Big-Time College Football Was 2011′s Biggest Grinch, Will Hopefully Pledge to Be Better in 2012

Big-Time College Football Was 2011's Biggest Grinch, Will Hopefully Pledge to Be Better in 2012New Year's resolutions are usually nothing more than some hollow promises that we make to ourselves at the beginning of each year.

Then March rolls around and instead of cutting 10 pounds, you've somehow put on seven, all while forgetting how to even get to the gym.

Resolutions are typically fruitless. However, there's one group that's going to need a huge list of them for 2012, and that's the National College Athletic Association.

The NCAA — most notably big-time college football — embarrassed itself at seemingly every corner in 2011. Far too often, the NCAA's on-field product was overshadowed by the greed, deceit and downright monstrosities that occurred off of the field.

Real quick, if we were to play word association and I said to you, "NCAA," what would your response be? After 2011, it very well might be "scandal."

Scandals rocked the NCAA at its foundation this year.

There were the questions about Cam Newton, and more importantly, Cecil Newton. Then we found out that in Columbus, you could get some tattoos for free so long as you played football for THE Ohio State University. From there, we went south — literally and figuratively — to hear about the hundreds, nay thousands, of illegal benefits that University of Miami football players were showered with over the last decade. 

And of course, nothing was worse than the nauseating details stemming from the allegations placed upon former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. That ongoing scandal has torn down the legacy of a coaching legend in Joe Paterno, and it could very well end up being the beginning of the end for one of the country's most recognizable football programs.

Oh yeah, there's also the BCS. That mess may be worse than ever, as we'll get a pair of two-loss teams meeting in the Sugar Bowl a night before the Orange Bowl will host two three-loss teams. If that's not the best college football has to offer, then I don't know what is. At least no one will be arrested or lose their eligibility because of it — or so we'd like to hope.

It's unfortunate, too, because at its best, the NCAA should represent the very best amateur athletics in the world really, the IOC be damned. However, Division I college football is so far from that desired standard that it shouldn't even be considered part of the NCAA. 

Of course, big-time college football is about as synonymous with amateurism as the desert is to hockey. College football is a business, and it is a booming business. Money and power dictate conference realignment and the ensuing TV deals. Money and power dictate recruiting. Money and power dictate just about everything in college football. And that is most likely the genesis of all of these problems.

There is so much to be gained from being powerful in college football, and because of it, university presidents, athletic directors, coaches and players will all do whatever they can to make sure they make it to the top of the mountain. We saw and continue to see the depths that power can reach in the midst of the unspeakable horrors being alleged in the Penn State scandal.

Once you reach the top, you can do as you please. Until, of course, you get caught. And as Penn State has also taught us, things get really, really ugly when that train derails.

As is the case more often than not, it's all about fixing the system. College football has a long way to go, but after a year like 2011, any sort of improvement will surely be embraced. The system, and those who benefit the most from it, must start to realize the problems, though. Until that, we can expect more of the same. And if 2011 taught us anything, it starts to get really, really ugly when that train flies off the track.

Are we harping on the negatives here? Sure. But has college football done anything as of late to help shine a positive light on the product? Of course not.

But 2012 is a new year for everyone, including big-time college football. So go right ahead, NCAA. Make those resolutions. Just please, be an inspiration to all of us and see those resolutions through.

Aim to be better, and hopefully you will be. After all, things can't get much worse.