Sunday, March 15, 2015

The System, by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football, by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

I love college football. My wife and I have had season tickets for the Longhorns for over 20 years (although with the introduction of the poorly named Loyalty Program that may not last much longer) and I don't remember the last fall Saturday that wasn't spent watching the battle of the gridiron. The System is about the parts of the game not covered by the box scores, though: the boosters, the politics, the crime, and of course, the money.

Benedict and Keteyian don't have a single narrative, but instead structured the book like a series of essays. The exception to this is the tale of Mike Leach, from his decision to ignore his law degree in order to pursue football, to being the head coach of Texas Tech, to the idiocy of Craig James and his son causing Leach to lose that position, to his resurfacing as the leader of Washington State. (I always liked Leach and thought he was a great addition to the Big XII, even if his Red Raiders did stop the Longhorns from going to the National Championship in 2008.) Other chapters covered Don King, who ran the Yellow Rose strip club in Austin and offered VIP service to athletes (saying "I've done more for recruiting at UT than Mack Brown"), 17 year old Jane Brown at BYU who was raped by freshman football players (who were so new to campus they actually hadn't yet played in a game), the NCAA itself and its epic bungling of the Miami booster case, and essays titled "Crime and Punishment" (subtitled "SEC leads the nation") and "Gameday" ("The genius of ESPN").

The System provides a look at a variety of issues in college football, but doesn't attempt to provide any solutions. Challenges to the status quo like the Kessler antitrust suit, unionization, player stipends, and students rights to their own image aren't mentioned at all. This lack of detail and analysis keeps this book from being a true exposé, but it is still a great primer for the aspects of the sport not seen on College Gameday.

First Sentence:
On Saturday afternoons in the fall of 1981 the roar of the crowd would echo across campus every time BYU scored a touchdown.

No comments:

Search This Blog