Eric Russell

ACC Notebook: Cutcliffe Off Base On NCAA Issue

Created on Sept. 25, 2013 1:38 PM EST

Cutcliffe Can't See Past Attendance

Arian Foster made waves last week when it was revealed that he admitted to taking money during his senior year at Tennessee. Phillip Fulmer, his coach at Tennessee, came out and said he had no knowledge of the benefits Foster received. Tuesday, David Cutcliffe, an assistant at Tennessee during Foster's time there, got a chance to respond to the claims and speak on the state of college athletics.

The startling part of Cutcliffe's response is the fact that he could be so off base on the issue. He's stood before the media and called Foster's interview "as weak an interview " he's heard all while giving one of the weakest responses to one of the NCAA's biggest issues. 

Cutcliffe's words came off as those of a man who was missing the bigger picture. He boasted of the attendance numbers as a way to back up his claim that the system isn't broken, and rhetorically asked, "What is so broken?"

Well, there's too many answers to that question for this article, but here are a few. 

Perhaps it's the idea that an FBS coach can think fans who fill the stadium on Saturday are a gauge of how student-athletes are treated. Much of Cutcliffe's argument revolved around the economics of college athletics. There has been one frame of mind that seems to keep popping up when it comes to this debate. If the money is rolling in — to the university and athletic department — there can be nothing wrong with the way the system is set up. That mindset is precisely what is broken. 

I'm sure Cutcliffe is a good guy who has his student-athletes' best interests at heart. He even said, "We're not going to let a youngster starve. Before they starve, I'm going to break an NCAA rule and make sure they eat."

How can Cutcliffe not see the brokenness in that statement? It basically screams what's wrong with the NCAA's rules, and that's the fact that at some point taking care of the student-athlete may come down to breaking a rule. That notion sounds pretty flawed to me, because assuring the well-being of someone you've been entrusted to somewhat care for shouldn't be a violation. That only scratches the surface of how the system is broken.

The best way to display the shortcomings of the system is via another Cutcliffe quote.

"Arian Foster never looked hungry," Cutcliffe said.

Maybe because, as Foster said, he was getting money on the side. Nonetheless,  I guess we can't blame Cutcliffe for not seeing what is wrong with the system. He seems to judge off of appearances often. 

Guiding The Wolfpack To The End Zone And Further

One hundred-eighty FBS players have thrown for a touchdown this season. Among them are a receiver,  running back and kicker. Not included in the ranks of those to find the end zone in the passing game is N.C. State starter Pete Thomas. He is among the 131 players to have attempted at least one pass and not have a touchdown. Freshman backup Bryant Shirreffs claims the Wolfpack's only passing touchdown through three games. 

The lack of touchdowns doesn't mean the total passing game is a letdown. Thomas has connected on 62 percent of his passes and thrown for 662 yards. He has been ineffective in the red zone, going 0-for-6 on passes with an interception. Thomas has done the job, though. He and the team have won the games they're expected to win. As long as Thomas and the running game can hold the Wolfpack the next two games as they did in the first two, N.C. State will be fine. Brandon Mitchell will be back after that and head coach Dave Doeren's offense will look more like what it was intended to look like. 

N.C. State has a realistic chance to be 4-1 by the time of Mitchell's expected return. The defense also has been impressive. All of these things point to the team having a more than decent record in Doeren's first year. 

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