Masoli exposes the ugly center of major college football, where everyone uses everyone else while claiming to embrace the purity of the student athlete. There's a cynicism about every decision that's being made, a glazed-eye look, the reality of a sport that's sold it's soul.
Consider, Ole Miss and Houston Nutt need a quarterback because Jevan Snead made one of the worst decisions in recent memory to leave school early. Snead went undrafted, and the Rebels were left holding the bag, a predicted sixth-place finish by the media in the SEC West.
From a projected Top-10 team last season to bottom of the SEC barrel in one fell swoop. Nutt, who despite 13-years of helming up teams in the SEC, has never been able to recruit and develop a good quarterback, needs a new signal-caller so bad that he's willing to admit a player who has never been on campus before. Nutt's motives have nothing to do with giving a quarterback a third chance, and everything to do with his own team's deficiencies. If Snead is still on campus, is Nutt remotely interested in giving Masoli a third chance?
Of course, not.
Meanwhile, Masoli, the quarterback at the center of this modern morality play, is gaming the system as well. Taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allows graduated players to change campuses so they can pursue a course of study that isn't available at their former institution.
Even if, you know, there's zero actual interest in the subject and you aren't even required to pass a single course in the fall semester. Of course, failing to attend a single class and accepting the resulting failure would make a player ineligible for the bowl game, but who cares about a bowl game? That just gets in the way of training for the NFL Combine, anyway.
And what of the university? Ole Miss needs a solid signal-caller to help sell tickets. The niggling fact that has to eat at the inner core of every Ole Miss fan is that even last year, with the Rebels projected to be better than at any time since the 1960s, they couldn't sell out a comparatively small 60,000 seat Vaught-Hemingway stadium for every game.
How many fans will be showing up if Ole Miss is the worst team in the SEC west?
A lot less.
To hell with educational standards, the university has a business to run.
Ultimately, no one comes to this situation with clean hands, no one is ethical, everyone is using the rules to make a mockery of the concept of education. In the case of Masoli, the athletic program isn't the front porch of the university, it's the only reason for the university to exist. Strip away everything else and what you have is a naked business decision, if you make our team better, nothing else matters. Not the arrests in Oregon, not the sham education, not the public relations hit that will come with accepting the felonious detritus of another league, not the absolute hypocrisy that underlines the motive of every actor in this mess.
Including, by the way, the holier than thou fans who are quick to cast stones at other programs when athletes get in trouble at those schools, but immediately trot out a laundry list of justifications that seek to make their own program seem different than the others when it does the same thing.
No one is innocent, everyone's school is doing the same thing. They're all recruiting the same players. For instance, no one is even paying attention to Auburn's Cam Newton, another quarterback transfer in the SEC who was also kicked out of school for laptop theft shenanigans. That makes the October 30 Auburn-Ole Miss game the Stolen Laptop Bowl.
Let's end the charade now that your university is somehow purer than another; we're all pigs, already covered in mud, dwelling in the muck of modern football immorality. Don't claim that admitting Masoli is anything other than what it is: a naked attempt to make the football team better.
Having said that, let's balance the equities, step into the college football morality fault line. Just because everyone is self-interested and all true motives are a sham, doesn't mean that some actors have better cases than others. Let's be clear, former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is far from the worst person to take the field in an SEC uniform. Hell, he's not even the worst criminal quarterback to take the field for Ole Miss in the past five seasons.
That honor belongs to Tennessee castoff Brent Shaeffer, who attacked a fellow student with a baseball bat and was kicked off the Vols' team as a result. How strained was the moral decision to admit Shaeffer? Tennessee had kicked him off the team for being too much of a thug.
Masoli's criminal issues are public -- arrested for robbery as a juvenile, lied to police and plead guilty this past spring in a fraternity house robbery even though he claims he was innocent, and recently busted for less than an ounce of marijuana in his car. None of these are the actions of an angel, but in a modern morality play where everyone is a hypocrite, I think you have to hold your nose and side with the player. Irrespective of why those in power are willing to give Masoli a third chance, I think he deserves it.
Because usually the players are the ones being gamed by the NCAA system. Coaches can leave whenever they want because colleges will survive any public relations hit, but players are often stifled by the rules, held hostage by rigid NCAA inflexibility.
It's rare that a player, such as Masoli, can game the system. Lost amid the hubbub of Masoli's troubled past, most people have failed to realize that he graduated from Oregon in just three years of college. Forget athletes, what percentage of undergrads regardless of major graduate in three years from college?
A tiny, tiny percentage. That means that while Masoli's had recent off-the-field issues, he's also done an awful lot right off-the-field. In fact, in order to graduate in three years from a college, the number of correct decisions he's made have to vastly outweigh the poor ones.
That's why Jeremiah Masoli deserves a third chance at football life. He doesn't have clean hands, but in an ugly cocktail of university, coach, fans and player, Masoli's the closest thing to a good guy there is in this story. He's the least hypocritical in a hypocritical system. For that, he deserves his just rewards, a football season in Oxford.