Jersey/A in shock.
Home-field advantage? Oh, for
God's sake don't blow it.
Nineteen eighty two
Vikes move into Metrodome
No Super Bowls since.
NFC West champs
Who dat, who dat, who dat say!
We go one and out.
—"Realist Saints fan"
Hidden Indicator: Teams playing at home that needed wins for postseason reasons went 4-2, while teams playing on the road that needed wins for postseason reasons went 2-2. This is the kind of hidden indicator that proves—look, you already know it's better to play at home.
Running Items Department
Obscure College Scores: Check out the Little All-America team from obscure colleges. Best names: Clay Clevenger, Carson-Newman; D.J. Flick, Slippery Rock; Abed Taha, Western Georgia. Best hometown: Kevin Nagle of East Stroudsburg hails from Effort, Pa. This brings Obscure College Scores to a close for the year, since the teams that play from now on are well known. Though there are a few obscure bowls ahead. Gotta love the Humanitarian Bowl, at which teams promote global compassion by hitting each other.
But there's a remaining college point TMQ wants to make: NCAA football has become so money-oriented that most big schools no longer go through the motions of pretending otherwise. When Associate Professor Linda Bensel-Meyers blew the whistle on grade-alterations for University of Tennessee football players last year, the surprise was not that she became a pariah on campus but that she was naive enough to presume grades weren't being altered. Last spring the graduation rate for Division I-A football players sank to 48 percent, the lowest ever. In all NCAA divisions, the only schools that graduated every player were Georgetown, Holy Cross, Lafayette, and Northwestern. And so far as can be seen, big-university regents couldn't care less that their football programs are hoaxes from the academic standpoint.
Collegiate athletic cynicism might be acceptable if it landed players an occupation, but far less than 0.1 percent of NCAA football players ever receive a pro check. Thousands exist on a false dream of NFL careers, encouraged by their college coaching staffs. By the time they wake up, their scholarships are exhausted. Four or five years in college turns out to translate into no diploma and, if they're lucky, a job driving for UPS. No need to add that it is predominantly minority athletes who get shafted in this manner.
Owing to such considerations, many have proposed that pretenses be dropped and college football players simply be paid. TMQ (assisted by TMQ brother Neil, a professor at a Division I-A school) has an alternative solution: a new standard by which, for every one year someone plays or redshirts Division I-A football, he earns another year of scholarship. That way when football eligibility ends and the 22-year-old wakes up to the need to get an education, the chance won't be gone: Four years of real learning will still await.
Some players won't need this option, they will be disciplined enough to perform and study at the same time, getting degrees on schedule. But for the majority of NCAA football players who under the current system never graduate, universities will face a choice. Either pay the cost of keeping ex-players around an extra four years or insist on real education while they play and stop tampering with grades. NCAA schools today have no incentive to educate athletes. The incentive is to take advantage of them, then toss them overboard. Give every I-A player an extra year of full-boat scholarship for every year he plays, and suddenly schools will have an incentive to foster genuine "student athletes."
Most Embarrassing Dennis Miller Moment: Suspended out of respect for Dennis Miller, former MNF farceur. Memo to Disney senior management: Despite Miller's best efforts, MNF still has some ratings left to save. Robin Roberts would look mighty sharp in that booth, and then the show would be about football, not shtick and self-promotion.