The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football

In The System, investigative journalists Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian have written an explosive book about America's most popular sport. In 2012, Johnny Manziel ("Johnny Football") was on his way to a Heisman (his star now tarnished by an autographs-for-money mini-scandal; the NCAA tarnished by benching him for a mere half game); the child abuse sex scandal at Penn State University blew up; Ohio State was "bruising" its way to an undefeated season while barred from competing in a bowl game; dozens of schools were on probation for academic cheating and money shenanigans. Major conference realignments meant a bigger share of TV revenue but eroded the trust and friendships college presidents and athletic directors had fostered for decades. And "student-athletes" are still essentially slaves, working an 11-month-a-year job with the benefits of season-ending injuries and long-term brain damage.

Benedict and Keteyian write with depth, insight and graceful prose ("long, languid Louisiana athleticism"). They leaven the scandalous (and merely eyebrow-raising) with the glory they allude to in their subtitle--the coaches who care about their guys, who actually want them to graduate and thrive; the players for whom football may be the only thing to save them; the college presidents who make difficult decisions, knowing that football revenue benefits more than football. In Ricky Seals-Jones, we meet an upstanding, outstanding honor student, a new touchstone for recruiting madness: $600,000 offered (and refused) under the table. And Ezekial Ansah from Ghana, who asked for a walk-on at BYU, having never played football or lifted weights. Two years later, he got a scholarship and is now a pro player.

This book is definitive and, even better, as addictive as the sport it covers. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

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