They saw Ohio State beat Arkansas, 31-26, Tuesday night thanks to players who should have been in NCAA prison. As a fan of hypocrisy and great football at all costs, I saw the finest bowl game in history.
It will be the finest until Monday night, at least, when Cam Newton single-handedly tortures Oregon in the BCS Championship Game and then announces he is transferring to Ohio State because he likes its compliance staff.
If you're not up on the latest installment of NCAA Follies, five Buckeyes were suspended two weeks ago after the school discovered they'd sold personal awards and memorabilia for money and/or discounted tattoos.
As everyone knows, the NCAA prohibits tattoos unless they are dollar signs on the eyelids of athletic directors.
When Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan got wind of the trouble, he called Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith. He said quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the Tat Gang simply had to come to New Orleans.
"I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year's game, we would greatly appreciate," he told the Columbus Dispatch.
Integrity? This is college football. We don't need no stinkin' integrity.
Hoolahan's statement became lore as moralists decried the integrity comedy show that quickly ensued. Smith called Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who was last seen riding his high horse around the Newton fiasco.
Feel free to dismount and step in the nearest pile of manure, Commissioner Delany.
Delany called the NCAA, whose Loophole Task Force had just discovered By-law 293.129, Subsection J-4, Addendum War Eagle. That allowed Newton to participate in the BCS title game since "he didn't know his father was trying to sell him for $180,000 in unmarked bills. In fact, he didn't even know he had a father since everyone at Auburn told him he was immaculately conceived."
Using that sound legal principle, the NCAA ruled Ohio State's bad boys would be suspended the first five games on the 2011 season. They could play in the Sugar Bowl, however, since Ohio State did not sufficiently warn them that selling this crap for obscene profit is against the rules.
Never mind that Ohio State has seven full-time compliance officers. Or that Pryor almost tore his ACL when he heard that excuse and fell over laughing. He and his cohorts gladly joined Newton in the NCAA's new Ignorance Is Bliss Club.
The NCAA further decreed the players could participate in the Sugar Bowl because of the "unique opportunity these events provide at the end of a season."
You could almost hear Bobby Bowden slapping his forehead and saying, "Dadgummit, why didn't we think of that?"
FSU suspended 23 players for the 2007 Liberty Bowl for academic cheating. Michigan State suspended eight players for the 2009 Alamo Bowl after they got in campus brawl. Remember Brian Bosworth having to park his Mohawk after testing positive for steroids before the 1987 Orange Bowl?
Bowl history is full of teams who weren't smart enough to call the NCAA seeking a bogus eligibility ruling. I just hope Kentucky is keeping up with these developments.
Whatever that is, its CEO should immediately get on the phone to NCAA headquarters. He should stress that the BBVA Compass Bowl could lose all integrity if Kentucky has to use its backup quarterback.
All Hartline needs to do is file a Cam Hardship appeal. Just claim he didn't know that downing a case of Old Milwaukee would make him drunk, or that public intoxication was an NCAA violation. It can't be, otherwise the entire eligibility committee would have been arrested after ruling that Newton could play against Oregon.
The NCAA is highly insulted that anyone would question its integrity, of course. Somebody there sobered up long enough to post this response on its website:
"The notion that the NCAA is selective with its eligibility decisions and rules enforcement is another myth with no basis in fact.
"Money is not a motivator or a factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation the revenue from a bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd."
You could tell from the way Hoolahan insinuated all those high-fives after the Sugar Bowl. He'd earlier said he got why people, even a lot of Ohio State fans, preferred the Tat Gang be left in Columbus.
"I appreciate and fully understand the Midwestern values and all that," he said.
Ah yes, those bitter Midwesterners clinging to their guns and values. Thank goodness the Big Ten, Ohio State's administration and coach Jim Tressel can relinquish such things. Otherwise, imagine what the Sugar Bowl would have looked like.
There would have been no Pryor, who was the game's MVP. No Dan Herron, who rushed for 87 yards and touchdown. No DeVier Posey, who caught three passes for 70 yards and a score. And no Solomon Thomas, who made the game-saving interception.
It was quite a show, especially if you didn't notice all the free tattoos. I just wish I'd have been at whatever Bourbon Street bar that Hoolahan, Smith, Delany and the rest of the boys went to after the game.
It would have been great to join them for a few rounds of drinks and raise our glasses to the bowl season.
Here's to you 2011. The year integrity died.