Why are we always surprised? Why, as fans, do we get shocked, outraged, indignant, and overwhelmed over every sports scandal that breaks seemingly every week of the year?
When the news that Auburn allegedly covered up synthetic marijuana tests for ten of its players during the team's 2010 championship season, a question was asked to Oregon Ducks fans: do you feel cheated? One of the responses from an Auburn fan was that the Ducks fans should not be surprised to find that Chip Kelly left Eugene ahead of a scandal of his own. That what happened at Auburn was not the exception, but more of the norm in today's age.
Bobby Petrino and Arkansas last year. Terrelle Pryor and his tattoos at Ohio State in 2010. The recruiting violations that may or may not have been at Miami in 2011. Teams get placed on probation, coaches sometimes move on to a different job, but the landscape does not change. It took a former assistant coach sexually assaulting young boys on campus for a punishment that meant anything, and compared to drug cover ups and jersey sales for tattoos, that latter are not even in the same galaxy. In 2003, a student was murdered by a teammate at Baylor University. The coach covered it up and the program only fired its coach. The team was also placed on a one-year postseason suspension. When a player being killed does not create change in the punishment system, what will?
When punishment mean as little as this, more of the outrage seems to stem not from what they did, but the fact that the players, coaches, and schools lied about it. They tell the press they had no idea, deny the allegations until the end, and when the punishment comes down, read an apology off a sheet and move on with their lives.
How long till a coach in the middle of the scandal is honest with the press?
"I admit there were recruiting violations during our championship season. In the end, it benefited our program and hurt almost no one. I will have a new coaching job within twelve months, it doesn't affect me. Our team members have graduated, it doesn't affect them. Our school already got paid the merchandising and bowl payments and cleared the checks. It doesn't affect them. A postseason ban hurts the players currently on roster who had nothing to do with this, but that is how things work."
Would that be better? Would fans react better to the honesty? I think they would. The fans do not like be treated as if they are stupid. The fans see the writing on the wall, and problems with the processes in the NCAA.
So why are we always so surprised? The bigger question should be: when will the fans stop being surprised? What kind of violation will it take before the NCAA makes the changes to truly enforce discipline in college sports? By that point, will it matter anymore?