You would hope a Barry Bonds wouldn't be possible in college football.
Some 'roided-up freak so narcissistic, so void of character that he would cheat to set a record. Nah, it can't happen in our hallowed game.
Thank goodness. Well, thank goodness with an asterisk.
|Thanks to the NCAA's drug testing, we can be reasonably sure Vince Young's Longhorns are clean champions. (Getty Images)|
That's not to say there aren't steroids/HGH/performance-enhancing cocktail abusers in college football. But the sport has one big advantage over baseball.
Its players are accountable, miles more accountable than baseball's. For one, the NCAA tests its athletes. Really tests them -- in some form since 1990. Major League Baseball didn't test until a couple of years ago with a system so lacking that NCAA types snicker at it.
The only way to test is the Olympic model, which the NCAA approaches: year-round and random.
Division I and II football players are tested year-round. Every D-I and II program is tested at least once each academic year. Players are tested at playoff games, bowl games.
August through the end of the academic year (May or June).
Combine that with redundant tests conducted by some conferences and individual schools. Is it naive to suggest the system, well, works?
Define "works." That's fair.
It works better than baseball, which loses its credibility with each passing day. With Bondsball being the standard, almost every other form of sports drug testing works.
The NCAA reported 45 positives nationwide for anabolic steroids in 2003-04. That was a 45 percent reduction from the previous year, continuing a downward spiral.
Those 45 are either stupid or the system is working at some level as a deterrent. How about both? It beats the did-he-didn't-he? slop in baseball.
At the least, the NCAA and its members have made it so hard to cycle on and off performance enhancers that it would take a 'roid coach to make it happen.
Yes, the NCAA has an agenda -- a huge one. That's more than anyone can say for baseball. The association doesn't want football to turn into pro wrestling. NCAA drug testing started 16 years ago basically because of concerns of abuse in football.
Baseball has a strong players union and a commissioner who has spent much of the past few years with his head in the sand.
Meanwhile, Bonds is the game's Ric Flair.
College football's reference point is players who continue to die in offseason workouts. The suspicion -- if not subsequent proof -- is that largely unregulated supplements have something to do with those deaths at the high school and college level.
I can hear your whining. Once again, it would be naive to suggest that performance enhancers aren't a part of college football. But the sport passes -- big breath, here -- my unofficial sight inspection.
That is, being in locker rooms nationwide over the past 20 years.
Sure, offensive linemen are bigger. What used to be 280 pounds is now 350. There's a logical explanation that begins at the tip of a hypodermic needle.
But I don't see the freaks -- at least no Bonds-like circus clowns who are so dumb or arrogant enough to throw it everyone's face. Part of the Bonds fiasco is that he flaunted his abuse. Any logical thinking human had to be tipped off by his growing melon of a head, bulging muscles and surly attitude. Well, OK, that's going too far. Bonds was surly long before he got to the Giants.
Offensive linemen are large by birth. It takes size to play their position. But if one is juicing, then they're all juicing. That's not likely, and that's not the point. In college football, there can be no Bonds, one athlete so loaded up as to dominate the sport.
At least the NCAA makes the cheaters work at it. A small victory, sure, but look what happens when a sport is all but unregulated.
College players might be just as likely to traffic in drugs these days than use them to win championships. A redshirt freshman at San Jose State faces three felony charges after steroids were found in his room.