The feats of cheats: How UI could clean up by getting dirty

There is a “poem”: I read in high school English titled “the lesson of the moth” by Don Marquis. The story is told from the perspective of a cockroach.

The cockroach notices a moth attempting to break into a light bulb and ignite itself. When asked why it wants to fry on a light bulb, the moth replies that he is tired of his routine lifestyle.

“we get bored with the routine

and crave beauty

and excitement

fire is beautiful

and we know that if we get

too close it will kill us

but what does that matter

it is better to be happy

for a moment

and be burned up with beauty

than to live a long time

and be bored all the while,” the moth explains (because it is a cockroach telling the story, there is a lack of caps and no punctuation).

The moth believes rolling his entire life into that one moment of beauty is favorable to a longer life void of splendor — the path the cockroach has chosen to take.

Illinois needs to transition its football program from the cockroach to the moth.

Nearly every major story about today’s NCAA deals with schools violating NCAA rules; any fan who thinks a major college program isn’t doing any shady business is naive. Untainted championships are quickly becoming a privilege. Illinois is not a school that can afford that novelty.

A successful 2011 Illinois football season, for example, will be a .500 record and a spot anywhere above the bottom third in the Big Ten standings. The near-future of the program isn’t much brighter.

Instead, the football team should opt for the USC route. During former Trojans head coach Pete Carroll’s tenure at USC (2000-09), USC appeared in seven consecutive BCS bowl games, achieved a record 33 consecutive weeks as the Associated Press’s No. 1-ranked team, had a hand in multiple national championships and produced three Heisman Trophy winners. Of course, it was later reported that Carroll had a hand in NCAA sanctions against the USC football program. Among other things, these sanctions led to the forfeiture of victories, including its 2004 BCS title, the elimination of 30 football scholarships and a two-year bowl ban.

While this was quite a blow to the former perennial power, it could not take away the rush Trojan fans felt for that dominant decade, nor could it give back the tremendous amount of money that was poured into the school due to the football team’s success. Reggie Bush is still recognized as the best college football player of the 2005 season, even if his accomplishments are soured by the NCAA’s revocation of his Heisman Trophy.

The Crisler Arena, where Michigan plays its home basketball games, has two glaring omissions from its rafters: banners representing the Wolverines’ appearance in consecutive NCAA title games in 1992-93. Those two seasons featured the Fab Five, Michigan’s 1991 recruiting class of freshmen starters Chris Weber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. Because of team basketball booster Ed Martin, who implicated the Fab Five in NCAA rule violations, the 1992-93 seasons are no longer recognized.

While neither the university nor the NCAA acknowledge those two seasons of Michigan basketball in the record books, the Fab Five are still one of the most polarizing teams of the last 30 years. The back-to-back championship-game appearances brought legitimacy to Michigan basketball, money to the school and no doubt provided Wolverine fans and Ann Arbor’s campus with some of the most electrifying moments in school history. I want similar excitement at Illinois. I’d trade a national championship for a few years, even a decade, of double-secret probation from the NCAA.

While cheating is by no means ideal — nor is it ethical — I am sick of watching my school’s football team wade in mediocrity, save for a Rose Bowl appearance every 10 to 20 years. Illinois is currently a cockroach: a program with a mild devotion that rarely bears more than futile results.

“before i could argue him

out of his philosophy

he went and immolated himself

on a patent cigar lighter

i do not agree with him

myself i would rather have

half the happiness and twice

the longevity

but at the same time i wish

there was something i wanted

as badly as he wanted to fry himself.”

Wouldn’t the enjoyment Illinois experienced from a few years of greatness, even if by unethical means, outweigh the consequences of playing with fire?

_Jeff is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jkirsh91._