MULE': Some things never change

Trivia question: what was the score of the 1972 Sugar Bowl between Penn State and Oklahoma?

The question came to mind last week while reading of the NCAA's punishment of Oklahoma because two of its players were not working their summer jobs, but still being paid pretty good money.

 

Some things never seem to change – although having to forfeit all of its eight victories of 2005 seems pretty harsh, particularly, in essence, for not following the kids around in order to check on their work routines. That would be difficult for any school to monitor every single athlete and his job duties – and pay scales.

 

This isn't dismissing the wrong-doing by the players, and they should be punished for it. But hitting the school for not keeping constant check on more than 80 athletes seems a little overboard. This coming from a governing body that can't get the goods on a higher profile program like Southern Cal and a higher profile player like Reggie Bush and the living arrangements for him and his family while he was a Trojan.

 

What's hard to shake is the notion that the NCAA is being extra severe just because this is Oklahoma, an historic renegade in the world of college sports – in fact, the Sooner basketball team already is in the official doghouse because of shenanigans of a former coach. So, perhaps, we have a case of double-jeopardy.

 

This is a place, remember, where long ago one of its presidents once famously said he aspired to build a university in which the football team could be proud. 

 

From the days of Bud Wilkinson who first forged a long line of Dust Bowl champions starting in the 1940s through the very tarnished regime of Barry Switzer in the 1970s and '80s, to now to Bob Stoops, OU coaches have often caught the eye of sports police. Along with Texas A&M football and Kentucky basketball, Oklahoma is among the most penalized programs in history.

 

Everything can affect anything else, whether we know it or not. One of the greatest football games ever was the classic 1973 Sugar Bowl between Notre Dame and Alabama. The details of the game was that Bama was No. 1 at the end of the regular season. The third-ranked Irish beat the Crimson Tide and ascended to the national championship.

 

Well, where was the No. 2 team, which happened to be Oklahoma at the finish of the regular season?

 

The Sooners were on NCAA probation for recruiting violations and banned from post-season play. If they had been eligible, perhaps Oklahoma would have been No. 1 instead of an historical afterthought.

 

Here's the answer, sort of, to the trivia question: The year earlier, Oklahoma beat Penn State 14-0 in New Orleans.

 

Three months after that victory there was a question of having to change the score: A joint investigation by the University of Oklahoma and the Big Eight Conference revealed that the high school transcripts of two players had been tampered with. As a result, Oklahoma voluntarily forfeited every game in which the pair participated, including the Sugar Bowl.

 

Penn State coach Joe Paterno refused to amend the outcome. "It's a shame that a great effort by an Oklahoma football team has to be marred by an inexcusable recruiting violation such as this incident,'' Paterno said in a prepared statement. "However, irrespective of what action Oklahoma or the Sugar Bowl would take in regards to the forfeit, our players and the Oklahoma players know who won the game.''

 

So the trivia question is moot.

 

But, despite overly harsh sanctions of 2007, no one can argue that some things – and some programs – never seem to change.

 

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Marty Mule' can be reached at MJM981@Bellsouth.net


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