The NCAA Coming Apart At The Seams

When I was a kid, radio DJs would take calls and play requested songs. The accompanying patter would be something like this:

“This moldy oldie goes out to Sally, Harry, TJ and all the junior class at Beaglebreath High…”

I do not intend to turn these rants into a “request line” despite the fact that yesterday I “took a request” and wrote about a cold weather sport and today I am going to “take another request”. About an hour after posting yesterday’s rant, I got an e-mail from a high school classmate; here is the salient part:

“When are you going to do a ‘discussion’ of the latest NCAA internal investigation and how that might weigh upon the Penn State ‘investigation’ and subsequent fine…?”

Well, how about today…

The NCAA is a governing body in sports within the US and it is no better than sports governing bodies around the world. Despite its protests about protecting the sanctity of amateurism within collegiate sports – pure buncombe by the way – the NCAA is no better than the IOC or the folks who run the sport of cycling. As an organization, the NCAA is corrupt, venal, petty and vindictive. Given the events of the past year or so, they are also showing signs of incompetence and hubris. Other than that…

When the NCAA levied its sanctions on Penn State, I wrote that the NCAA had taken a big step out on potentially thin ice. Assuming that every word written about Jerry Sandusky was true, he did not violate any NCAA rules and his heinous behavior did not give Penn State football any competitive advantage on the field. That monstrously detailed and complicated NCAA rulebook really has only one stated purpose and that is to prevent one school from gaining a competitive edge over its rival schools. Nevertheless, the NCAA decided to sanction Penn State even though the NCAA’s rules were not violated and it did so based on a report done by someone not associated with Penn State. Oh, by the way, it also preceded any and all of the criminal and civil actions that came from those events in the Penn State locker room meaning that the NCAA was certain that there was nothing more to know about the situation.

By analogy, imagine that your boss at work reads a report in the local paper saying that one of the people who works for you has started a local business selling muffins. There is no company rule saying that employees are forbidden to start businesses and your company’s business is not even remotely related to muffins. Nevertheless, our boss takes punitive action against you and your entire work unit by canceling all opportunities for overtime. As dumb as that sounds, that is pretty much what the NCAA did – except for the very huge difference that Jerry Sandusky was doing something far more hideous than selling muffins.

The Freeh Report was probably as good as a report of its nature could have been given that no one was compelled to talk to the investigators and none of the information was collected under oath. However, that qualification means that the words in the Freeh Report would not be accepted as evidence in court simply because someone named Louis Freeh had signed the cover sheet to the report. However, the NCAA with no investigation of its own, basically said that if something is in the Freeh Report it must be correct.

    [Aside: The study commissioned by the Paterno Family that refutes the Freeh Report is similarly flawed. Let me be clear. If I fund someone to do a study and I have deep enough pockets, I can eventually find someone who will conclude in that study that the existence of athlete’s foot fungus today is directly due to the fact that the fungus arose during the Biblical plague of boils visited upon Pharaoh in Exodus.]

After the Penn State issue was “resolved”, the NCAA then blundered in its handling of its investigation into Nevin Shapiro’s claims that he routinely paid off Miami players for good play on the field and that his payments were direct (straight cash, homey) and indirect (paying to abort a child fathered by a Miami athlete). The Enforcement Division geniuses realized that they were in the same spot as the Freeh Report investigators were and what they really needed was some testimony under oath. So, they hired the lawyer representing Nevin Shapiro in a bankruptcy proceeding to ask some questions for the NCAA during depositions in the bankruptcy process. If you cannot smell the stink from that behavior, I suggest that you must have an Olympic class case of nasal congestion.

This very morning, there is a report on CBSsports.com that the NCAA is accusing Miami of “lack of institutional control”. Folks, this is about to get nasty…

    Miami needs a “lack of institutional control” label and the sanctions that come with it like Boutros Boutros-Ghali needs another Boutros.

    The NCAA fired the head of the Enforcement Division as a result of the missteps in the Miami investigation. Some might see this as an assistant coach violating a recruiting rule and taking the fall for the head coach. It is not difficult to make the argument that NCAA President, Mark Emmert, is presiding over an institution out of control because he says he knew nothing about the improper hiring of Shapiro’s lawyer until well after the fact. [/Sergeant Schultz]

      By the way, the Enforcement Director just fired was handpicked by Mark Emmert to take that job. It is not as if he did not know her from Joe Flabeetz’ second cousin…

    The NCAA likes to accuse coaches and AD’s of “failure to promote a culture of compliance” with its rules. It sure seems as if the Enforcement Division and its chief are guilty of that very thing. Mark Emmert loves to wax philosophical about the concept of “accountability”; if “accountability” is to exist here, the NCAA needs to fire Mark Emmert.

    Miami has threatened to sue the NCAA if it tries to impose any sanctions in addition to the ones Miami has imposed on itself. Miami President, Donna Shalala, is very good at making public pronouncements but she needs to recall that there are photographs of her with Nevin Shapiro on the record; and in a court, she might need to testify under oath about her role in that specific matter and the role of the university president in other fundraising “adventures”. Talk about opening up the possibility for “foul weather”…

      [Aside: If you wish to see Ms. Shalala at her pontificatorial best, go and find video of her public pronouncements in the mid-90s where she declared unambiguously that President Clinton never did anything untoward with Monica Lewinsky.]

    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has filed an anti-trust action against the NCAA making a claim that the NCAA’s sanction against Penn State violates at least a couple of Federal laws. I am not qualified even to guess at the chances that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania might prevail in this action; I have read reports that legal scholars say the suit has no chance of success; perhaps, they are correct. However, I do know that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a better chance of winning here than they have of convincing the NCAA to change its mind about the sanctions it imposed on Penn State a year ago.

All of this answers the narrow question posed by my classmate yesterday. However, please consider that these are not isolated instances of NCAA incompetence, arrogance and some might say duplicity. Without going into details – Google is your friend if you want the details – consider that the NCAA has at the very least embarrassed itself in recent years in these two situations:

    The Cam Newton investigation where his eligibility was maintained because someone other than Cam Newton demanded a payment from Auburn in order to get Cam Newton to enroll there.

    The Shabazz Muhammad investigation where another investigator from the Enforcement Division was telling friends that Muhammad was going to get nailed even before the investigation was complete.

The NCAA has a monstrously long and complicated rulebook that it wants its member institutions – and all of its student-athletes – to follow word-by-word with a dedication that borders on zealotry. Is it really too much to ask of such a pompous and bloviating entity to hold itself to a similar standard?

    “I think not!” – - – said René Descartes as he disappeared into thin air.

Perhaps it is time for the NCAA to disappear into thin air also.

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

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Comments

  • Siggurdsson  On February 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Sir: Your comparison of the NCAA to the IOC is perhaps most damning.

    I believe the NCAA widely overstepped it bounds in the penalties it inflicted on Penn State. Yes, Jerry Sandusky committed heinous acts while being associated with PSU. But, the $60 million in fines levied against PSU is just out-and-out ridiculous. The success of the Nittany Lions on the football field this past fall is, to my mind, a huge thumb in the eye of the NCAA. Thank you, Coach O’Brien and team.

    I agree; it is time to eliminate the NCAA from the memory of man…

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Siggurdsson:

      As I have written before, the only saving grace for the NCAA is that they stage March Madness every year. Other than that, they are a skidmark on the undergarments of the universe.

      • Doug  On February 20, 2013 at 3:54 pm

        The NCAA stages championships in every collegiate sport except Div I football. While I will never defend the NCAA in these investigative adventures, staging these championships is no small matter.

        • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm

          Doug:

          I agree that they are no small matter. However, other than March Madness and the College World Series, I do not use up any adrenaline waiting for others to happen.

  • Doug  On February 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    In 2009,Ga Tech WR Demaryious Thomas received $312 of clothing from the roommate of his cousin. The roommate, it turns out, was the friend of someone who worked for a sports agent. Thomas claims he thought the cousin gave him the clothing, but the NCAA decided, without interviewing anyone, that Thomas might be guilty of receiving an unauthorized benefit. They notified Ga Tech just before the Tech game with Georgia. Tech officials decided Thomas’ story sounded believable and that he would be cleared in the end. They let him play against the Dogs, and again in the ACC Championship Game and the Orange Bowl.

    The NCAA ruled that Tech did several things wrong in this case. First they undermined the NCAA investigation by asking Thomas for his side of the story. Second, when notified by the NCAA that Thomas “might” be guilty of an infraction, Tech should have withheld him from competition.

    Tech later won the ACC championship game, which the NCAA vacated because they decided Thomas’s denial was tainted by Tech officials talking to him. Therefore, he was guilty because he could no longer prove he was innocent. Tech was declared uncooperative in the investigation.

    Think about this incident while reading about the investigation into the Penn State, Miami and North Carolina “infractions.”

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 20, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Doug:

      Your recounting of those events is chilling. The NCAA is not bound to provide “due process” to players, coaches or schools. However, if they are to maintain the moral high ground they seek to claim, they have to do better than this.

  • Ed  On February 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    One point I’d argue is the IOC comparison. The IOC is the most corrupt group outside of Chicago aldermen. The NCAA may be crooks, but they are shoplifters compared to the IOC armed bank robbers.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 20, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Ed:

      Will Rogers used to say that the most corrupt of the local politicians in a county went on to learn big time corruption at the State Legislature level but only the VERY best of the crooks could ever hope to be elected to the US Congress where villainy runs rampant. Indeed, there is also a hierarchy of “crookdom”, hypocrisy and hubris in the governing bodies for sports. I will not argue if you put the IOC at or very near the top of that heap, but the NCAA is “climbing the ladder” as we speak…

  • rugger9  On February 22, 2013 at 7:43 am

    It’s not just the NCAA or the IOC. There is a controversy going on here in CA about some international girls soccer tournament where some of our local ladies played for the USA national team. At least one of them carried a 4.0 scholastic record as well. However, the California Interscholastic Federation has a rule that all extra games of this type must have rosters submitted 30 days in advance, and the US national federation only gave two days’ notice because even the Team USA coaches don’t know who’s playing until close to game day.

    So, because of this rule, the top seed had to forfeit 4 games and lose their top player for the section playoffs, and another team was just ousted because they played with a player who was technically ineligible in their first playoff game [they had won 5-0]. Nowhere in the press is there any explanation for why the 30 days are needed by the CIF, nor why playing for the USA team is so suspicious and therefore requires approval. The CIF is standing their ground, but I’m pretty sue the real reason is some arcane issue worthy of the IOC.

    Ye gods.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On February 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      rugger9:

      The situation you outline here is worthy of an episode of Hogan’s Heroes. I can see Sgt Schultz being unable to explain these rules or wanting to get involved with trying; I can see Col Klenk recognizing the silliness of the rules but having to move to enforce them because some Gestapo officer is looking over his shoulder. Hogan and his boys would see the lunacy of all this and find a way to blow up a train near the POW camp as a way to get everyone to change their minds about this women’s soccer situation.

      People who serve in petty organizations get tied up in their own rules usually because they do not ask what is the overarching purpose of the rule in the first place. If indeed the CIF has rules designed to make it difficult for women in the state to participate on US National Teams, then the folks who run the CIF are idiots. If on the other hand, this is a technical violation of a rule that exists for other purposes, then grant the exception openly and publicly with a declaration that the CIF has no intention of standing in the way of the state’s most outstanding young athletes.

      Wow!

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