Bob Ryan

A crown, but little royalty

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By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / January 12, 2011

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Our long national nightmare is over. We have finally crowned a collegiate football champion.

Oregon defeated Oregon State, 37-20, to wrap up an undefeated regular season. That was on Dec. 4. Auburn defeated South Carolina, 56-17, in the SEC championship game to secure its undefeated regular season. That, too, took place on Dec. 4.

So the teams that competed for the national championship at the highest level of college football each had to wait 37 days before engaging in Monday night’s contest. Thirty-seven days! That’s longer than the gestation periods for ducks, groundhogs, and kangaroos.

Please, don’t get me started on the inanity and uselessness of the foolish bowl games that feature 7-5 and 6-6 teams, and that includes the one Boston College played in the night before the Big Game. So many of them are despicable scams, and colossal money losers for the participants. If you care even a little about the topic, you owe it to yourself to seek out the excellent book, “Death to the BCS,’’ by the Yahoo! Sports triumvirate of Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan.

That the world does not need these ridiculous bowl games is beyond dispute. The postseason college football calendar needs to be revised. The latest this BCS championship game should have been played was Monday, Jan. 3.


The game itself, won by Auburn, 22-19, was interesting, and not at all what most of us expected, in part because the lengthy layoff clearly impeded offensive efficiency, especially Oregon’s. Of course, some of its problems had to do with Auburn, which, after a season in which its offense had constantly carried its oft-mediocre defense, played like, oh, I dunno, War Eagles or something.

An Oregon team that had averaged more than 300 yards a game on the ground was stymied throughout, and who wouldn’t want Nasty Nick Fairley on his side? Cam Newton remained Auburn’s MIP (Most Important Player), but you can legitimately argue that Auburn could not have won without a superb effort from true freshman running back Michael Dyer.

And who knows what would have happened had not an alert Auburn staff yelled at Dyer to get up from the man he was lying on and continue to run, since his knee had never touched the ground? But it did, and he did, and this reminded us yet again that one of the beauties of following sports is the chance to see something you have never seen before, even if you’ve been witness to 10,000 games.

Fine. Wonderful. We were entertained. But were we fulfilled?

I wasn’t. Now that it’s over, I feel the need to take a metaphorical shower, because once again the reality of big-time college sports overwhelms the romance. To me, this was a very bad year for those of us who love the product but are uncomfortable about the way that product is formed.

Like, why was Cam Newton even playing?

The whole thing is a joke, and to have him stand there in front of an ESPN camera and play the God card was galling. “I’m an instrument of God,’’ he proclaimed, adding that, and I’m paraphrasing, “this thing proves how something good can come out of something bad.’’ Or words very much to that effect.

So, was that an allusion to the fact that he was accused of cheating at Florida on at least three occasions? Was that an allusion to the computer incident, in which he was seen tossing a (stolen) computer out the dorm window when there was a knock on the door? Was that an allusion to the allegation that his father, Cecil Newton, a “bishop’’ of five churches, had pimped him out to the tune of a $180,000 demand to Mississippi State (a school with an NCAA rap sheet from here to Tupelo)? Was that an allusion to the fact that he was (secretly) declared ineligible for one day and then reinstated the next day?

Cam Newton’s one season at Auburn will go down as one of the most spectacular overall performances in the history of college football. He was an absolute pleasure to watch, and he carried Auburn — a school hardly unfamiliar with NCAA investigations stretching over a five-decade period, a school whose most important athletic backer is a mysterious figure named Bobby Lowder and not anyone employed directly by the athletic department, a school whose fan base is irrationally driven by its rivalry with Alabama (forget Red Sox-Yankees/Patriots-Jets; you have no idea) — to a national championship.

Does anyone down there care that their beloved championship is an ill-gotten gain? Are you kidding?

This same season revealed Ohio State to be a disgrace.

Five Buckeyes players, including standout quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were caught selling assorted Ohio State memorabilia for money and/or free tattoos, all of which constitutes, in the eyes of the NCAA, “impermissible benefits.’’ A make-it-up-as-you-go-along athletics director, Gene Smith, explained, “We were not as explicit with our student-athlete education as we should have been in 2007-08 and 2008-09 regarding the sale of apparel, awards, and gifts issued by the athletics department.’’

Perhaps such transgressions will be avoided now that the Ohio State Compliance Department under Mr. Smith’s fine supervision consists of seven full-time members, plus two interns. They might have had only the puny total of five full-timers way back in ’07, so how could anyone expect them to stay on top of things?

As you probably know, the great hypocrisy coming out of this one was the announcement that the Tattooed 5 will be suspended for five games — next year. You don’t think the idea that neither the school, nor the Big Ten, nor the network televising the game wanted Ohio State to show up for its Sugar Bowl clash with Arkansas sans its key player, Mr. Pryor, or a key wide receiver, Mr. DeVier Posey? Who could possibly be that cynical?

Oh, I know Oregon’s star player, running back LaMichael James, has had his own issues involving domestic violence, and it can be argued that he has no place on a college football field, either.

We could multiply this circumstance many times over, in both football and basketball.

Where is the NCAA in all this? The answer is that the NCAA talks a good game but knows how to protect the money.

Oh well, see you at Final Four time. I love that competition, too, but I’m sure I’ll have more things to be embarrassed about.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at