With virtually half the NCAA currently under investigation at this point and college football media days providing access to the head honchos at recently probed programs, the news-gatherers of the world have put rogue agents and the shady underbelly of recruiting in their crosshairs.
With USC, North Carolina, Florida and South Carolina (to name a few recent ones) all being put under the NCAA's giant, agent-hating microscope, story after story is being written about this recent flare up in violations concerning a problem that is almost as old as college athletics itself.
Ironically, the leaders of programs that have been put under the light recently are the ones beating the drum the loudest. Urban Meyer calls it an "epidemic." Nick Saban compares agents and runners to pimps. All, though, are willing to throw up their hands -- literally -- when asked to how to stop it, essentially sidestepping any blame in the process and forfeiting any responsibility for their 20-, 21-year-old "kids."
Friday morning, Jim Calhoun picked up his own set of sticks.
The tune, though, was a bit different than the one being belted out in SEC country.
While introducing Emeka Okafor, one of the most decorated student-athletes in his program's history, for a "role model of the year" award in Middletown, Calhoun went to bat for the NCAA and players like Okafor.
Despite watching his program be hit with eight major recruiting violations by the very same establishment just months earlier, Calhoun gladly went up on his soapbox to let everyone know things aren't as bad as they seem.
"You're being misled by the media, just like you're being misled on so many other things," Calhoun said. "They call it the swamp, college athletics. It's not a swamp. It's a tiny, tiny drop that's bad. Everything else is incredible."
Calhoun's probably right. The problem likely isn't as big as it seems now, especially since the NCAA has dragged several high-profile programs into the spotlight all at once on its apparent crusade to rid its ranks of evil-doers (y'know, after sitting on its hands for decades).
Still, the message may fall on deaf ears coming from the steward of a program set to likely lose scholarship(s) and possibly incur worse damages because of interactions with the very same shady agents.
Calhoun seems to want to treat these as isolated incidents, saying: "Yes, occasionally we have a bad apple. Yes, occasionally kids go wrong. I really believe that, and that's why we try to give them a second chance. More importantly, college athletics is alive and well."
Only problem is, he, of all people, should know that's not true. Nate Miles may have been the only one to be caught, but several of his players (most recently Ater Majok) have been dragged through the mud throughout his tenure. To say that a few "bad apples" are the issue at a time when bushels and bushels are being put under the microscope doesn't really help support his claims.
And his comments only seem to progressively get more and more off the mark as he goes along, as he eventually almost defends programs that have to resort to extreme measures:
"The problem, simply, is we're involved in a money-making proposition on our front porch, athletics. We're just the front porch. Don't ever think we're UConn. We're the front porch of UConn. We display great athletes, but more importantly we're trying to get you to see what's behind us, the great house of UConn. We're nothing more than a spotlight. But we need money to be able to do that, to compete. Because nobody pays attention to you unless you win."
So the problem is systemic, a product of the intense pressure put on coaches to win ... yet it's also only certain individuals who are the problem? ... What?
But Calhoun's roundabout does ring true in one way -- just more so from the way he dismisses this issue than through the dismissal itself: At what point will people realize there's nothing new to see here?
As Andy Staples points out, the influence of these agents has been felt for years -- Spurrier, he notes, is quite familiar with them, having faced similar claims back in the '90s at Florida.
But here we are, two decades later, and the problems still persist. And although this media onslaught and the NCAA's crusade have brought light to it yet again, will there really be any change? Or will this, just like any silly scandal that fills the airways -- especially in the sports dead zone that is the summer -- until it runs its course and some high-profile athlete in another sport gets arrested or says something not P.C.
So, forgive me for essentially becoming part of the problem by refusing to become part of the solution, but here's my Calhoun-approved response: Yawn. Wake me win something happens. These issues come and go, and the ones that stick around just become more intolerable the more they're "developed." I still don't care about steroids and never cared about Tiger Woods (unless it was reading his hilarious text messages). And you know what? I don't recycle, either. So screw you too, Earth.
Perhaps Saban is right for throwing up his hands and hiding behind the awe-shucks routine. At least when I look back at this whole saga a year from now, when nothing has changed, I'll at least get a small chuckle out of hearing him call agents "pimps."