Henley blog: College athletics riding high but doomed

Living in the South, where college football long has reigned supreme, one easily can see how the landscape of college athletics has been shaped into the multimillion-dollar industry that it is today. As good as things are now, though, I contend that the things that seem right about major college sports are the same things that are wrong in 2013 -- and moving forward.

I recently read a piece where Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder said college athletics are in "a bad place right now." He discussed how money and television now drives college sports.

"The last I heard, we were educational institutions," Snyder said recently on a Kansas City-based radio show. "Certainly there is an education that takes place in football, and I understand all the parameters. But it's not driven by values; it's driven by dollars and cents."

I fondly remember when earning a college scholarship was an event celebrated unto its own. Everybody flocked to the occasion -- not just family but friends, players, coaches and the like. It was an accomplishment for the player when such an event took place.

Now it's an accomplishment for the college coach and the fan base. Players are now more defined by the number of stars in front of them than who they are. Colleges have been turned into minor league factories and athletes are expected to live the life of a college student despite being slobbered over by fans -- some 20 and 30 years older than they are.

A rapper once said, "I hate the price of fame. It costs too much." What if you can't afford the bill? Some people suggest that college athletes at the highest level deserve to be paid. Count me in that group -- although the normal stumping question (How?) gets me as it does everyone else on my side of the debate.

Meanwhile, colleges continue the money-grab that is college realignment. I'm glad that these institutions of higher learning have taken all of the sports into account as they make their decisions. As long as people are making money, it shouldn't matter that a school like West Virginia spends its conference season traveling to Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. With the money-maker that is women's soccer, that shouldn't be a prob .... Oh, I forgot, those programs don't exist when it comes to realignment.

As long as the football team's competitive, right? At all costs, even probation? You can look at the allegations towards Auburn's program a few years ago, but if they did break the rules, it worked, right? They got a national championship, and although you can take away banners and crystal balls, you can't take away pictures and memories. Advantage, Auburn.

Don't misinterpret my meaning. I'm not suggesting the Tigers cheated and don't care if they did. Let boosters do what they need to do to build a competitive program. As long as the football team's competitive, who cares how they got there?

Now the NCAA is swamped with allegations of scandals at multiple high-profile universities and doesn't know how to handle the things that have been thrown at them. They're trying to punish for rules that haven't been written. Now investigations into multiple universities are being botched because what's happening needs to be punished, yet there isn't a rule for it.

This week, area kids have signed to continue their respective athletics careers at institutions of higher learning. They'll succeed in the classroom and become whatever they're meant to become in life.

Yet in the next 10 years, I wonder what the landscape of college athletics will look like? Will sports like college football and basketball finally come to grips with the fact that they're nothing more than amateur sports, best suited to babysit a kid for a couple of years until he decides to turn pro?

One thing I feel confident about: We've seen the ascent of college sports, and it won't be too long until we see its demise.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.