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It’s the best championship money can buy

You’ve been conned, people. All of you.

Tennessee fans. Florida fans. Florida State fans. Michigan fans. The fans of nearly every school that has won a college football national championship in the past decade.

We were led to believe these national titles were something to revel in and aspire to. We were told to treasure the memories of those special seasons, to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment about being No. 1.

It’s all a scam and a sham. It’s time to return those national championship trophies. The whole dirty, stinking, rotten bunch of them.

Remember when Sports Illustrated came out with its “1993 Tainted Title” issue that chronicled how players on Florida State’s first football national championship team had their hands out, waiting to be greased by sports agents? This just in: Florida State was not alone. Nearly every national title that has been won in the past decade has been disgraced by scandal.

A quick roll call:

– Tennessee, 1998: Come to find out that Tee Martin, the quarterback of that UT team, likely was getting booster money funneled to him by a sports writer. This is not only grounds for UT vacating the national championship, the sports writer should be sentenced to three years of covering the Devil Rays.

– Florida, 1996: This was not only the best team in the nation, it was the best team that sports agent Tank Black could bankroll. These guys had their hands out like a bunch of Pensacola politicians. Just about every star player on the team was paid by Black and God knows who else. “The funny thing is these Florida players were all getting offered money from so many people,” Black told CNN/SI in a jailhouse interview last week. “And they were getting money from so many people.”

– Florida State, 1999: But, hey, it wasn’t as if Peter Warrick shot the president.

– Michigan, 1997: Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy and led the Wolverines to a 12-0 season. It has since been revealed that he was being paid by sports agents while still in school.

– Washington, 1991: Billy Joe Hobert, the Huskies’ starting quarterback in the Rose Bowl, later admitted to receiving $50,000 in unsecured “loans” from a booster. Several of his teammates were connected to another booster who allegedly gave an estimated $30,000 in bogus wages to athletes.

These are just the schools whose players have been paid. We won’t even get into the rap sheets at Nebraska and the academic questions surrounding Miami’s Rose Bowl MVP Andre Johnson.

But why belabor the point, which is this: The national championship isn’t something to be proud of; it’s something to be ashamed of. What it usually means is that one school has somehow managed to secure more bought-and-paid-for players than the next.

The championship is a lie; amateurism is a fraud. These aren’t wide-eyed kids on the field; they’re baby-faced mercenaries on the take. They’re not playing for the pride of their university; they’re playing to get paid by anybody and everybody who will pay them.

We used to think the formula for a national championship was hustle, hard work, dedication and commitment. Now, sadly, we know the real recipe: payoffs, kickbacks, bribes and graft.

Treasure the memories.