Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

The feared 'wild West' is already here

I had something to say before about Todd Gurley's suspension, and I'm going to say it again now that we know he is suspended for a total of four games.

A rule is a rule. And the rule is still wrong.

It's wrong in largest part because it is a sham. The idea that it maintains some semblance of order, that it prevents college football from becoming some kind of "wild West" in which schools, players and their fans set their own rules. As a friend of mine put it the other day, "the very same level playing field the NCAA claims this rule is there to protect creates an even more un-level playing field due to the way it's enforced."

We keep hearing other players who autographed dozens, even hundreds, of items available for sale won't be treated the same way as Gurley. Why? Because no one has accused them of taking money. Now, absolutely no one actually believes those other players didn't take any money, directly or indirectly, for signing those autographs. Who, then, is the NCAA empowering when it takes this approach to these cases? I'd say it is empowering anyone with a motive to make an accusation. Reportedly, the person who accused Gurley of breaking this rule is a Florida fan; as it happens, the accusation was made during the season, months after the alleged time the transgression occurred, with the effect that Gurley won't play against Florida. Meanwhile, other players who, common sense dictates, did everything Gurley did -- except work with the wrong guy -- continue to play as if nothing happened, and the NCAA by all accounts will take no initiative to do anything about it.

In short, the "wild West" is already here, with different players and schools living by different rules. If the NCAA is not motivated to enforce this rule unless it can't be avoided, it should repeal the rule.

Even if the timing and loyalties of Gurley's accuser are irrelevant or have been reported incorrectly, in what sense does this process represent justice or fairness or sportsmanship? It doesn't represent any of those things, for the foregoing reasons and one more: This is a victimless "crime."

Who suffers from having Todd Gurley, or any other player, receive money for signing his autograph? Who is harmed? The spirit of amateur athletics? Sorry, but that's been harmed more, orders of magnitude more, by the way the NCAA and its member institutions rake in the cash for themselves. If anyone is harmed by this, I suppose it's them. Which only makes the existence of the rule all the more grating.

If you want to comment on Gurley, feel free to do so below. If you want to comment about something else, anything else, feel free to do that, too. This is your weekly Open Thread.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.