Friday, March 11, 2011

NCAA Follies

Ohio State is, once again, in trouble with the NCAA. Baylor, North Carolina, Oregon, UConn, and Southern Methodist also have problems.

Sooner or later, almost every major sports school will be in violation of some NCAA stricture. Major sports, especially football and basketball, less popular sports, public or private colleges, research universities or teaching schools, academic powerhouses and colleges I’ve never heard of before, religious or non-sectarian, large or small, the NCAA will come calling. Major violations, minor violations, technical violations, booster violations, say hello to the NCAA.

Here’s a list of schools hit by the NCAA with sanctions going back to 1999, so I can include Notre Dame on the list.

The Big Ten is well represented with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin, as well as the SEC (Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

The Pac Ten has Arizona, Arizona State, Berkeley, Oregon, USC and Washington, and its new members Colorado and Utah.

The list is full of saints, whose conduct was unholy to the NCAA: St. Augustine, Bonaventure, Johns, and Leo, as well as Baptist, Catholic, Methodist and Jesuit colleges.

The remainder include Abilene Christian, Albany, Alcorn State, Arizona, Ball State, Baylor, Bradley, Buffalo State, BYU, BYU Hawaii, Cal State Northridge, Central Florida, Central Oklahoma, Chatham, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Chicago State, Coastal Carolina, Dayton, Dominican (Illinois), Eastern Washington, Florida A & M, Florida International, Florida State, Fresno State, Gardner Webb, Georgetown, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Hobart, Holy Cross, Howard, Humboldt State, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Jackson State, Jacksonville, Kansas, Kentucky, Kentucky State, Kentucky Wesleyan, Lang College, Lewis, Lincoln, Long Beach State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Lynn, Marshall, Maryland, McNeese State, Memphis, Miami, Middle Tennessee State, Millersville University of Pennsylvania, Mississippi Valley, Missouri, Missouri – St. Louis, Missouri Western, Morehead State, Morgan State, Murray State, Nevada Reno, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Nicholls State, Northeastern, Northern Arizona, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio Northern, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Panhandle, Oregon, Prairie View A & M, Richmond, Rutgers, Salem State, San Diego State, Savannah State, South Alabama, Southern Indiana, Southern Maine, Southern Vermont, Southwest Missouri, Stetson, Steven F. Austin, Stillman, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY Stonybrook, Temple, Tennessee Chattanooga, Tennessee State, Texas, Texas – Pan American, Texas A & M – Corpus Christie, Texas A & M – Kingsville, Texas Christian, Texas Southern, Texas State – San Marcos, UConn, UNLV, USC, USF, University of the District of Columbia, University of the Incarnate Word, Villanova, Washington, Weber State, Wesley, West Georgia, West Virginia and Youngstown State.

Even Harvard and Princeton have issues with the NCAA.

Something is wrong when so many institutions of higher education with student-athletes run afoul of the NCAA.

Ten possibilities exist to explain the epidemic of violations.

First, the pressure to win is so great that many coaches and schools feel the pressure to cheat, with some head coaches and administrators turning a blind eye. To quote Al Davis "Just win, Baby."

Second, standards and enforcement have changed. Such greats of the past as Woody Hayes and John Wooden would have to be more circumspect with their teams’ sugar daddies today.

Third, old habits die hard. Boosters often provided cars, cash and bought game tickets from players in the past. Some of these activities still go on.

Fourth, many schools are often recruiting a more amoral class of athletes. The rap sheets often exceed the NCAA violations.

Fifth, the NCAA has increased the compliance staff.

Sixth, the age of the internet has broadened transparency; rumors and leaks spread through the web in nanoseconds.

Seventh, other coaches are sometimes willing to turn in competitors.

Eighth, the NCAA rules can be incredibly arcane, arbitrary, confusing, and stupid.
Too many text messages or twitters to a potential recruit can violate an obtuse NCAA rule. Rick Neuheisel, currently coaching at UCLA, used his training as a lawyer to violate the spirit of NCAA rules by engaging in technicalities.

Nine, the NCAA does not accept plausible deniability as a defense.

Ten, major institutions know the NCAA is often feckless in its administration. It can be a crap shoot whether the penalty will be draconian (SMU or USC) or a slap on the wrist (Auburn and Ohio State).

Maybe all of the above.

Here’s the problem. With so many institutions running afoul of the NCAA, either we have a generation of some of the country’s greatest universities knowingly engaged in conduct they will not tolerate on the academic side, or the NCAA has become a clueless, billion dollar bureaucracy, which often gets nailed for antitrust violations, but cows universities.

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