I loves me some Game of Thrones. I'm both a book guy and a show guy, and to my mind it's one of the richest, most engrossing and most thought-provoking fictional worlds ever created. I can while away hours talking about it with anyone who's interested, and while it engenders its own brand of emotional torment it's nonetheless one of my purest enjoyments.
Despite that affinity, I've shied away from doing any 'This sport/this league/these people as Game of Thrones characters' pieces, although such pieces are as common as milkweed pollen across the Interwebs. They all start out with clear and clever Tyrion and Cersei analogs, but once they've devolved into figuring out who's Hodor and who's a Greyjoy they tend to get a tad ragged.
When things get suitably epochal, though, it's hard to think of a work that provides more fertile ground for a big-picture analogy or two. So I'll give it a shot.
The land of Westeros, where most of GOT's story is set, is a world completely in flux. The ancient ways, old social orders and existing structures of power are all falling away. They may be replaced by something even older, or by something entirely new. But in the interim, all the power in the Land is up for grabs, and will be won by whoever can best play the Game. And the best players of the Game create their own rules, and are otherwise bound by none.
It's a world where you can cling to honor and virtue if you choose. You can use them to define yourself, or allow yourself to be completely defined - and imprisoned - by them. But what you cannot do is look outside yourself and see any evidence that honor and virtue have any tangible weight, or meaning, or impact, besides that which you yourself ascribe to them. If there is a deity or a pantheon or a higher power who mandates the primacy of honor and virtue, who rewards adherence to them and punishes transgression from them, that power sits stark (ha!) and silent in Westeros. Honor and virtue may once have had their own innate power as centripetal forces that kept all the elements of society moving together in a defined path...but now that power is greatly diminished if not extinguished altogether.
It's a world where the last defender of the Realm entire, the Nights' Watch, has collapsed from its proud and honored status to a debased and corrupted shell full of theives and rapers and worse. As of the end of Season Three, its abortive attempt at an offensive has met with ruination at the Fist of the First Men and now the remainder of the Watch huddle at the Wall - maybe entirely incapable of checking the threats arrayed against them.
The world of big-time college football, where our story is set, is a world completely in flux. The alleged arbiters of ethics and legality in the sport have abdicated the throne in all but name. They may be replaced by something even older, or by something entirely new. But in the interim, many of the most talented players in the land will be won by whoever can best play the Game. And the best players of the Game create their own rules, and are otherwise bound by none.
It's a world where you can cling to honor and virtue if you choose. You can use them to define yourself, or allow yourself to be completely defined - and imprisoned - by them. But what you cannot do is look outside yourself and see any evidence that honor and virtue have any tangible weight, or meaning, or impact, besides that which you yourself ascribe to them. There is no reward for virtue and no punishment for vice in this world. If you allow yourself to be held hostage by your own desire for a clean reputation, you should do so with the knowledge that you are the only one who cares about it. Doing things the 'right way' in recruiting is a construct - it's a set of rules and mores with little true moral weight which only make things better when they are the law of the Land. When that construct can be cast aside at a whim, to great benefit and at no cost to some of the 'premier' programs in college football, it is worse than useless.
It's a world where the alleged defender of college athletics entire, the NCAA, has been debased from its proud and honored status to a pitiful shell of corruption, incompetence and impotence. Its abortive attempt at an offensive has met with ruination in Coral Gables, and now the remainder of the Enforcement Division huddle in Indianapolis - blatantly and laughably incapable of checking the threats arrayed against them.
Auburn knows what Stannis Baratheon knew. Stannis offered himself to a priestess, and she delivered a powerful being who slew his hated sibling and gave him - for a short while - the keys to the Kingdom. He faced no justice from the gods or the People for his vile act - he was only thrown back when even more powerful and skilled players of the Game fell up on him. Auburn offered itself to a preacher, and he delivered a powerful being who slew the hated Tide and gave them - for a short while - the keys to the Kingdom. They faced no justice from the NCAA - they were only thrown back when even more powerful and skilled players of the Game - the rest of the SEC - overtook them the following season.
Oregon knows what Tywin Lannister knew. You can orchestrate an act, reap the benefits, and even though your handwriting was literally all over the letters, the merest shred of plausible deniability is all it takes to keep the consequences from your door.
It was a rogue coach.
It was a misguided 'fixer' for at-risk kids.
It was the Freys.
Sure, it was.
Most fans of the Longhorns - and most fans of the Stanfords and Michigans and Notre Dames and other programs who still respect the rules of recruiting - would like to be this:
But under the current reality, that leads to this:
We may not want to be this:
But under the current system, that leads to this:
Not a fan of that binary choice? Me either. I say we go with this:
Ser Barristan Selmy was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard - an exemplar of the old order with unimpeachable honor. When the Lannisters seized power and threw the realm into chaos, they also sought to cast him out of his position and replace him with someone more possessed of loyalty than incorruptibility. Rather than quietly slip into retirement and lament the passing of the old order, Ser Barristan took another approach. He crossed the narrow sea and pledged himself to the only player in the Game with a true sense of justice. He is currently bending his every effort to bring her back to Westeros, to return justice to the land and repay the destroyers of the old order with fire and blood.
I'd like to call on everyone with a stake in the future of Texas Football to do one of three things.
Embrace the chaos and play the game by the same rules as the malefactors, or
Bend your every effort to burning the NCAA to ashes and replacing it with a structure that has the structural capability, moral authority and competence to enforce the rule of law, or
Shut up and take the cheating with a smile.
The facts are clearly on the table. The NCAA no longer has the desire, ability or competence to fulfill its basic mission. If we, as one of the most powerful institutions in all of college athletics, are willing to simply accept this status quo but then still complain when rules are broken with impunity, then we've got no more balls than this: