| Let me get this straight. The NCAA broke the rules while investigating whether Miami broke the rules.
Posted: 1/30/2013 9:25:18 PM
The NCAA looks guilty of unethical conduct, a failure to monitor and a lack of institutional control.
There's only one penalty that fits those crimes, especially since the NCAA would have to be considered a repeat offender.
The death penalty.
There's never been a better time - or more good reasons - to blow the whole system up and start over.
Eleven years ago next Friday, NCAA Infractions Committee chairman Thomas Yeager explained the major sanctions he and his colleagues had just dropped on Alabama football this way: "They were absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun."
Where are Yeager and his weapon when you really need them?
The irony in the latest example of NCAA misconduct and malfeasance is wicked and delicious. In its zeal to bring Miami football and basketball to justice - a probe launched on the word of former Hurricanes booster and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro - the association's enforcement staff did something that would get a coach fired, a booster disassociated and a program banned from the postseason.
The NCAA admitted Wednesday that it had used Shapiro's own lawyer on a contract basis to obtain information to make its case against Miami during depositions in a totally unrelated bankruptcy proceeding against Shapiro.
During a teleconference, NCAA President Mark Emmert called the actions of the enforcement staff "a very severe issue of improper conduct."
He didn't add "unethical," but he could have.
Emmert described a situation that would seem to be a textbook case of a failure to monitor and a lack of institutional control, perhaps the two most serious charges in the NCAA manual.
"How in the world can you get this far without it being recognized that this was an inappropriate way to proceed?" he asked.
Good question. Here's another: Who's watching the watchers, policing the police?
To get to the bottom of all this, the NCAA has hired an outside firm to figure out who knew what and when did they know it. In the expeditious spirit of Notre Dame's independent two-day investigation into the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend experience, Emmert said he expects this probe to take two weeks.
Yeah. That'll be thorough. Contrast that with the year and a half the NCAA has spent strip-searching Miami.
The good news for the Hurricanes is that this little bombshell will force a rewrite of the Notice of Allegations the school reportedly was about to receive. Some of those allegations, if they were based on the ill-gotten info, may have to be scrapped.
"We cannot have the NCAA bringing forward an allegation that's predicated on information that was collected by processes none of us could stand for," Emmert said. "We're going to move it as fast as possible, but we have to get this right."
So why stop here? Why limit the probe to the alleged "improper conduct" of the enforcement staff? The Miami case isn't the first time the NCAA has used questionable if not unethical methods to dig up dirt against one of its schools.
See the secret witnesses in the Alabama football infractions case of Albert Means. See the Los Angeles Superior Court judge saying, in the USC infractions case of Reggie Bush, that the NCAA investigator's actions were "over the top." See the NCAA investigator who was fired recently for leaking information about a case against a UCLA basketball player.
It's no wonder the enforcement staff cuts corners. Look at its main mission. It's supposed to serve the interests of coaches and schools getting rich on the backs of student-athletes and protect an outdated and unworkable system of amateurism that's nothing more than a house of cards.
What has Shapiro admitted to in the Miami case? Giving cash and prizes to student-athletes. That's the kind of thing that led the school to self-impose a postseason ban in football the last two years, but how did Miami react when Shapiro was making even larger donations to the athletics department itself?
They honored him on the field at a game. They let him run out of the tunnel with the football team before a game. They named a players' lounge on campus after him.
The bigger the payment in college athletics, as long as it's made to the right people, the lesser the objection.
Last weekend, the NCAA passed a massive reform package of 25 proposals that, among other things, will remove pesky limits on the number of phone calls, texts and private electronic communication between schools and recruits. The rich will get richer in terms of rounding up the best players.
After that move, Emmert himself essentially admitted that the NCAA can't level the playing field between the likes of Alabama and UAB and would stop trying.
"We're not going to overcome those natural competitive advantages people have," Emmert said.
A week later, we see the latest evidence that the NCAA can't police itself, either. So what exactly is the point of Emmert's organization? That's a question worth investigating. It'll probably take more than two weeks to get to the right answer, though.
If Emmert really wants to reform major college athletics, he can start by recognizing his semi-professional athletic enterprise for what it is. He can lead the charge to stop the hypocrisy and start over.
Or he can continue the lie and preside over the death of the NCAA.