departments, and the culture which leads to football coaches being more powerful on campus than school presidents. Bissinger, however, pulled off a coup when he actually put forth a sensible and relevant solution to the problem; a solution in which I honestly can see only one flaw, but it's a flaw on which very few people other than I would be expected to focus.

Buzz suggested that athletic departments be split off from the university entirely, removed from academic control and operated as minor leagues, yet still tied to their schools by tradition (or even owned by the schools as fund-raising entities, yet without any academic connection). For schools that actually do operate at a profit or close to it, this actually works.

The problem, though, is all the schools outside the big boy conferences. As logical as Bissinger's idea may be for the Alabamas and Ohio States of the world, the fact of the matter is that it would kill off college football for the Amhersts and Delta States. At Division III schools, this wouldn't have a detrimental impact academically, as players in Division III aren't relying on those scholarships. At Division I FCS and Division II schools, as well as NAIA programs (and arguably the MAC/Sun Belt tier of FBS), however, you'd be depriving kids of the ability to parlay their ability on a football field into an education. Ultimately, that's where this entire proposal has to go flying off the rails. It's not surprising, however, that the smaller schools are getting ignored in Bissinger's grand plan. They always get ignored.

State College Gets Weirder: In the wake of yesterday's change in testimony, Mike McQueary is also apparently gearing up to sue Penn State under whistleblower statutes, the identities of minors accusing Jerry Sandusky accidentally got revealed, and Sandusky's lawyers are trying to delay the trial further. It's all cray-cray, and we may never see the end of this at this rate.

No, Virginia, Realignment is Not Done Yet: The ACC signed a big deal with ESPN today carrying them through the 2026-27 season and increasing each school's take by about four million, which should put a serious ding in the Florida State/Clemson to the Big 12 rumors. There's still a lot of chaos left to resolve, however, including the Big 12's ultimate plans, the fates of Idaho and New Mexico State, and Conference USA's 12th football member... and Appalachian State may be the answer. Meanwhile, Texas State done got paid for moving to the Sun Belt, as major donors ponied up to pay off entrance and exit fees incurred by the school's double-conference hopscotch game.

PAWWWWL, THEY OUT TO GET US: Pete Thamel of the New York Times reported that the NCAA is investigating certain things about Kentucky recruit Nerlens Noel. Despite the general tone of the article indicating that the NCAA seems interested in the activities of Chris Driscoll, who by all reports is a barnacle trying to attach himself to prominent New England preps, Big Blue Nation is up in arms over the report because they think Pete Thamel's out to get them at every turn. (Okay, it doesn't help that everyone's characterizing Thamel's reports as "NCAA Investigating Nerlens Noel", and admittedly they do seem also to be interested in learning how Noel was able to make campus visits on his own dime.)

Diablerie: Terrelle Pryor explains why he just had to make bank. ... Wanna buy Bobby Petrino's crashed motorcycle? You can. ... Now that he's getting paid, Jordan Jefferson's getting sued by the guys involved in the bar fight which resulted in Jefferson's early-season suspension last year. ... Mike Leach does an AMA? Skip Holtz raises a Google+ Hangout. Leach, not to be outdone, signs my buddy Nick Gustafson's copy of Swing the Sword... "To Nick - CJK5H". Nick reports that the Dread Pirate was cagey about it, but he's pretty sure Leach knew what it stood for.