Let’s play a game. Guess Who Said It!
Here’s an actual quote from an actual power player in major college athletics:
“If you’ve got a $6 million athletic budget, you shouldn’t be worrying about what I do. You’re never going to compete with us. We don’t recruit the same players. We don’t even play on the same field. It just doesn’t matter.”
Was it a) SEC Commissioner Mike Slive; b) Alabama coach Nick Saban; c) South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier?
The correct answer: d) None of the above. It was University of Washington President Michael Young who stated the obvious to the Seattle Times.
Wow. Shoots some serious holes in George O’Leary’s new twist on the Civil War, doesn’t it?
In case you missed it, the Central Florida coach didn’t like it when Slive closed the SEC spring meeting with his threat of autonomy for the big boys or else. The “or else” wasn’t a vague threat. Slive gave his threat a name: Division IV.
As in, if the NCAA doesn’t decide in August to let the Power 5 Conferences make some of their own rules, they’ll push to form their own division within the NCAA.
O’Leary’s response: “They sound like the South during the Civil War. If they don’t get their way, they’re going to secede and start their own country. … I think college football is in real trouble.”
O’Leary’s frustration is understandable. UCF is growing into a program and a school with the potential to be another Florida State or Miami, both of which developed into major football powers in a relatively short amount of time.
But his statement has more holes in it than the resume he gave Notre Dame when he was hired as the head coach there in 2001. Lies on that resume – including one that said he has a master’s degree in education – forced O’Leary to resign after five days.
Slive and the other leaders of the Power 5 aren’t threatening to secede and don’t want to start their own country. Slive made it clear the SEC schools want to remain within in the framework of the NCAA.
Despite Saban’s stated preference that the Power 5 schools only play other Power 5 schools, the SEC never came close to proposing such a scheduling model. Instead the conference declined to pass a rule prohibiting its schools from playing FCS opponents, which is a very good thing for the Samfords of the world and their much-smaller athletic budgets.
If those facts didn’t make O’Leary seem foolish enough, imagine the coach of a school that just beat the Big 12 champion in the Fiesta Bowl declaring that “college football is in real trouble.” Yes. It’s in so much trouble it’s become the second most popular sport in this country behind the NFL.
Then there’s the most insulting part of O’Leary’s statement, the Civil War shot. His lack of perspective is frightening. Saban once made the mistake of comparing Alabama’s 2007 upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe to “catastrophic events” such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Um, no. A football game isn’t quite as catastrophic as an attack on the United States, and a demand to change the NCAA’s governance structure bears zero resemblance to a bloody war that could’ve split this country in two for good.
Slive and the SEC are an easy target, but they’re not alone in their desire to have the NCAA face this reality: You can’t level the playing field that already tilts heavily in the direction of the Alabamas and Auburns of the world, but you can and should let the big boys take better care of the athletes that make the whole machine work. Witness the blunt but true words from the Washington president.
It’s no wonder O’Leary didn’t actually finish his alleged master’s degree in education from New York University. He’s done a wonderful job with the Central Florida program, but the man still has a lot to learn.