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Has the NCAA Become A Paper Tiger?

By on June 27th, 2013 in Football 12 Comments »

Somehow, it’s Auburn’s fault that Oregon and Mississippi State got off light. At least in the court of public opinion. We totally got away with the Cam bit, right?

     War Eagle, everybody. We interrupt our usual Thursday preview spot, to examine a few recent NCAA findings. A November to remember must wait a bit. This week, We’ll talk about NCAA crime and punishment once again. This week, the NCAA announced sanctions against the Oregon Ducks, for being caught paying street agent Willy Lyles $25,000 to steer prize running back Lachae Seastrunk to Eugene. Some folks felt the sanctions were ridiculously light, some felt that they were appropriate, but in at least half the opinion pieces I’ve seen written on the subject, “dirty programs like Auburn” or the like is used. Yep folks, the Cam Newton “scandal” continues to sell newspapers and drive internet traffic, nearly three years later!

     In the wake of NCAA investigations of Mississippi State and Oregon, folks all across the country are crying about NCAA favoritism, timidity, or just plain incompetence. Take your pick. Fans of schools hammered by the NCAA in the past decade, such as Miami, Southern Cal, North Carolina, Alabama, and Penn State are screaming about hypocrisy. “They didn’t do ANYTHING to Auburn, and Auburn OBVIOUSLY paid Cam!” If I’ve read that once this past month, I’ve read it a thousand times.

     In the wake of the Cam Newton events of late 2010, accusations and investigations flew hot and heavy. But folks, nothing was found. Folks like Danny Sheridan and his “bag man,” Scotty Moore, HBO Real Sports, Clay Travis, Pete Thamel, and Thayer Evans all “had the goods.” Nothing concrete came of ANY of it. The SEC, the NCAA, and even the FBI spent the better part of a YEAR at Auburn investigating, and found NO evidence. How likely is that?

     What all parties involved can agree upon in the Cam Newton case, is that Cam’s father Cecil Newton and Mississippi State boosters discussed a $180 grand payment for Cam to play in Starkville. That’s a Bulldog problem, not a Tiger one! And if you’re looking for a smoking gun, the whole “payment” angle was admitted to by the school in another case. Mississippi State did self-report, and fired the coach involved immediately. Hence, say the partisans, pretty light sanctions.

     In a similar vein, Oregon self-reported and “fully cooperated” on the Willy Lyles accusations. Oregon received even lighter sanctions than Mississippi State, although former head coach Chip Kelly has been fingered with one of those “show cause” labels for the better part of two years. How that will play out is anyone’s guess. Kelly will get at least a couple of years to try his high-octane tricks with the Philadelphia Eagles. And with Michael Vick at quarterback it might even work. As long as Vick stays healthy and off the police blotter.

     In practice, a “show cause” penalty, even of such a short duration might well be a career killer. Nearly 30 years ago at Florida, Charley Pell told all, and never got another college job offer. It’s doubtful you’ll see Jim Tressel again as an NCAA head coach. Could Kelly come back and coach again in the NCAA? Some folks project him ending up at Southern Cal after an abortive NFL stint. Me, I can’t see the Trojans risking it after what they’ve been hit with.

     As recent penalties show, your real danger these days in terms of NCAA investigations is the perception of being “uncooperative.” As long as a school has an active, informative and sufficiently empowered compliance department, sanctions will be light. It’s all about following procedure. Big institutional failures result in big sanctions. Penn State got hit for (allegedly) covering up criminal activity in the athletic department. Certain supporters of that program are complaining in various legal venues that they were denied due process, and I think it’s a valid argument. While requiring its members to adher to a tremendous volume of standards, the NCAA enforcement bunch has increasingly been exposed failing to adhere to… well, many standards at all.

     Irregularities in the Miami investigation, some folks argue, has neutered the organization’s effectiveness. Others are upset at Mark Emmert’s high-handed penalties against Penn State, which completely bypassed the usual sentencing procedure in the NCAA. When some schools get hammered by an NCAA that violates its own procedures, and programs that wrote checks to illegal recruiters or ignored known instances of such guys get wrist-slaps, there’s trouble on the horizon.

     Over at the official Auburn website, we’re all pretty lucky that one of the most insightful and principled sports journalists of this generation has taken up residence there. His interview with new/old “associate athletic director for compliance” Dave Dideon tells the tale. This year, Dideon left an enforcement post with the NCAA, and headed back to Auburn, where he did a stint in the 1990s. His telling statement about the NCAA enforcement department? “There were a lot of things that occurred I didn’t agree with and a lot of changes that were made I didn’t agree with.”

     In the end, I have to agree with the NCAA complainers. The organization needs to adhere to its own standards. When, out of fear, they hand out trivial one or two scholarship suspensions and no post-season bans to schools who’ve written checks to non-coach “recruiters,” the NCAA has lost its clout. And by not issuing serious sanctions for such ADMITTED behavior, the NCAA is encouraging everyone to bend the rules to their own advantage. This must change.


  1. DBAU81 says:

    I don’t know much about the Oregon and Mississippi State cases, but what the NCAA did to Penn State – and, perhaps more importantly, the way the NCAA did it – was a travesty. The Sandusky scandal was horrific, especially so for the victims and their families. Those responsible deserve every bit of punishment that the criminal and civil justice systems allow. Even Sandusky, however, was entitled to due process. Penn State didn’t get anything remotely approaching due process. The NCAA clearly panicked when it decided first to even consider the matter within its jurisdiction and again when it completely bypassed its normal procedures in handing down the penalties. The lawsuits being brought by the Paterno family and some former Penn State players may face some legal challenges, but hopefully they will survive long enough to shine some light on an out of control organization.

  2. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    The NCAA was hammered by the media because they handed out a stiff penalty to “The Ohio State” , who deserved actually to get a worse punishment. After the hard hitting sanctions against OSU and the perception that Auburn used smoke and mirrors to escape punishment, the NCAA faced tough criticism from the press.

    Talk started surfacing of creating a new sanctioned body, and stepping away from the monster organization. In light of that, the NCAA announced a change in enforcement procedures, and faster investigations, as a way to calm the storm. So far, it does not get a passing grade from me. Not that it matters to them what I think.

    To rehash all of the Cam Newton situation at Auburn would be futile, so I won’t. Still, you have to wonder if the NCAA is more worried about media approval, or taking care of college athletics. My gut says approval far outweighs truth in this area of our intercollegiate sports.

    One other thing, no matter how bad the NCAA messed up in the Miami investigation, there is enough proof to shut that program down forever. There exist enough proof that the Hurricane football program and Mr. Shapiro were in step with each other and that the “entertainment” of prospective student athletes would be left to Mr. Shapiro, and his group. With all of this evidence, the crime should not be judged by the bungling of the investigation. Just one more strike against the NCAA, that shows it lacks true leadership. Mark Emmert will have to be forced out, if anything resembling leadership is to ever grace the NCAA offices again.

    My rant is over for now, you may resume your day….


  3. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    Emmert + Saban is about all I need to know. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just naive or have blinders on ~ but how can you have a year long colonoscopy and not find one little thing ~ but you are still guilty. Maybe my love for Auburn keeps me from seeing what really happened ~ I don’t know but I do know that the dawgs and the ducks admitted they were guilty ahead of time and their small sanctions are unbelieveable. If that had been Auburn, we would be dead in the water. But to know that at least these 2 teams are on probation is a little bit of sweet karma.
    Some days I hate the machine in this state and other days I want to fight it. I just hope that Malzahn had enough experience from being here before to know how to handle it. As long as they are winning, it’s calmed down some but as soon as they start losing or we start winning ~ I’m afraid the battle will be on again……….

  4. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Money rules college football, there is no denying that fact. In a greater sense money rules the NCAA. If ESPN, (the Sugar Daddy of the NCAA) whispers in their ear they would descend on Auburn or any other school with blood in their eye. I have long ago lost respect for the NCAA. Here is a thought, turn it over to the IOC. They can’t run the Olympics so they could just keep screwing things up in college sports. It might not be an improvement but couldn’t be any worse.

  5. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    I spoke to an MSU booster last week at Sandestin… He freely admitted that he thought Mullen would eventually land MSU in bigger troubles and boosters like John Bond and Kerwin Bell would be in the center of it. He also didn’t believe AU is clean in Cam-gate but believes the two above mentioned boosters were dirty as hell. Jacky Sherrill didn’t get the boot because he cheated… He got the boot because he got caught.

  6. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I figured what did Sherrill in was falling off the cliff, wins wise. He wins the west in 1998, then wins ten games for the first time in MSU history in 1999, including the first bowl win in decades. It was all powered by loading up on good JUCO players.

    ……Then we found out what can happen if you’ve got too many one ‘n’ done players counting against your 85. Sherrill pulled a Chizik, and down went the production. 8-4 in 2000, 3-8 in 2001, 3-9 (0-8 in the SEC) in 2002. Sherrill fired a lot of his staff, got one more year, and went 2-10. Then he had NCAA troubles on top of it there at the end, though nothing too serious.

    • Todd92 Todd92 says:

      True. But it’s also true that those final three years were also the three years that the NCAA spent on the MSU campus investigating Sherrill and the football program. I don’t think that is as much pulling a Chizik as it is pulling a “Dye”. Watching your team lose focus because of the impending doom coming from the NCAA.

  7. sparkey sparkey says:

    The NCAA does not need to give due process it is not a legal body as I understand it. I’m in complete disagreement with everybody on the Penn St. issue. To me, I felt as though their program should have been put down for good. It was a coach at that program that used those program facilities and resources and it happened for years. Another person even saw it, but it got swept under the rug. It’s not a matter of athletes cheating but kids are being molested by a coach and nothing was done about it. That is an institutional lack of control in my mind. Sorry, I’m not buying what you are trying to sell me for one second.

    In other news, the MD is worse and the diaries are on hold because I’m on hold from the title for now because I’m in transition of doctors. Nothing I did wrong, I just am being moved to a different doctor to help deal with my condition’s progression. Unfortunately, that’s not until nearly October so in the mean time I’m stuck this way so I need all the prayers I can get folks.

  8. sparkey sparkey says:

    Thanks guys for the well wishes and prayers as I said in the other post. I really appreciate it and you guys really do more for me than you realize. Sometimes, small things are a lot bigger for the people than you realize. Love you guys and looking forward to football season! If it is okay with everyone, I was wanting to start my articles again but this time I will only do once a month that way if I flake out because of issues it won’t be that many articles I should have written. Thanks again folks!