Cheating and Competing

September 16th, 2011
Image: Shutterstock

Even before the 2011 college football season kicked off, the season’s dominant story line had been established: cheating and corruption. Skirting (or entirely flouting) NCAA rules isn’t exactly a new development. You could argue that for as long as college football has involved big-time competition (and big-time money), coaches, players, and boosters have looked for ways to gain an advantage through cheating. But in the past several months, the allegations and investigations have intensified.

Toward the end of last season, the NCAA determined that the father of Heisman Trophy-winning Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton had attempted to sell his son’s services to Mississippi State University for $180,000. The NCAA is still investigating whether Auburn violated any rules in recruiting Cam, who led the school to a national championship last season.

Oregon, the team that Auburn defeated to win the title, also is under investigation over whether it illegally used a Texas-based recruiting service to steer high school players to the school. Southern California, Oregon’s conference rival and a national powerhouse, is currently serving an NCAA probation. Tennessee is on probation for rules violations that occurred during the tenure of former coach Lane Kiffin, now the coach at Southern Cal. Midwestern power Ohio State is currently awaiting word on NCAA sanctions following a scandal involving players who traded school-furnished memorabilia and equipment for tattoos and cash. Former Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel was dismissed for covering up his knowledge of the transactions.

Last month the most salacious of this year’s cheating-related stories broke when Nevin Shapiro, a former booster of the University of Miami football program (and convicted felon now in prison), stated that he had provided illegal benefits— including money, cars, yacht trips, and access to prostitutes—to more than seventy Hurricane players between 2002 and 2010. The NCAA already has imposed suspensions on eight Miami players for accepting improper benefits.

Sadly, There’s Nothing New About Cheating

College football, of course, is only one arena where cheating occurs. Major League Baseball has a long, almost proud history of cheating as players tried to gain an advantage by tampering with baseballs and bats. Athletes in sports ranging from high school football to professional cycling have been guilty of taking performance-enhancing substances.

Outside the realm of sports, cheating is just as rampant. Officials in Atlanta recently learned that the leaders of a school were engaged in systematic fraud to improve students’ test scores. College students can buy term papers online. Job applicants lie about their qualifications. Youth have no doubt been tempted on several occasions to cheat on a test or a homework assignment. Some also may be under pressure to take illegal substances that will help them excel in sports.

Why Do We Cheat?

Why do people cheat? Usually they’re seeking to gain an advantage over others. They have a fierce competitive desire to get ahead and win. But Scripture doesn’t prescribe or condone such win-at-all-costs competition. Instead the Bible teaches us to do nothing “for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than” ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Jesus taught that greatness comes from serving others, not trying to gain an unfair advantage over them. And the Old Testament law clearly forbids cheating people in business dealings (see Leviticus 19:11-15 and 25:14-17).

Cheating also indicates a lack of trust in God. Instead of depending on God completely, we take matters into our own hands and put our interests first. Resisting the temptation to cheat takes courage, a trust in God, and a will to put the interests of others before our own.


This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

comments powered by Disqus