Another Week Of College Football, And Yet Another Scandal

It's another week of college football and yet another scandal, this time at Oklahoma State, the subject of a five part investigative story by Sports Illustrated involving athletes taking cash from coaches, sex, and drugs. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins Audie Cornish to talk about that and the ultra-hyped big game between Alabama, the defending national champion and Texas A&M, home of the most polarizing player in college football, quarterback Johnny Manziel.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

College football's game of the weekend is tomorrow in College Station, Texas. That's where top-ranked Alabama plays Texas A&M and its lighting rod quarterback, Johnny Manziel. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now to talk about that and other football matters, college and professional. Hey there, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So Texas A&M actually handed Alabama its only loss last year and Manziel went on to win the Heisman Trophy. But this week the focus is on more than just who will win, right?

FATSIS: Yeah. Well, there's plenty of game stuff. ESPN's popular "GameDay" show is on site even though the game is going to be shown on CBS. The average ticket price on one secondary market site as we speak is $961. But between the eye-rolling over Manziel getting this wrist-slap for allegedly taking money from autograph dealers and a report on Yahoo! Sports this week that a former star Alabama lineman, and players at other schools, took cash via NFL agents, it's not so much about the football. And that rankles the football people. Alabama coach Nick Saban walked out of a news conference because reporters refused to abide by his demand to ask only about the game.

CORNISH: You know, in addition to the Yahoo! story, Sports Illustrated began publishing a series on the Oklahoma State's football program. And they're running a series of stories. It's called "Money, Drugs, Academics and Sex." Pretty racy title. Are there any big revelations?

FATSIS: Yeah. Those are the titles of the four main pieces. And it's your basic buffet - cash payments, tutors writing papers for players, players smoking pot, officials looking the other way. And with all due respect to SI, I found myself wondering whether anyone is still surprised or outraged by these kinds of tales. Don't get me wrong. Investigations like SI's and Yahoo!'s are important.

But not because of the details, but because of how, in the big business of college football and basketball, they expose the NCAA and its byzantine rules and 19th-century idea of amateurism as outdated and counterproductive. More people are talking about that now. And maybe that's going to lead to some real change rather than more rules that few seem motivated to uphold.

CORNISH: All right. Let's move on to the pros. There was an NFL game last night. The New England Patriots beat the New York Jets 13-10.

FATSIS: Yes.

CORNISH: But let's focus on an interesting story this week about a player who's not on a team. A defensive back named Kerry Rhodes.

FATSIS: Yeah. Drew Magary, a writer for Deadspin, yesterday wondered whether Rhodes was being blacklisted because of online rumors last spring that he's gay. Rhodes denied that he's gay. And despite good stats over eight seasons, he hasn't been called in for so much as a tryout since he was released by Arizona in the spring. Now this could be simply because he's 31 years old - not young for the NFL. But if teams are indeed avoiding him because the rumors about his sexual orientation might attract attention, whether he's gay or closeted or neither, the league and the players union, I think, need to find out. As the website Outsports pointed out today, all of this sort of speculation, all it does is push athletes deeper into the closet.

CORNISH: All right, Stefan. This weekend, Denver plays the New York Giants on Sunday, and it's the Manning Bowl, right? You've got Peyton Manning of Denver against his brother Eli.

FATSIS: Yeah. Manning Bowl III, actually. The two quarterbacks faced each other in 2006 and 2010, when Peyton was with Indianapolis. Peyton won both games, which has got to be pretty tough for his little brother. The other big game this weekend, Seattle-San Francisco, features two coaches, Jim Harbaugh of the 49ers, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks, who didn't like each other when they faced off in college, and they don't seem to like each other much now.

CORNISH: Stefan Fatsis is author of "A Few Seconds of Panic: A Sportswriter Plays in the NFL." He joins us most Fridays to talk about sports and the business of sports. Stefan, thank you.

FATSIS: Thanks, Audie.

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