The NCAA is a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.
Crime and Punishment
I probably don't have any Russian in my lineage (the Finnish part of me might start a war), but either way I feel qualified to talk about arbitrary punishment under this particular section's heading. I am, of course, referring to the 2013 "punishment" of Miami.
For better or worse, the NCAA is the association currently in charge of determining eligibility for college athletes. They are also the ones in charge of meting out punishment when their rules are violated.
Far from applying punishments equitably for equitable crimes, with increasing punishment for more egregious rule violations, the NCAA rules with a rubber fist, bringing down the harshest penalties for Western and Mountain area teams while letting rule violations for storied Southern and Eastern teams slide.
Let's look at some of those recent 'crimes' and the ensuing NCAA 'punishments'!
Miami: Miami kicks off our list because they had two massive scandals under the same Athletic Director - who, by the way, somehow was the Chairman of the Committee on Infractions during the USC case (which will also be summarized below).
First, in 1995, 80 students (including 57 football players) defrauded the Federal Government's Pell Grant program to the tune of $220,000. The University also provided $400,000+ in other improper payments to players. As a kicker, they didn't drug test their players at the time (but who knows if that would have affected anything).
Just 7 years later, they somehow managed to top the first scandal. Between 2002 and 2011, football booster Nevin Shapiro...
Wait; back up - who is Nevin Shapiro? Oh, just the alleged operator of a $930,000,000 Ponzi scheme currently serving 20 years in prison with an order to pay back around $83 million.
Anyway, what did Mr. Shapiro do with that Ponzi money? At least $2,000,000 of it was paid (illegally) to at least 72 former or current (at the time, 2011) Miami players.
If that's not bad enough? There was a scandal with Miami's baseball team spanning the years from 2003-2005. Two major scandals, even in different sports, makes a team eligible for the so-called NCAA death penalty, according to NCAA bylaws.
Ohio State: Between 2008 and 2011, at least 14 players received at least $14,000 in improper benefits, possibly including star player Terrelle Pryor.
Some of the benefits revolved around one tattoo parlor near campus, which gave discounted tattoos and even cash payments to stars. Coach Jim Tressel allegedly knew about the improper benefits and failed to tell anyone about the benefits.
Penn State: This one really needs no explanation if you have been paying any attention to the news in the last few years.
Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted at least 8 underage boys between 1994 and 2009, but the true extent of his crimes may have stretched back decades. I won't rehash all of the details on this one, but many top university officials and coaches (including former head coach Joe Paterno) allegedly knew about some aspect of the assaults.
Texas Southern: Violated NCAA rules for 2 decades, including a period from 2004 which included "improper recruiting tactics, academic impropriety and financial aid and eligibility violations that, based on a review of NCAA records, could be of unprecedented scope, totaling 129 student-athletes in 13 sports."
Texas Southern coaches acknowledged issues to the NCAA during that era and promised to fix them, even as the most serious violations continued.
Auburn: In 2010, it was revealed that Quarterback Cam Newton's father sought out money from Mississippi State Boosters to get Cam to enroll at MSU. His father, Cecil, allegedly said it would take "more than just a scholarship" and sought between $100,000 and $180,000 to get Cam to transfer to MSU. Newton, of course, went on to win the Triple Crown - a Heisman, National Championship, and 1st pick in the NFL draft. Other scandals have been rumored at Auburn as well under then-coach Gene Chizik - everything from altering grades to paying players to hiding drug use.
University of Southern California: This one is my favorite.
130 miles from campus, Reggie Bush's family allegedly accepted gifts and monetary payment from a sports agent, effectively cancelling Bush's "amateur status". Only one USC football coach ended up accused by the NCAA in the scandal - Running Backs coach Todd McNair.
Of course, McNair later went on to sue the NCAA for the loss of his coaching job. That led to this. Make your own judgement, but I think it's fair to say a good summary is one football player's family accepted funds far from campus from an agent with zero affiliation with USC.
This happened at the same time as recruiting violations on the basketball team which rode O.J. Mayo to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. If you want to change sports, read this. (Yes, I know, USC and people named "O.J." don't mix.)
He's got to be trolling USC right? Right? "Behind the scenes"?. (Start at 2:50)
In your head, you've surely ranked these scandals from first to last... supplementing my perhaps biased descriptions (full disclosure: USC Alum) with the links I provided or your own knowledge. So, how did the teams make out?
Penn State: The saddest of all the cases, by far, and one that caused many university (read: not just football. See Schultz, Gary and Spanier, Graham) careers to end.
- $60,000,000 fine
- 5 Year Probation
- 4 Year Bowl Ban
- Loss of 40 Scholarships (10/year) between 2013-2017. (This has been partially reversed)
- Vacate 112 wins between 1998 and 2011
- Complete coach overhaul - Joe Paterno out, Sandusky out, AD Tim Curley, out.
USC: One player taking benefits and no university or coach involvement - it'll be a far lesser punishment, right?
- 4 Year Probation
- 2 Year Bowl Game Ban
- Loss of 30 Scholarships (10/year), appeals made it so this is the last year
- Vacate 14 victories, including a National Championship.
- Reggie Bush, 2005 Heisman Winner became the first ever ex-Heisman winner, returning his award to the Heisman Committee.
- Apparently because USC had too many celebrities on the sidelines (including during that one weird game with both Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg), the NCAA banned the practice of allowing non-school personnel on the sideline at games and also banned USC's policy of opening practices to the public.
- Complete coach overhaul - AD Mike Garrett out, Head Coach Pete Carrol, resigned. Todd McNair, as mentioned earlier - sanctioned. (see the earlier note: McNair appears to have a case against the NCAA still brewing.)
- Some of the most sanctimonious language ever released in an official report by any organization in the history of the English language, spearheaded by Miami Athletic Director and Committee on Infractions chairman Paul Dee. One choice quote on the fact that the school had no knowledge of the payment to Bush's father? (Remember this for when we get to Miami!): "high-profile athletes demand high-profile compliance." I just threw up in my mouth a little.
At least that Texas game "never happened". Right?
Miami: Wow, USC got killed, huh?
So... one player's dad taking benefits versus at least 72 players taking over $2,000,000 in money from a convicted Ponzi schemer who boosted for the football team coincident with a major baseball scandal just 7 years removed from defrauding the Feds with an Athletic Director who was publicly exposed as a hypocrite so soon after publishing the most priggish language ever applied to the game of football has to have a much greater punishment... right?
- 3 Year Probation
- No bowl game losses (The NCAA graciously accepted Miami's self-sanctions of holding out from bowls the previous two seasons! How nice of them. Of course, Miami went 6-6 and 7-5 those years, so there's that.)
- Loss of 9 scholarships (3/year).
- Two assistants slapped with 2 year show-cause penalties.
Are you __ kidding me?
At least Nevin Shapiro appears to be writing a book. I'll buy it.
Texas Southern: Okay, it looks like Miami got off easy. How about the school which may have had 20 years of corruption across 13 sports?
- 5 Year Probation
- 2 Year Bowl Ban
- Labeled a "Double Repeat Offender"... which is something like "Double Secret Probation", only overt.
- Scholarship Limitations
- Coach Overhaul
Wow, them too? Who's next!?
Ohio State: 14 players, thousands of dollars and impermissible benefits and the coach knew about it. Way worse than USC, right?
- 3 Year Probation
- 1 Year Bowl Ban
- Loss of 9 scholarships (3 / year)
- Coach Jim Tressel hit with a 5 year show-cause penalty.
This is getting pathetic. Well, we'll always have Auburn.
Auburn: Heisman winner with a dad who solicited money? Hey, if you scroll up to USC it's the exact same thing! Let's see how Auburn has made out:
- No penalties.
At one point, on 11/30/2010, the NCAA declared Newton ineligible - an offer of money took away that glorious amateur status, you see. The very next day, the NCAA reversed their own decision and said he was eligible.
You can't make this stuff up. Of course, some of the Auburn stuff is ongoing - so pay attention.
I don't know if it's an East Coast bias, or more properly an anti-West Coast bias, but even a non-homer can objectively say that the NCAA is absolutely useless as an oversight organization, and absolutely toothless when dealing with a non West Coast school.
It's Time To End The NCAA
Well, you agree with me. But replace it with what?
Nothing. We don't need a replacement, and I'll soon tell you why.
(I guess I need to convince you of that, but let's end part one here. You can find the second part later this week.)