Every weekend we watch the games and we want them to be pure. We want to believe in the pageantry, the history, the old college try.
But the games aren't pure and neither is the other stuff. They never have been.
Underhanded recruiting tactics have been part of college sports since the early '90s - the early 1890s.
Even George Gipp, the paragon of Notre Dame's fighting spirit, wasn't pure. Research shows the star of the late 1910's rarely attended class and preferred to spend his days at a South Bend pool hall, where he ran up thousands in gambling debts.
Which prompts the question: Did the great single-wing back ever help the Irish lose one for the Gipper?
We bring this up now in light of the terrible news out of New England. Two Boston College football players admitted Wednesday that they bet against their team in an Oct. 26 home loss to Syracuse.
Boston College was an 11«-point underdog in that game. The Eagles lost 45-17, meaning those two offending players easily won their bets.
Now they have lost so much more. They have betrayed their schools, their sport, their fellow students, themselves.
It's the second time this has happened in Chestnut Hill, following by 17 years a basketball point-shaving scandal masterminded by an obscure guard named Rick Kuhn. But this is by no means merely a Boston problem.
Gambling becomes more pervasive in our society all the time. It's not just junkets to Vegas and Atlantic City, not just riverboat blackjack and calls to Vinny the Bookie.
Ever bought a lottery ticket? Ever ponied up for the office pool? Ever tossed in 50 bucks and drafted a Rotisserie team? Of course you have. We all have. We are all gamblers.
We in the newspaper business must share the blame. Details of the Boston College tragedy are elsewhere on this page. Meanwhile, on page 5C, you'll find point spreads for all the big college and professional football games this weekend.
How can we simultaneously lament this incident and feed the fix? We are hypocrites.
On the surface gambling seems harmless enough. Just a few bucks exchanged between friends. But when the losses mount and the pressure builds, the line between right and wrong gets hazy. Desperate men take desperate measures.
See Pete Rose. See Art Schlichter. See Rick Kuhn. See what's happening now at BC.
This is no time to shrug and say this could never happen here. It can happen anywhere. It probably already has.
College campuses are teeming with bookies. Check just about any frat house if you want to lay down a bet. Now just imagine the conversations between these industrious "businessmen" and some of their more athletic friends.
Rationalization is easy. Hey, it's a plantation mentality. Colleges make millions off the athletes and provide little beyond food, shelter and books in return. Why not even up the ledger a little? Why not make some pocket money? Why not drop that pass in the end zone, miss that block?
"It's frightening," says Jim Haney, director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, "that the game is so vulnerable and so fragile."
The games are all we have left. The games are supposed to be pure. But they aren't and neither are we.