It’s no secret that misery loves company and perhaps there’s no better proof of that than the online celebration that took place yesterday as the potential downfall of the University of Miami football program was announced.
After Yahoo! Sports broke a story alleging that “The U” had a booster who provided several illegal benefits to players for the better part of the past decade, the many Ohio State fans and alums I follow on Twitter celebrated the news with jokes, judgment and laughter.
I have no problems with the jokes. I attempted a few and think that instant access to humor is one of the best parts of social media. I don’t have a problem with the judgment either. Some of the things that the Miami players are being accused of warrant it. What I do have a problem with is the laughter.
Aside from the pure hypocrisy of a fan base of a program on the verge of getting in a little trouble mocking a program that might be on the verge of getting in a lot more trouble, the fact of the matter is that Miami Hurricanes football not being the best that it can be is bad for college football.
In professional sports, the interesting teams are the teams with the stars. But with players coming in and out every year in college sports, the stars in college sports are determined by what jersey they’re wearing.
Think of college basketball. It’s indisputably at its best when Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky and a select few others are on top. In college football, Miami is one of those teams that can help the sport reach its potential. Having the school in trouble -and potentially on the receiving end of the death penalty- does nothing but hurt the sport overall.
Now before you comment on this column and inform me that Miami hasn’t been relevant since 2003 and college football has been just fine, let me answer you with this: you’re right. “The U” hasn’t competed for a National Championship since they lost to OSU in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl and college football has been just fine. It hasn’t played in a BCS bowl game since the 2004 Orange Bowl and college football has been just fine. But the fact that the past few years have been spent debating if Boise State should be playing for a national title shows that the sport is far from reaching its potential, regardless of the bowl system or lack of a playoff system.
College football is cyclical. A few years ago, Alabama was irrelevant. Now they’re a perennial top-5 team. A few years ago, USC was an unstoppable juggernaut, with stars filling out its first, second, and third teams on both sides of the ball. Now they’re not even eligible to play in bowl game thanks to sanctions from violations.
In college football, only so many programs can compete for a national championship and perhaps even less can do it while also being interesting. Miami is one of those programs. The great memories that OSU fans have of beating the Hurricanes in ’03 wouldn’t be as great if Miami had not been the powerhouse they were back then.
Even before the scandals of the past few years, Miami might be one of the three most interesting football programs in America, alongside OSU and USC. Buckeye fans shouldn’t be feeling joy as much as they should be feeling sympathy and sadness that no matter how great the college football product is in the coming years, we may never know what it would be like with a relevant ‘Canes team.