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Thoughts on The System by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

January 7, 2014

The System

Journalists Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian had access to some of the biggest college football programs in the nation in 2012.  They dug deep and looked at the program from every aspect except the players and the fans.  They’ve published the results in their book The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football.  It’s hard to give a re-cap since the book follows several stories from that football season so I thought it would be easier to give some of my impressions after reading the book.

  • As a governing body, the NCAA is a joke.  They rely on schools to self-report and don’t have an investigative unit of their own.  Schools know how to bend the rules and I’m convinced any program that is consistently ranked does so.  The NCAA’s punishments are inconsistent and often unfair.
  • People assume college football brings in a lot of revenue but all but a few programs lose money.  Coaches and athletic directors make plenty of money, though.  Most college presidents feel they need to field a football program because of the name recognition and contributions from alumni they generate.
  • College football programs are using young athletes, especially African-American ones.  Because of their importance to the program, they get away with criminal behavior and many leave college injured and without a degree.
  • Young women are used as hostesses and tutors and encouraged to flirt with recruits and players which is not a good situation for anyone involved.  I hope Lane Kiffin’s daughter is a college football hostess one day.

I’m a big college football fan, so this book stirred a lot of emotion in me.  Some schools are doing things right but, after reading this book, I’m convinced most aren’t.  That needs to be fixed but I don’t know how’d you go about doing it – maybe books like this will help.  I enjoyed this book and talked about it a lot as I read it but I do think you need to be a football fan to get anything out of it – most fans will be familiar with the stories in this book, but the authors go into more detail than was readily available in the press.  There were a few stories, like the one on ESPN Game Day that I didn’t find particularly interesting or groundbreaking but I was never bored.

I listened to the audio version of The System.  Mark Deakins was the perfect choice to narrate this seventeen and a half hour book – he came across as an investigative journalist reporting a story.  The audio book is on 14 CDs.

Review copy provided by Random House.  I am an Indiebound Affliate.
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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth F permalink
    January 7, 2014 7:26 am

    Wow! This is a book I probably would have skipped but you’ve got my attention. I’m not sure I’d like this on audio, but I’d like to flip through and read. I might have to get this for my dad.

  2. January 7, 2014 7:56 am

    Sounds like a very fascinating book and I’m glad you got a lot of facts out of it. Not being a football fan, I will give it a pass but I’ll keep this book in mind for the football fans I know.

  3. January 7, 2014 7:59 am

    I have this up next to listen to; can’t wait to get all irritated over what they reveal! :–)

  4. January 7, 2014 9:03 am

    As an avid college football fan, I would love to read this book. I would also like to know why they chose this subject – was it simply curiosity or do either writers have close personal ties to a certain school? This would be a perfect book to listen to, for me, even though its a long one. I think you did a fantastic job on this review and you certainly piqued my interest. I hope to get my hands on a copy and share it with all my college football lovin’ friends.

  5. January 7, 2014 9:27 am

    Sounds interesting! Like Candice said, I probably would have skipped this one as well but you make it sounds good!

  6. January 7, 2014 11:39 am

    Great review Kathy. I saw Armen on CBS This Morning talking about this book and it sounded so interesting.

  7. January 7, 2014 1:14 pm

    Wow there’s a lot of dirt and scandal in college football! I don’t know anything about the sport but you make me want to listen to this one anyway.

  8. Patty permalink
    January 7, 2014 2:47 pm

    Books like this are always great about waking us up to all the questionable things going on out there…in that football world…

  9. January 8, 2014 1:44 am

    Excellent review as always, Kathy. “The System” sounds like it definitely needs improvement!

  10. sandynawrot permalink
    January 8, 2014 7:07 am

    Unfortunately when you combine large institutions and money, not much good comes from it. What drives me crazy is that I’ve got friends that literally grieve and struggle their whole lives trying to get their kids into college sports (and driving the kids to the point of no return), thinking that it is the end-all-be-all, when it ends up being the worst possible thing for them. I would almost be afraid to read this honestly. I would get so worked up.

  11. January 8, 2014 11:06 am

    Oh my gosh 17 1/2 hours! Tell me true ~ how do you find time to listen?!?

    I love that you brought this book to my attention though. My family and I are huge football fans as you know. . .following the Dawgs both during wins and losses. I’m definitely picking this one up for my brother who played college football, albeit for a smaller school, of which he left after 2 years. I can see how this one would bring lots of emotion and discussion!

  12. January 8, 2014 11:28 am

    I love college football so much I kinda wanna stay in my oblivious bubble. Although I’m not so oblivious since of what Ohio State has gone through in the last 5 years.

  13. January 8, 2014 11:46 am

    I’m not a huge fan of sports but for some reason this sounds really interesting to me anyway. Perhaps it’s the drama 🙂 I think it’s also partially because I don’t know much about sports. I love non-fiction that can teach me something about a topic I know nothing about.

  14. January 8, 2014 1:31 pm

    My husband and I are long-time, avid football fans too. We’ve spent numerous hours discussing this problem, as there have been some previous reporting on this subject. We would both enjoy the book and I know it would give us even more to grouse about.

  15. bookingmama permalink
    January 8, 2014 3:34 pm

    I know I’ll have a similar reaction to this book that you did.

  16. Sarah's Book Shelves permalink
    January 8, 2014 6:43 pm

    I love these kinds of books – I’m adding to my TBR list.

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