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The NCAA: Broken Beyond Repair

I recently posted an article about the state of college officiating, which is clearly in trouble.  Worse however,  is the overall state of the mighty NCAA.  Originally established in 1905 after a suggestion by President Theodore Roosevelt to “encourage reforms” in the practices of college football, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was formed with 62 charter members.  It was in 1910 that the organization adopted their current name of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA began with a noble purpose:  make sure schools were playing by the same set of rules and promote player safety.  Once just regulating rowing and football, the NCAA expanded over the years and added more sports, more divisions,  more championships and more rules.  In the 80’s, the NCAA also included women’s sports under their umbrella, eventually issuing the Title IX mandate for gender equity.   But somewhere along the way, the NCAA seemed to lose sight of their mission.

Enes Kanter was never freed by the NCAA. Photo:  UK Athletics

Enes Kanter was never freed by the NCAA.
Photo: UK Athletics

Let’s take a look first at how the NCAA enforces rules and issues punishments to those that violate the rules:

  • 2009 – Dez Bryant – 9 game suspension (plus missing a bowl game) – His crime?  He committed no NCAA violation.  That’s right – he did nothing wrong.  The NCAA had been investigating Bryant and his relationship with former NFL star Deion Sanders.  However, out of fear of the NCAA, Bryant initially lied about his contact with Sanders, eventually coming clean.  His reward for coming clean was to be suspended those 9 games because he lied to the NCAA.
  • 2011 – Baylor’s Perry Jones – 6 game suspension.  His mother accepted a loan from one of Jones’ former coaches to assist her with mortgage payments.  Never mind she repaid those loans (3 separate 15-days loans) in a timely fashion, and never mind Jones had no knowledge of said loans.
  • 2010 – Kentucky’s Enes Kanter – permanently ineligible (never played a game).  Kanter played professional basketball in Turkey as a teen, which is acceptable to the NCAA providing the players don’t take “extra benefits.”  The NCAA determined Kanter had received $33,000 in “extra benefits”, though roughly $20,000 of that amount was for tutoring expenses.  In fact, the remaining funds were sitting in an account, unused and the family offered to return those as well a repay the $20,000.  The NCAA refused to accept that proposal.  The remaining $13,000 was indeed a violation, but to be declared permanently ineligible?  When you compare Kanter’s penalty to Kansas player Josh Selby (9 game suspension for receiving roughly $5800 in extra benefits), it makes no sense.  Selby’s suspension roughly calculated to one game per $644.  Based on that calculation, Kanter should have been suspended for 20 games.  Heck, maybe you could even say Kanter should have sat out one year.  But the NCAA is not known for logic or fairness.
  • 2009 – Kentucky’s Jeremy Jarmon – suspended for his final season.  Jarmon, recovering from shoulder surgery, had taken a supplement that he later learned was not allowed by the NCAA.   He took this supplement for less than 3 weeks and stopped when a trainer advised him it may be against NCAA rules.  Jarmon tested positive for the banned substance, but subsequent follow-up tests were clean.  It should also be noted that all this occurred weeks before the beginning of the season, thus any effects of the supplement were no longer in play.  We should also remember that Jarmon had done what, by all accounts the NCAA thinks is a good thing:  he returned to school for his final season rather than entering the NFL draft early.   But the mighty NCAA felt it necessary to suspend Jarmon for what would have been his senior season with the Wildcats for taking a substance available to anyone at their local GNC.
Jeremy Jarmon felt the wrath of the NCAA. Photo: UK Athletics

Jeremy Jarmon felt the wrath of the NCAA.
Photo: UK Athletics

It would be nearly impossible to list all the absurd decisions, but it is clear a pattern exists of inconsistent penalties and growing arrogance.   In recent years, the NCAA seems to have taken it upon itself to not only enforce their rules, but to also levy punishments that one would expect to find in a criminal court.  For example, let’s remember Georgia’s Todd Gurley.   After having been found to have sold autographs and raking in around $3000, the NCAA stepped in and issued a 4 game suspension.  Seemed fair enough until they tacked on 40 hours of community service.   Is there actually something in the NCAA rule book that gives them this authority?  



Then of course, we have the uneven enforcement of rules.  Some schools seem to be frequent rule violators and get labeled as “dirty” while other programs, despite evidence of infractions get to skate through untouched.   How has Duke escaped the wrath of the NCAA?  When Corey Maggette was found to have accepted $2000 from an AAU coach while in high school, nothing was done.  After all, the NCAA had cleared Maggette to play, so what happened in high school must have been a non-issue for them.  Except the same didn’t hold true for 3 other schools who had to suspend players for taking money from the same AAU coach.  Those players were still in school, so the NCAA penalized them.  Their argument for not punishing Duke was that Maggette was already gone before the information came to light.

So why did Derrick Rose, who the NCAA also cleared to play at Memphis get the hammer dropped on him?  He was long gone before the NCAA received new information questioning the validity of his SAT scores.  Memphis, however, is not Duke, so 38 games were vacated, along with a Final Four banner because Rose was deemed to have been ineligible.  Maggette should have received the same status,  and Duke’s 37 wins and Final Four banner should have been vacated.  Except that never happened.

The inconsistencies continue to occur and the mind-boggling decisions just keep piling up, one after another.   One of the most recent decisions had nothing to do with penalizing a school, but rather a hiring move.  Oliver Luck, former WVU Athletic Director was named Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs.   Maybe this would have made sense had WVU not been placed on probation for 2 years for violations committed by 14 different sports while under the watch of Luck.  He couldn’t control one program, yet oversees regulatory affairs for the entire NCAA?  (Read the full story here)

I’m sure most of the examples I’ve listed are ones with which you are already familiar but they do bear repeating.  It demonstrates a chronic problem with fairly and equitably applying the rules to all schools in a consistent fashion.   The credibility of the NCAA is already in question and with the decision on the sanctions that will be levied on UNC looming, there is little reason to believe the Tarheels will get anything but a small slap on the wrist.   It’s clear the enforcement branch of the NCAA is broken and steps must be taken, perhaps starting with new leadership.  Instead, we’re likely in for more years of Emmert at the helm.  And really, why should he leave?  The NCAA seems rather happy with his brand of “leadership.”  After all, they now pay him over $1.3 million per year for this sideshow.

Clearly, the NCAA is broken, but is it broken beyond repair?  Only time will tell.

In my next installment, I will be discussing the financial issues, for the NCAA and for the student-athletes.  

Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue



Michele Brown
Michele Brown
Writer at since Feb. 2015 Co-host of Big Blue Views podcast. Mom, Christian, sports junkie, golf addict and speed typist. I can cook your mama's food better than she can.

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