NCAA: More and More Programs Going Under the Microscope
If the National Collegiate Athletic Association was a government organization, there might well be pictures of many college mascots plastered all over Post Office walls.
But the NCAA is only an NGO rules-making body for intercollegiate athletics with limited authority to investigate its member institutions when there is some question about rules violations at those colleges and universities. Although the NCAA does not reveal all of its ongoing investigations, it appears that over the past few months the NCAA has started, completed or continued more investigations than anyone can remember taking place at one time.
Such a rogues' gallery of mascots would include the Mountaineer of West Virginia, a Michigan Wolverine, a Georgia Bulldog, the Connecticut Husky, the North Carolina Ram and, surprisingly, the Princeton Tiger, plus quite a few more.
Not all of these are guilty institutions. Some are just wanted for questioning. And the NCAA has been asking lots of questions.
A few of the above mentioned institutions have been found "guilty" and have been handed appropriate punishments, according to the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
For example, the biggest shocker in this list of college athletic no-no's was Princeton, the first Ivy League institution to be penalized for infractions of NCAA rules in 36 years. This came about because a Princeton alumnus, who played men's tennis when in college, paid $33,000 toward the tuition expenses of a female tennis player at Princeton in the 2007-08 academic year and part of the 2008-09 year.
Princeton received a public reprimand from the NCAA and the university must vacate all tennis matches that student won in singles or doubles during the period when the alumnus paid her expenses.
This tennis infraction may seem minor to some. But it is a very strange case in which both parties must have known better and the institution itself should have prevented such payments. The eight Ivy League universities do not award athletic scholarships.
Of course, the Princeton tennis caper doesn't compare to what went on at Southern California where the Trojans football and basketball programs have been placed on probation for a couple of years by the NCAA for a variety of misdeeds, the most prominent of which were payments by an agent to Reggie Bush while he was an undergraduate football tailback. Bush won the 2005 Heisman Trophy that was revoked last month because of these infractions while his USC football coach, Pete Carroll, skipped town and is now the coach of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks.
The University of North Carolina is looking down the barrel of the same NCAA weapon that nailed Southern California to the wall. The Tar Heels are being investigated for agent/athlete associations that may have resulted in some payments or perks given to football players in violation of NCAA rules.
Also, the Chapel Hill institution, so long a proud academic institution that felt it was well above such behavior, is being investigated for academic violations in which a female tutor is suspected of writing papers for athletes and committing other academic infractions.
If found guilty, North Carolina might suffer penalties similar to what Southern California is serving.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels' coach, Butch Davis, is apologizing profusely every chance he gets. That might help save his job, a position he no longer deserves.
The University of Tennessee is also in deep trouble, according to all reports from Knoxville. Both its football and basketball programs are being looked at for numerous recruiting violations. The Vols' very popular basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, has admitted "misleading" NCAA investigators regarding some of his recruiting activities. In particular, he said he did not have a couple of high school recruits at his home when, in fact, they did go to Pearl's house during recruiting visits to Tennessee in violation of NCAA rules.
For punishment, Tennessee cut Pearl's salary by $1.5 million over the next five years. That can pay for a few more worthy faculty members, anyway. But in most companies, when a person lies to investigators, he gets fired.
The agent problem is wide spread, apparently, as the NCAA has looked at Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and other institutions where it suspects agents paid for undergraduate athletes to attend big parties or simply gave them money. This is an all too common practice aimed at convincing the athlete to become the agent's client when he leaves college and turns pro.
The University of Miami ran into some problems as its football coaches were accused of texting messages to high school recruits in violation of NCAA rules. North of there in Gainesville, the University of Florida football program has suffered the ignominy of having 30 members of the team arrested for a variety of offenses during the six years Urban Meyer has been the Gators' head football coach. Maybe Meyer should vet his recruits a bit more closely.
The NCAA is investigating West Virginia's football program for "major" rules infractions related to persons other than coaches working with football players off season between 2005 and 2009. That indicates violations under both Coach Rich Rodriguez, who is now the Michigan head coach, and Bill Stewart, the current coach. Michigan is under investigation because of Rodriguez violating practice rules.
Connecticut has been drawn into this mess of NCAA inquiries because of alleged recruiting violations within its successful basketball program.
Five University of Kansas employees were accused of scalping tickets for Jayhawk football and basketball games plus parking passes for these games. This led to the FBI getting involved earlier this year.
Kentucky's head basketball coach, John Calipari, always seems to be just one step ahead of the sheriff. At least that was the case when he left the job at the University of Massachusetts and then left the job at the University of Memphis for Kentucky. The Wildcats deny they are under NCAA investigation at present although rumors have persisted to the contrary.
Actually, the NCAA may be in the process of taking a very close look at every single major college football and basketball program within its jurisdiction, although the association does not say that is going on. It surely seems that way, however. This could take a few years. Once there is a real belief that infractions have been committed, the average time for an NCAA investigation from start to end and penalty, if any, is 18 to 24 months.
Mark Emmert, who spent the last 6.5 years as president of the University of Washington following five years as president of LSU, took over as president of the NCAA last Tuesday.
According to a USA Today story last week, Scott Woodward, the Washington athletic director, said, "I think Mark understands we need to catch the guys doing really bad stuff. On that point, I think you'll see some radical change."
By all we know, there surely are more and more institutions and individuals violating more and more NCAA rules these days. It is simply because there is more and more money to be had from football and basketball television so that greed in high places corrupts the formerly incorruptible.
Yet, according to records made public in recent years, less than two dozen of the colleges and universities that have a major football program break even or make a profit from their multi-million dollar athletic programs while many of these institutions are forced to lay off teachers, professors, office staff etc. in these hard economic times.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His e-mail is email@example.com.
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