Short-Term Memory: ESPN’s Mark May Forgets USC Ban, Cam Newton Saga

In a recent interview on ESPN, college football analyst Mark May made the following comments, in no particular order, regarding the recent suspensions–to be served over the first five games of next season, thus bypassing next month’s Sugar Bowl–of several Ohio State players after those players sold championship rings, jerseys, and awards and received improper benefits from a local tattoo parlor and its owner:

Statement #1:  “If this situation happened to any school in a non-BCS conference, if this happened to any school in the SEC conference…[those] players would not be playing in the Sugar Bowl.”

Statement #2:  “[The NCAA] will take certain conferences, particularly the Big Ten, their sacred cows, and the Pac-10, and they won’t punish them like they punish other conferences, particularly the SEC.”

Statement #3:  “If you pick up a dictionary and look up the word ‘hypocrisy’ and you look up the word ‘fraud,’ there should be parentheses behind those words and four letters:  NCAA.”

Ugh, where do I begin?

Let me preface my reaction to May’s comments by telling you that I am a moderate-to-big fan of Mark May. I think he is has football credibility because of his experience as a standout offensive lineman at the college and professional levels (1980 Outland Trophy winner and a two-time Super Bowl Champion). And I respect him as a broadcaster because he usually says what is on his mind and is not afraid to ruffle some feathers (unlike his counterpart Lou Holtz). That being said, May’s comments are completely off base and I am surprised that he didn’t think twice about making them (and if he thought twice, I am surprised he didn’t stop himself). From the top…

Statement #1 is a conclusion that May drew from…what evidence, exactly? I don’t remember a scenario like this Ohio State fiasco (and its timing) ever happening before, and clearly May does not recall one either because if he did he would have brought it up to bolster his claim. If you take his comments to a broader scale, May basically said that if any scandal involved players from an SEC school, those players would be forced by the NCAA to sit out a big upcoming game. Did May forget the NCAA’s treatment of Auburn star Cam Newton following the whirlwind of allegations that his father shopped him to several schools during his recruitment? That NCAA “investigation” heated up incredibly fast, and the height of their “investigation” took place during the week leading up to Auburn’s big showdown with rival Alabama. In other words, the height of the Cam Newton controversy coincided with Auburn’s biggest game of their undefeated season; as more and more facts began spilling into our laps, the much-anticipated Iron Bowl loomed; it was basically Auburn’s championship game because if they lost to Alabama there was no chance that they would go to the BCS Championship Game and Newton’s Heisman momentum would take a severe hit. Sounds like a huge game, doesn’t it? In fact, you could even argue that the Auburn-Alabama match was bigger than Ohio State’s upcoming Sugar Bowl will ever be. And what did the NCAA do with Newton? They let him play. Strike one, Mr. May.

Being a Trojan, May’s second statement made me laugh for two reasons. First, I can use the same argument above to destroy the second half of his statement where he said, “…like they punish other conferences, particularly the SEC.” And second, there was something that happened to USC over the summer, and I think I would classify that event as “punishment.” Let’s see if I can remember what happened…oh, right, the NCAA took a giant crap on USC, one of their “sacred cows.” Strike two, Mark.

Finally, although May sniffed in the correct vicinity in Statement #3, I think he is–in the big picture–barking up the wrong tree. We all know the NCAA is hypocritical. We know the NCAA is thirsty for revenue and will try to find any possible way around potential roadblocks if it means they save or earn a couple extra bucks. Thanks for your affirmation, Mr. Obvious. What you should have done during your nationally-televised and ill-advised sermon is ask the NCAA to apply their hypocrisy in a consistent manner. Sure, hypocrisy stinks. But it’s part of life and it’s part of college football. If the NCAA wants to be hypocritical, can’t they at least do so consistently? Earlier this season, Georgia star wide receiver A.J. Green sold a game-worn jersey and was suspended four games for doing so; more importantly, he was asked to sit as soon as the investigation began. I accept the fact that Green was penalized for selling his own belongings; the NCAA will not let anyone but itself profit from the players and their accomplishments. Fine. But if another player does the same thing three months later (the five Ohio State players at issue), why not begin their suspensions immediately like you did with Green? This isn’t about which player belongs to which conference; I already demonstrated that the NCAA has severely punished players/teams from all conferences. This is about consistency.

In the event that my reproduction of, and assault on, May’s comments did not have you shaking your head enough, see the full May interview below.

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