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Oregon Sanctions Exemplify NCAA Incompetence

by Mike Watts
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Dave Sizer :: Flickr

The NCAA’s blatant disregard for precedent is a bad look.

Bravo, NCAA. It appears you have topped yourselves yet again.

It was tough for me to imagine a way that the NCAA could endear itself to me more than all of their past indecision and inaction. Somehow after analyzing the series of asinine bylaws they call the NCAA rule book, Oregon lost just three scholarships for their recruiting infractions committed during Chip Kelly’s run as head coach.  No bowl ban, just three years of probation. The football program will have less time available for recruits to visit the campus during the probation too, not that they needed that much.

Sources also say Chip Kelly will have to sit in time out with a dunce cap on his head in Mark Emmert’s office and write “I shouldn’t funnel money to prospective athletes through a shady recruiter” one hundred times on his blackboard. This during his show cause period, which is effectively already over since he will almost certainly spend the next two years with the Philadelphia Eagles.

I’m not mad at Oregon at this point, kudos to them for sidestepping what should have amounted to a bowl ban. No, I’m angry at the frustrating and growing inconsistency of the NCAA’s recent sanctions.  Four particular situations come to mind in recent years: Rutgers (2013), Penn State (2012), Miami (FL) (2012), Ohio State (2011).

Are the particulars different in each case? Absolutely. But let’s think about this:

Rutgers men’s basketball was shrouded by scandal this year for the verbal and physical abuse committed by head coach Mike Rice and the alleged knowledge of said abuse by athletic and university administration. How many scholarships, visits with recruits, and wins were pulled for the Scarlet Knights? None. Then Rutgers doubled down and hired a coach who had been implicated in a verbal and emotional abuse scandal in her previous position as the new Athletic Director.

In Columbus, Ohio State players were getting plush jobs at local car dealerships and selling Ohio State memorabilia at local tattoo parlors for cash and tattoos.  Jim Tressel, who was widely considered to be a principled leader and a winning coach, was shown the door and the program was handed a bowl ban that covered a season in which the Buckeyes were a perfect 12-0.  Meanwhile, Tressel gets a show cause ruling against him, which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell agrees to follow through on if the Colts decide to hire the shamed former coach.  Might as well kick the man while he’s down, I guess.

The Hurricanes of Miami finally started to return to their days as “The U” before a disgruntled former booster alleged a series of horrifying violations that he bankrolled.  He says he paid for abortions and strippers among other pleasantries for players over a decade’s time under the nose of the Miami administration. You hear about those harsh Miami sanctions? Me neither.

How about Penn State? The NCAA really showed how great they were in issuing on field sanctions for perhaps the worst off field crime a human being can commit. So to show that the NCAA meant business, they practically gave the Nittany Lions the death penalty based on a report with no legal basis. Mark Emmert and his colleagues overlooked, however, that the justice system is having its way with Jerry Sandusky, that Joe Paterno, whose role is often described to be murky at best, has passed away, and that the Athletic Director has been removed. 

So who is bearing the brunt of these big tough punishments? The current football players who never met Sandusky and the athletes in other sports who would have benefitted from the revenue that a Big Ten powerhouse pulls. That really showed them.

So when I look at the precedents, please don’t be surprised if I have no clue what the NCAA is going to do when a scandal erupts.  Even a personal model like the Heisman being stripped from Reggie Bush when Cam Newton still has his is a black eye to college football.

If the previous team sanctions were to serve as a guide, the Ducks wouldn’t be eligible to go to a bowl game this year, Chip Kelly would be banned from escaping to the NFL like Jim Tressel, and there would be far more than three scholarships lost over the next three years.

But no, they don’t want to demolish Nike’s darling.  They don’t want to destroy a west coast brand that has enveloped the game the way USC used too – from their trend setting uniforms to crazy late night games with an up tempo no huddle offensive attack.  Do they really need their third string running back with that scholarship they lost or those extra game day visits during home games? Probably not. Oregon will be just fine, just the way the NCAA wanted it.

What a bunch of inconsistent, short sighted hypocrites.

Michael Watts covers Division I (Fordham) athletics, MLS (Red Bulls) and the NHL (Rangers) for WFUV Sports.

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