Posted: Tuesday July 26, 2011 12:27PM ; Updated: Wednesday July 27, 2011 12:31PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>VIEWPOINT

The solution to all NCAA corruption is actually simple -- robots

Story Highlights

Only way to achieve a truly fair and ethical means is to abolish humans

Robots won't be tempted by handouts from boosters, runners, agents

Robots would never bring down a program by committing unethical conduct

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Would diehard fans really care if robots represented their schools instead of humans?
Would diehard fans really care if robots represented their schools instead of humans?
AP

So, you want to do away with the NCAA. Understandable. Who hasn't grown tired of all those cumbersome investigations into impermissible phone calls and free lunches, while nothing becomes of a father soliciting $180,000 for his future Heisman-winning son? And if not for the coalition's rigid adherence to so-called amateurism, maybe the athletes could finally see a cut of the massive revenues they help generate.

But here's the thing. Whatever new organization you establish, you're still going to have to devise a governing set of rules. And as long as they still involve hypercompetitive adults and largely naive teenagers, certain parties are still going to break those rules, consequences be damned.

We know this because cheating is hardly unique to the college level. Ugly scandals regularly emanate around the country. And what of the corruption in Little League baseball? People don't get as indignant over these, because it doesn't fit our default narrative that the NCAA was spawned from Satan's lair. But the reality is, wherever there are games to be won and lost, and morally questionable adults with vested interest in the outcomes, there will be those who seek to gain an edge by whatever means possible.

Therefore, the only way to achieve a truly fair and ethical means for staging college athletics competitions is to do something far more radical than abolish the NCAA. I say: Abolish the humans. My solution to all those myriad NCAA-related problems: Robots.

You heard me. Robots replace the coaches, and robots replace the players. As long as they're still wearing a USC jersey or an Oklahoma sideline visor, no one will even notice the difference after the first quarter.

Why robots? Because:

• Robots won't be tempted by handouts from boosters, runners, agents or bookies, because robots don't need money to purchase tattoos or iPhones.

• Robots would never bring down a program by committing unethical conduct.

• Robots don't need a tutor to write a paper for them to help keep them eligible.

• Robots would never invest millions of dollars with a banker who just happens to run an elite AAU basketball program.

• Robots don't care whether they're getting a cut of their conference's new $3 billion TV deal. Heck, you don't even need to give them bowl gifts.

• Robots won't be offended if their robot coach cuts them loose due to oversigning.

• Actually, there will be no more oversigning, because robots are pretty good at math.

• Robots won't pay $25,000 for a fraudulent recruiting service. In fact, robots won't be recruited, period.

• Here's where it gets really good. Robots would help bring college athletics back into the realm of actual academia, because the best football teams would now likely reside at the universities with the best programmers and engineers. Your future BCS champion: MIT.

• And perhaps best of all -- You know how some games get decided by "human error" on the part of the officials? Not anymore. Robot refs.

The way I figure it, this solves all of the most pressing problems people have with the NCAA. By removing the humans, you remove the corruption, because robots, unlike humans, are incorruptible.

It would be the purest form of competition imaginable. Money would play no factor. Performance-enhancers would play no factor. Fans, administrators, board members and alumni would be free to cheer on their teams as passionately and with as much whacked-out perspective imaginable, because ultimately, they cannot influence the outcome. The robots decide it on the field. May the best man most highly advanced machines win.

I know this may seem harsh to, say, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher or Alabama running back Trent Richardson, both of whom would be replaced by metal and microchips. But that's the thing about college sports. The coaches change jobs, the players come and go every four years, yet Chief Osceola keeps on riding into the stadium and fans keep chanting "Roll, Tide." Much more so than in the pros, where fans often pay or tune in specifically to see Peyton Manning or Kevin Durant play, college fans are -- in the famous words of Jerry Seinfeld -- "basically rooting for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city."

There's only two downsides I can see. For one, there's always the remote possibility that the robots will rise up, become self-aware and attempt to destroy our civilization, like in any Will Smith movie. That would suck. But more germane to this conversation, as much as we love to hyperventilate with rage over the latest Reggie Bush or Jim Tressel case, deep down, many college fans actually get a kick out of cheating scandals. In its latest issue, ESPN the Magazine asked college fans to pick their favorite opposing-team taunt. The two leading vote-getters, "Liar, Liar, Vest On Fire" and "Trojans don't protect against the NCAA" far outpaced the more banal "Save a Tree, Kill a Beaver" or "Eat More Bevo." No more corruption, no more gloating.

But that's what we say we want, and thanks to robots, we can achieve this goal. You can corrupt a player, a player's parent, a coach, a tutor, a trainer, and so on, but you can't corrupt a computer-engineered machine.

(... Wait, what's that? ... Have I stopped to think about what?)

Oh, right. ... Hackers

Damnit.

 
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