Tag Archives: ncaa

Quick Slant: The NCAA and its Lack of Institutional Control

By Kevin York

Slant: Reports surface that the NCAA’s investigation into actions by the University of Miami will result in sanctions


If you find the fact that the NCAA is imposing sanctions surprising, you’re not alone. Earlier this year the NCAA admitted to misconduct during its investigation into Miami. It screwed up so bad that some of its evidence had to be thrown out and external investigation was done in the NCAA. Despite these wrongdoings, NCAA commissioner Mark Emmert decided to push forward with the case against Miami. Doesn’t this misconduct, resulting in “tainted evidence” call into question Emmert and his group’s credibility?

I have no problem with the actual allegations against Miami, but I think it’s time for administrative reform within the NCAA. How can you pin a “lack of institutional control” charge on a school when you yourself suffer from that same charge? And on that note, how can lack of institutional control still be used as a charge? Everything falls under that. Wouldn’t “failure to comply to an atmosphere of compliance” (another separate charge used by the NCAA) be the same exact thing? Lack of institutional control is how the NCAA found it appropriate to take action against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky situation, a decision that is now coming under heavy scrutiny and one lawsuit, potentially more.

After its sanctions against Penn State were announced, Mark Emmert and the NCAA made it clear that a school’s head coaches are in ultimate control of their sporting programs. As ESPN’s Dana O’Neil points out, “Yet on Monday, when the NCAA announced the findings of an external review of its enforcement staff and its actions involving the University of Miami case, NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that the buck stopped well short of his office door.”

She goes on to say:

“So far on Emmert’s watch, the NCAA has bungled and fumbled multiple investigations (Cam Newton, Shabazz Muhammad and now Miami); fired two NCAA investigators; saw the exits of two enforcement administrators (director of enforcement Bill Benjamin resigned in June, just eight months after taking the job); and gone well outside of its own rulebook and sidestepped due process to punish Penn State, which generated a lawsuit from none other than the state of Pennsylvania.”

Time for the NCAA to look in the mirror. Time to reform yourself so you actually possess the authority and credibility to judge others.

By Kevin York
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevin_york
You can contact Kevin at kevin@thecouchletes.com

The Hypocrisy of the NCAA and a Missed Opportunity for Change

Yesterday I wrote about my feelings on the NCAA’s position to lay sanctions on Penn State stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse. I’m following up with that post today now that the NCAA penalties have been announced.

The Hypocrisy of the NCAA

I’m not going to spend a lot of words detailing my feelings on the actual sanctions. This post isn’t about that. It’s about the hypocritical manner in which the NCAA operated with its decision. A group of men at Penn State abused their positions of power. One of those men did so directly with children, luring them into trusting him and them using their trust against them to sexually assault them and rape them. The others abused their power by turning their heads and allowing the actions of the man first mentioned to continue. Ironically, a group in the NCAA, president Mark Emmert and the executive committee, abused their powers in an attempt to punish those responsible for these heinous crimes.

Emmert and the executive committee doled out punishments without going through the procedures and processes that are set for them to handle disciplinary actions. As Emmert stated, this scenario was far beyond anything the NCAA has seen, warranting special circumstances for him and the executive committee to act out of normal process. But keep in mind, the NCAA cannot address criminal or civil violations, they are responsible for addressing athletic violations. What they were essentially addressing was a cover up to protect a sports program. They actually have dealt with that before. A few times actually. The action being covered up has never approached this disgusting scenario. Covering up a tattoo in exchange for football merchandise ring in no way nears allowing a pedophile to run around campus freely. I’m not saying they weren’t warranted in bringing some kind of penalties. I’m saying follow your own processes so you can’t receive this type of criticism. You can’t look to past instances for how to handle the disciplinary action, but you can look to it for following the procedures. Don’t give people any opportunity to criticize your actions.

Furthermore, Emmert made comments about the NCAA no longer allowing sports programs to be above the education of young people and the protection of their well being. The tone has to be set that football is not the most important thing. His exact statement was, “Football will never be put ahead of educating, protecting and nurturing young people.” Um, ironically I think you just put football ahead of everything else with these sanctions. The sanctions were aimed nearly entirely at football. If you wanted to set the tone that football isn’t everything, I think you missed. You punished a bunch of kids and their fans by killing their football program. A bunch of 18-22 year olds will now have their college experience extremely altered. Some will play out their athletic careers playing for nothing. Others will transfer, affecting their educational, athletic and social lives. Yes, Sandusky’s actions altered the lives of a number of victims. But is the proper response to go after innocent students? This went beyond football and the punishment shouldn’t have focused just on football if a statement truly wanted to be made.

A Missed Opportunity for Change

Mark Emmert made several comments when announcing the sanctions against Penn State about not allowing something like this to happen again. I hope that the sanctions against Penn State actually have that affect, but I don’t think they will. I heard someone, either Colin Cowherd or Jay Bilas, mention this morning that punishing Tom doesn’t make Bob change. And I think that’s completely true in this Penn State instance. I think what will actually happen is that Bob (other schools) will exploit Tom’s (Penn State) punishment by pilfering Tom’s recruits and current players. Tom will learn from it, Bob will not.

Alabama. Auburn. Texas. Oklahoma. Notre Dame. Oregon. Ohio State. Michigan. Georgia. Florida State. Texas A&M. Florida. Tennessee. Texas Tech. West Virginia. All of these schools have a football first mentality. The football program rules all. Do the sanctions against Penn State do anything to change the athletic cultures at these schools and others like them? What actions are being taken against these schools? No, there wasn’t a child rapist running amuck at the previously mentioned education institutions, and I’m not insinuating anything along those lines is happening at any of them, but the atmosphere is ripe for cover ups to protect the football program. I grew up less than twenty miles from Notre Dame and I know of special circumstances that were afforded to that program and the players within it. This football first mentality exists far beyond State College, PA.

Mark Emmert and the NCAA had the opportunity to make sweeping changes that would affect the broad college football landscape. Instead, they acted in a rushed, short sighted manner in order to gain some short term PR benefits. Will these sanctions prevent future abuse of power? I think not. These sanctions against Penn State won’t result in true change. They issued deep and harsh punishment. The only aspect of the sanctions that is proactive in nature and can make a positive impact is the $60 million dollar fine. Everything else was reactionary.

Another aspect of the sanctions is an “Athletics Integrity Monitor” that will be placed in the Penn State athletic program. (Side note – I’m not against this, but it doesn’t make sense. Every NCAA school currently has a compliance officer, designed to ensure all NCAA rules are followed. By Emmert’s logic, since it was in his authority to address Penn State’s ethics issues, shouldn’t the compliance officer already be handling the job of this Athletics Integrity Monitor? Why wasn’t Penn State’s compliance officer just fired and replaced?) Aside from my tactical questions about the position, I actually think it’s a good move, but why wasn’t it decided that every school have one of these Athletics Integrity Monitors? Bleacher Report’s Daniel Krem posed this same question.

There were many options for addressing Penn State in a way that could spur positive change. To truly make change, far reaching and progressive change is required. To do that, the NCAA would’ve had to admit some fault in its administration of all schools though. I don’t believe Emmert or the executive committee was willing to do that.

I have a few ideas for some of these changes and sanctions against Penn State. I wonder, were any of these considered?

  • A higher monetary fine. I think I would’ve slapped a higher fine on the school without taking scholarships from the football team. Utilize the team as an advantage for something positive. Keep the $60 million dollar fine and add to that all ticket sales revenue from the football program for the next three years and 50% of all football team merchandise revenue.
  • Athletics Integrity Monitors at all NCAA schools. I covered the rationale for that earlier.
  • Limits on annual alumni donations to athletic departments. Large alumni donations lead to football programs becoming powerful. Look at Oregon as an example. That program struggled through much of the 80s and 90s. Then Nike’s Phil Knight decided he wanted to invest in his alma mater’s football program. He made large, large donations. Where do you think the money comes from for the 37 new jersey designs they unveil every year? Now Oregon has a good football team and a powerful one. I’m not saying Oregon has had any improprieties near the extent Penn State has, but the point is the atmosphere is ripe for the abuse of power.
  • Annual volunteer hours. The Penn State football team could’ve had a minimum number of annual volunteer hours they must serve for the next five years. These hours could’ve been mandated to go toward groups that benefit the victims of child abuse.

There are many more ideas like this that could’ve been considered, but were sanctions like this considered? Sanctions that actually result in changed behavior and positive steps toward changing the culture of college athletics? Probably not, but maybe I’m wrong…

Is the NCAA Abusing its Power with Penn State Sanctions?

I’ll start this post off by saying I have been a fan of the Penn State football program for years. I’m disgusted at what has come out about what went on at that school involving Jerry Sandusky and the sexual abuse of children. The leaders of the school betrayed their students, alumni and fans. However, this post is not written as a fan of the football team. My personal feelings about the school or its football team did not play into my opinions included in this blog post.

Reports started coming out today that on Monday the NCAA will announce penalties against Penn State resulting from the Jerry Sandusky crimes. It’s expected that these penalties will be unprecedented and include a large number of lost scholarships and a loss of multiple bowl games. Rumors were flying over the past week that the NCAA may impose the crippling death penalty against the university’s football program. The death penalty has only been used five times previously by the NCAA and only once against a football program. The most publicized of those previous instances, of course, was the SMU football program in 1987 and 1988.

Based on sources from inside the NCAA, some are saying this morning that the death penalty may be preferable than the penalties coming to Penn State, which is pretty shocking. These penalties must include an enormous amount of scholarships lost.

The question I have is, should the NCAA be bringing penalties against Penn State at all?

This isn’t a question of if those responsible at Penn State should be punished. They should. No question about it. However, they should be punished by legal officials, not the NCAA. Jerry Sandusky was already convicted. The others directly involved in the child sexual abuse and cover-up stand to face the legal system as well, with the exception of former head coach Joe Paterno who passed away in January of lung cancer.

But should others be punished? Should the student athletes who were recruited to play at Penn State and had no involvement in this tragedy be punished? Should the general student population lose part of their college experience, a college experience that led many of them to choose to attend Penn State? Should new coach Bill O’Brien, who was no where near the situation, be punished? What good does punishing those people do? These are questions many are asking. Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier this week that addressing the problem should be done in a positive manner rather than a negative one. He said that instead of laying negative penalties on the school, the school should use proceeds from its athletic tickets sales to go toward victims of child abuse. Some criticized the idea (and Saban immediately said he probably shouldn’t have thrown out the idea), and it could potentially use some tweaks, but I think his take is along the right lines. Get some kind of positive out of this horror instead of just negativity.

So back to the question I initially asked – should the NCAA bring penalties against Penn State? The answer is, no. It sets a bad, dangerous precedent for the NCAA.

The purpose of the NCAA is to make sure all schools are participating in sports from an even, level playing field. They address issues around recruiting and scholarships to make sure everything is fair and equal. The NCAA has NEVER punished a school for criminal violations. Look back. Ohio State’s tattoo issue was based around improper financial benefits going to players. Even looking back at the sanctions issued against Baylor basketball in the early 2000s, those sanctions were brought because of illegal payments to players and recruiting violations. There was a murder involved, but that was addressed in criminal courts, not by the NCAA.

The NCAA has to be using its ‘lack of institutional control’ rule in this instance (no other violations applies), but the NCAA is going against its own process to bring these penalties. There is no Infractions Committee hearing planned, which is standard operating procedure in cases involving lack of institutional control. (By the way, is this really a lack of control? I heard ESPN’s Colin Cowherd once make a comment along the lines of, ‘this actually seems like too much institutional control.’ I think he’s right. There was definitely no lack here…) NCAA president Mark Emmert and its executive board are using the report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh as its basis of bringing a charge instead of commissioning an Infractions Committee investigation and hearing. That Freeh report, by the way, was sanctioned by Penn State’s Board of Trustees. Something like this has never been done.

Emmert, it seems, wants to be Roger Goodell. While past NCAA presidents and executive board members have stated they are not supposed to, and have no desire to, act unanimously, similar in fashion to a professional sports league commissioner, it appears this is exactly what Emmert wants to do. Roger Goodell took some flack for his heavy handed handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty situation, but he was well within his rights as the NFL commissioner. Emmert is no Roger Goodell. He doesn’t have the authority to bring sanctions and penalties against Penn State, and he certainly doesn’t have the authority to do so outside the normal lines of processes that universities are supposed to receive.

The actions here by Emmert and the NCAA executive board set a terrible precedent. This new power would allow them to make decisions and take actions far beyond their past responsibilities. Will university presidents stand up and object to this? Or will they sit back and let it happen? If they sit back, I think they will regret their passive silence at some point in the future.

The NCAA should not be involved in punishing a school for criminal behavior. Let the legal system address that. The Jerry Sandusky situation went far outside the football program. And based on the Freeh report, involved two people inside the football program – Joe Paterno and witness and assistant coach Mike McQueary. The others involved were in administration. Penn State is a public university, funded by the state of Pennsylvania. In my mind, because of that, it actually makes more sense for the state of Pennsylvania to look into penalties rather than the NCAA. This is more than a subject of an equal playing level on the football field. In fact, it has nothing to do with that. The string of actions that have come out did not  in any way give Penn State advantages over Ohio State, Michigan or Illinois on Saturday afternoons. Those in administration (former President Graham Spanier, former Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley) have already been removed from their positions and face criminal charges. The state of Pennsylvania should also look at forcing each and every person on the Board of Trustees to vacate their roles. Completely new leadership is needed everywhere. Those at the top of the organizational structure at the school deserve punishment. The entire school does not. Let this be sorted out in a legal courtroom. Punish the individuals at fault, not an entire group of people. And, Emmert, if you do want to try and play the ‘lack of institutional control’ card against the school, make sure you follow correct procedures.