The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The NCAA Wasn’t a Beautiful Mess, Just a Mess

College football somehow had a worse year than any fan could expect, which is a hard to do for a sport that has 73 Wikipedia entries under “controversies.”

There were a myriad of major scandals and fun-ruining moments, ranging from the Michigan sign-stealing scandal, to Florida State being left out of the playoffs, to the transfer portal ruining the Cotton Bowl and other New Year’s Six games.

They all make the sport, the schools and the NCAA as a whole look terrible.

By itself, the Michigan sign-stealing scheme was a significant black eye on the season. The Michigan staff, most notably Connor Stalions, filmed the sidelines of opposing teams to record their coaches’ signals to call plays, which was a flagrant violation of NCAA rules. 

Stalions reportedly purchased tickets to 35 games across the country throughout the 2022 season against some of the biggest and toughest programs in the nation.

Stalions is a master schemer. He bought all the tickets in his own name, which is a genius move if you don’t want to get caught. While expertly infiltrating the sidelines of opposing teams, he wore Michigan gear, which is what most sign stealers wouldn’t do.

It’s this reverse psychology that makes him so revered among the Danny Oceans of the world. Maybe they’ll let him keep the blue and maize while heisting Las Vegas casinos.

In reality, Stalions just lost his job, and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh served a three-game suspension.

But don’t worry, the suspension would end right before the playoffs.

The worst part of the scandal is that the Wolverines didn’t need to steal signs in the first place. They went undefeated throughout the season and had their most impressive wins after the scandal broke.

They beat Ohio State, their hated rival, in one of the biggest games of the college football season and would eventually win the National Championship over the Washington Huskies.

However, like with most NCAA scandals that befall winning teams, the Wolverines’ national title will most likely be vacated.

Michigan’s sign stealing alone would be enough to dominate the season’s narrative, but the College Football Playoff selection committee decided that the sport needed more controversy and selected No. 5 Alabama over No. 4 Florida State for the final playoff spot.

The Seminoles were undefeated at that point, and though they lost both their starting and back-up quarterback, FSU beat Louisville in the ACC Championship.

Still, the College Football Playoff voters thought it best to show their SEC bias and rank Alabama, who was 12-1, above FSU after the Crimson Tide’s defeat of the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship.

Alabama didn’t deserve to be there. They lost at home to Texas in their second game of the year and barely beat No. 23 Texas A&M in College Station.

FSU deserved to be among the four best teams in the sport. Their high-flying offense averaged 37.3 points per game while their stifling defense allowed just 15.6. Even though they were down to their third-string QB, they were still winning.

AP voters agreed, ranking them No. 4 at season’s end.

The selection committee’s clear SEC bias eventually led to FSU to sue the ACC, which could mean the eventual dissolution of the conference. In a sport where longtime conferences are collapsing left and right, another stalwart falling could be the end of parity in the sport.

Parity also becomes meaningless when the transfer portal opens up before New Year’s Six bowl games. In the Cotton Bowl, where No. 9 Mizzou took on No. 7 Ohio State, the Buckeyes put up their “worst offensive performance in over a decade,” according to Sports Illustrated.

The Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, Kyle McCord, announced his transfer to Syracuse before the game, meaning he wouldn’t play at all in what could have been one of the best games of the season.

Additionally, wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who is projected to be one of the top picks in the draft this April, sat out to avoid injury. 

Fans are robbed of the iconic moments that New Year’s Six games provide, like Boise State’s iconic “Statue of Liberty” play in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007, because the sport’s biggest names ride the bench in some of the most-watched games of the year due to the transfer portal or injury prevention.

This problem may be solved in the expansion of the College Football Playoff next season. Players don’t sit if they have a chance for a national title, and the expansion might allow for some Cinderella runs in the future.

Here in the present, though, the NCAA needs to save face after its disastrous 2023-24 campaign.

About the Contributor
Zach Kennett, Sports Editor
Zach Kennett is a first-time journalism student and first-time member of the Claw. He currently serves as the co-editor-in-chief of The Tiger, which is the school’s yearbook. He formerly served as the managing editor. He has also won two sectional titles in scholastic journalism, with one being in news writing and the other being in sports writing. Zach enjoys spending his (dwindling) free time with his dogs, playing video games, cooking or driving his truck, Hank. Being a member of the Claw is important to him in that he was previously mentored by former Claw members and looks forward to leaving his mark on the publication.