Lofty Ideals/Feet Of Clay

Late last week, there was a report that the NCAA has suspended Auburn basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, for two games this season and put Auburn basketball on 4 years’ probation for “unethical conduct” by former assistant coach Chuck Person.  You may recall that Person was one of the coaches swept up in that FBI investigation of improper payments given to basketball recruits.  Pearl was not charged by the Feds, but the NCAA somehow determined that he “violated head coach responsibilities because he did not adequately monitor” Person’s recruiting actions and because he “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”

Even without knowing everything – or even anything – about basketball recruiting at Auburn, I find the NCAA’s rhetoric here laughable.  Please ask yourself:

  • If you believe – as I do – that basketball recruiting at major schools never complies fully with NCAA rules and regulations, then how and why would a coach at one of those schools “promote an atmosphere of compliance” and lose out on most if not all the “prime recruits?
  • If you believe that Bruce Pearl knew nothing about who Person was recruiting and how things were going in terms of getting commitments from those recruits, you probably also believe that you can save time by putting your alarm clock in the bank.  He monitored his assistant the way every head coach monitors their assistants involved in recruiting, no?

And then the NCAA rhetoric takes flight and travels to an unknown dimension even beyond the Twilight Zone:

“Further, when the head coach became aware of potentially problematic situations involving the assistant coach, he failed to ask reasonable and pertinent questions.  These shortcomings allowed violations to go undetected.”

Two comments on that paragraph:

  1. The NCAA admits here that its “compliance officials” were inadequate in this situation because the lack of “reasonable and pertinent” questions from the head coach made the improprieties go undetected.  If you must punish the coach and the school, you also should fire all your compliance officials who were clearly incompetent to do their jobs.
  2. The NCAA cannot know that Pearl never asked “reasonable and pertinent questions”; all they can know is that nothing was reported to them.

It seems to me that Bruce Pearl is seeking to become the latter-day Jerry Tarkanian – the coach who is always skirting around the edges of the rules and who gets caught “over the line” every once in a while.  Recall that Pearl was fired from the head coach position at Tennessee when there were NCAA violations there and then Pearl behaved unethically by covering them up and lying to the NCAA about events.

  • Memo to Coach Pearl:  It would not be tremendously difficult for you to find another college basketball figure to emulate who might be a tad more admirable,

I mentioned that Auburn would be on 4-years of probation as a result of this NCAA ruling.  I guess that is important but the rest of the sanctions against Auburn are meaningless:

  • The NCAA fined Auburn $5,000.  That is less than what individual recruits were improperly paid.
  • The NCAA fined Auburn 3% of the Auburn basketball budget.  Just a guess here, but two boosters can probably cover that.
  • Auburn will vacate any wins it accumulated if any player who was improperly recruited played in the game.

If anyone at NCAA Hqs wonders why these sorts of rule-breaking episodes continue to take place, all they need to do is look at the level of punishment a school or a coach might get because of breaking the rules.  The cost/benefit calculation here universally comes out in favor of “cheating”.

Moving on …  In today’s Washington Post, Kevin Blackistone has a column decrying the choice of Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics because the Olympic Charter contains this statement:

“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Blackistone lays out the clear and obvious contradictions that exist when one juxtaposes the Chinese treatment of minorities and political opponents with that statement of principles in the Olympic Charter.  He acknowledges that the Biden Administrations enactment of a diplomatic boycott is “the weakest of sauce.”  He points out correctly that the Olympic ideal is not tied to politics but that having nations send teams to the games inevitably makes the games political.  At the end, he says that nations seeking to host future Olympic Games need to demonstrate their adherence to these principles and not simply acknowledge them.  And it is with that closing argument that I take issue.

Yes, the IOC and the “Olympic Movement” like to portray the Games as beacons of all that is good and worthy in the world.  Maybe there is a nugget of that sort of thing inside the morass that is the IOC – – but the first and foremost driving force for the IOC and the sine qua non within any bid to host any Olympic Games is MONEY.  China can and will spend lavishly when given the chance to host Olympic events; some of that lavish spending winds up in the coffers of the IOC and most probably in the pockets of some IOC officials.  Until we all stop viewing the Olympic Games through rose-colored glasses and recognize that they are a fiscal entity at the core, these sorts of statements of outrage will happen repeatedly.

Finally, on the subject of “principles”, consider this observation by author, Somerset Maugham:

“You can’t learn too soon that the most useful thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency.”

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