The NCAA Sinks To A New Low…

Any reader who has been along for the ride here over any significant length of time knows that I do not hold the NCAA in high esteem. I recall writing once that because the NCAA stages March Madness – the single best sports extravaganza of the year – the NCAA is a necessary evil. Within the NCAA, I have particularly low regard for its investigation division and its investigators for two reasons:

    1. They seem to take forever to come up with findings on various rules infractions that they almost never uncover on their own. Most of the “scandals” they investigate are the result of reporting by newspapers or periodicals, which alerts the NCAA investigators that something might be awry.

    2. With regard to the biggest “crime” they might investigate – point-shaving/game-fixing – their role is more of cleaning up after the fact than it is prevention or detection.

Therefore, I am surprised by the current news that the NCAA investigators actually crossed over an ethical line during their investigation of the Nevin Shapiro/University of Miami situation. Normally, the investigation arm of the NCAA does just enough fact-finding to permit the folks who run the NCAA to maintain the façade that they are the pillars that support the ideal of amateur athletics in the US. I use the word façade purposely here because that is not reality; the NCAA is actually a tax-exempt business that generates about a billion of dollars of revenue annually.

The NCAA investigators do not have subpoena power and cannot compel folks to cooperate with them in an investigation. Yes, that does limit their effectiveness. And in the investigation of the “Miami Mess”, their inability to compel cooperation and to gather facts from people who were under oath must have frustrated the investigators. What they supposedly did was to hire Nevin Shapiro’s lawyer who was representing Shapiro in bankruptcy proceedings to gather information from witnesses in that action during depositions and other interviews. Not being familiar with the canons of ethics for attorneys, I can see that such a situation can easily represent a conflict of interest. However, I do not understand why such behavior is so horrific that the NCAA would stop their investigation of the “Miami Mess” and hire an outside law firm to investigate their own investigation division. That is what the NCAA did this week…

We have seen the NCAA come down on schools for “lack of institutional control”. This week, NCAA president, Mark Emmert, said that the hiring of Shapiro’s attorney to do “double duty” bypassed the internal approval processes for retaining outside services. OK, let me take that statement at face value and assume that it is absolutely true.

    Now, explain to me how that is anything other than a “lack of institutional control”…

Lest you missed the news from a couple of months ago, the NCAA also had to suspend another investigation regarding the recruitment of a basketball player at UCLA and fire one of its investigators for improprieties.

Of course, you will recall that the NCAA imposed sanctions on Penn State in the wake of the “Sandusky Scandal” in an example of roaming far outside the boundaries of the rulebook that it purports to uphold.

Let me repeat; the only purpose that the NCAA serves which is of any value at all is their organization and their presentation of March Madness. The NCAA and its member institutions are paid handsomely for that service and retain those earnings without the burden of taxation. In these times when politicians are searching for “increased government revenues” [newspeak for “more taxes”], maybe it is time to think about treating the NCAA for what it is:

    A business enterprise that makes a lot of money involving tactics that might be considered monopolistic in about any other industry.

A couple of weeks ago, the NY Post had an article which said that the head of the Qatar Masters golf tournament declared that Tiger Woods was “not worth” the $3M appearance fee that he wanted to show up and play in the Qatar Masters tournament where the purse money for the entire tournament is $2.5M. Tiger Woods’ agent issued a statement saying that Woods had never even thought about playing in the Qatar tournament; but if that were true, one might wonder how the folks in Qatar came up with that $3M number…

    Appearance fees are verboten in the US but commonplace in Europe and some other parts of the world. However, the golf gurus here would have to resort to a lot of hand waving and verbal gymnastics to explain how “sponsor exemptions” that happen all the time in the US are dramatically different from appearance fees.

In any event, these comments from Qatar should be added to ones made by someone in Australia who was running a golf event and said that he specifically did not want Tiger Woods to participate because he sees Woods as “not a good example for kids”. I am certainly not going to hold Tiger Woods up as a role model for kids when it comes to things like parenting and fidelity. At the same time, this gentleman in Australia is setting the bar for participation in his tournament awfully high.

The reason I am focusing on Tiger Woods at the moment is because of recent reports that he would like to get back together with his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren. I can understand that; my suspicion is that millions of men around the world would like to marry Elin Nordegren. After all, she is a stunningly beautiful woman who in her previous divorce settlement reportedly got somewhere in the vicinity of $350M. I would call that a reasonable dowry…

Dwight Perry had a comment in the Seattle Times regarding the possible reuniting of this couple:

“So what will they serve at the reception if Elin Nordegren says ‘I do’ to Tiger Woods again? Mulligan stew?”

Finally, here is a golf comment from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:

“A sign that the Mayans simply miscalculated by a couple months: Some pro golfers are considering suing the USGA and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club for banning belly putters, effective in 2016. Can’t wait for the movie, and the courtroom scene where a golfer played by Jack Nicholson snarls, ‘You can’t handle the belly putter!’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……..

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  • Doug  On January 26, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Not too many years ago, when Damarious Thomas was a senior at Ga Tech, the Yellow Jackets were found by the NCAA to a lack of institutional control. Their sin, as it turned out, was to ask Damarious what happened to cause him to be the target of a NCAA investigation. Damraious had a cousin who had a roommate and one of them gave Damarious $350 worth of clothing. The cousin claimed to be the donor, but the NCAA decided otherwise. Ga Tech was told they should not have asked Damarious anything because that was the equivalent of telling him what to say, thereby compromising the investigation. Tech had to vacate their ACC Championship and lost scholarships. Oh, and two years probation.

    Now look at the U and at UNC and tell what the hell is going on with the NCAA. A front page story in the News & Observer today says grades were changed for athletes in classes that may have allowed them to remain eligible.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm


      I wish that “inconsistency” was the only problem with NCAA enforcement of its arcane rules. The fact of their inconsistency makes it too easy for folks to look at the outcomes and to ignore just how feckless most of those investigations are.

  • Doug  On January 26, 2013 at 11:27 am

    In case you missed this in the Times:

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm


      Thanks. I did see this in the NYT yesterday.

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