Category Archives: Investigations

Future of the NCAA (Part I)

(This is the first installment in a series of posts addressing the future of the NCAA.  There are so many facets to this it wouldn’t do the topic justice to cover it all in one post.  We’ll look at the idea of super-conferences and/or the complete separation of the BCS schools in a future post, as well as the impact of ongoing and possible legal troubles.  Today, however, the topic is enforcement.)

The NCAA has problems, particularly when it comes to the enforcement of its rules.  The problems are now so deep that John Infante in his Bylaw Blog has floated the idea of a federal government takeover of the enforcement program.  Whether it be USC, Ohio State or Miami, recent investigations have been sloppy and endless, with unsatisfying results.

The crux of the issue is the NCAA has an inherent problem with its investigation and enforcement procedures, in that it does not have the same discovery tools at its disposal that an attorney would in preparing for a trial.  Specifically, the NCAA does not possess the power to subpoena witnesses to testify, nor can it compel the production of documents.  Worse, whatever testimony and documentation it does get doesn’t come under oath (with penalty of perjury if it’s untrue), lessening its value.

It must be unbelievably frustrating for the NCAA’s enforcement staff.  Step out of athletics for a moment and imagine a typical legal situation: a guy runs a stop sign and slams into your car.  In the legal system you would have the ability to compel witness testimony (under oath) both in depositions and at trial, as well as compel the production of any and all documents relevant to your case (like for example his expired drivers license!).  In the NCAA system, however, you can’t compel much of anything.  You’re stuck looking for people willing to talk to you and for documents people are willing to share with you.  All of a sudden what seemed like an open and shut case (“he ran a stop sign and slammed into my car”) becomes a lot more challenging, and takes a whole lot longer.  It was these frustrations that apparently led NCAA investigators to find a (potentially unethical) way around these cumbersome limitations in the Miami case.  Perhaps more telling, an NCAA investigator defending the tactics to the Sun Sentinel raises the concern that this wasn’t one individual going rogue but rather manifestations of a much larger cultural issue.

So how can we improve the rules investigation and enforcement process?  It’s true that if the federal government took over it would have all the discovery tools of the legal system and we’d avoid some of these issues.  What comes with those advantages though are several major disadvantages, two of which stand out.  First, as Mr. Infante noted, politics is injected into the process – never a good thing.  And don’t think for a second our senators and congressmen are above getting involved in this.  We saw several key political figures weigh in on conference realignment, and now the Pennsylvania governor and other legislators are trying to bully the NCAA on the Penn State case.  Second, timeliness – you thought the NCAA was slow?  How about the federal government.  The Office of Civil Rights took 14 years investigating a Title IX complaint into USC’s rowing facilities.  14 years! (For more on this check out the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Title IX Blog.)  So there’s definitely a risk that with the federal government you’d be replacing bad with worse.

I do, however, think there is real merit to the idea of outsourcing the enforcement process to an outside group.  It may not have subpoena power, but at least it can operate objectively and without the natural conflicts that exist when you’re policing your own membership (I think this is something that should be looked at with individual campuses as well – outsourcing the investigation / enforcement component of the compliance function to avoid conflicts within the department).  I’d also be interested in exploring the possibility of placing language in employment contracts for coaches and staff, and financial aid agreements for student-athletes, which imposes a penalty for not cooperating with investigations for some limited amount of time after they leave the institution.  This could certainly be financial or for student-athletes it could be something like putting a hold on transcripts.  For non-university people of interest, you could impose penalties similar to what the NCAA currently does for “boosters” found to have participated in violations: no involvement with the university’s athletic program (e.g. can’t donate, can’t sponsor) for some period of time.  Further steps could include bringing the professional sport leagues into the process so that players and coaches can’t avoid cooperating by going to the next level.

The NCAA’s investigation and enforcement process is certainly broken; it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done in the coming months and years to fix it.  In the meantime, at least the NCAA can say it doesn’t take 14 years to complete an investigation.

 

Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielHare

Howard University’s Suspension of Student-Athletes

Yesterday, the Washington City Paper reported that Howard University, a Division I school which competes in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, “. . . suspended all of its intercollegiate athletics teams for what appears to be a violation of the NCAA rules.”

The magnitude of this announcement surprised many, as the suspension of an entire athletic program seemed drastic.  When it was announced that the entire athletics program had been suspended, one Division I compliance official who spoke to BusinessofCollegeSports.com on the condition of anonymity said, “I would speculate that the potential problems are department-wide and not necessarily limited to specific teams.”  This person further explained that, “Schools are supposed to police themselves and hold out student-athletes who are believed to have been involved with NCAA violations.”

Given this, I contacted Howard’s communications Director, Kerry-Ann Hamilton.  Hamilton responded as follows:

“Howard University is conducting an internal investigation of possible NCAA rules-violations. As a result of this process, the University temporarily withheld a number of student-athletes from competition as a self-imposed action.  Most teams will compete as scheduled. We are working diligently to fully resolve this matter as quickly as a possible. In order to protect the integrity of this review, we are unable to share additional details at this time.”

Thus, contrary to the Washington City Paper’s initial report, Howard did not suspend its entire athletics program.  Rather, it appears that Howard’s actions in this matter run the typical route of NCAA compliance, which requires internal investigations and self-policing.

Later yesterday afternoon, the Washington City Paper reported that a bowling team member said that the investigation was the result of textbook vouchers given to student-athletes.  Given that Howard is unable to share additional details, this has not been confirmed by BusinessofCollegeSports.com.

NCAA Bylaw 15.2.3 provides, “A member institution may provide a student-athlete financial aid that covers the actual cost of required course-related books.”  Per NCAA Bylaw 15.2.3.1, “There is no dollar limit for books a student-athlete may receive, provided each book is required for a course in which the student-athlete is enrolled. The institution may provide the student-athlete with cash to purchase books, as long as the amount of cash provided is equal to the actual cost of the books purchased.”

Thus, a potential NCAA violation may arise, if a student-athlete who is given a voucher to purchase books for classes he or she enrolls in, drops one of the classes for which he or she obtained a book using that voucher and then returns the book and holds onto the cash received. 

If book vouchers are given to every student-athlete, this is a situation which could potentially cause a large majority of student-athletes to be in violation of the NCAA bylaws.  Hence, this may provide some insight as to why it was initially reported that Howard had suspended its entire athletics department.

Ultimately, it is to be seen what the investigation unearths.  If the investigation was the result of student-athletes obtaining money from selling books, expect there to be large public outcry against the NCAA, and also further pushes for student-athletes to receive a higher cost of living allowance.

 

The Final Four and Nike

As the Men’s Final Four is set to tip-off in New Orleans this weekend, while the Women’s Final Four will be played in Denver, along with great basketball games, fans should keep their eyes peeled for something else:  Swooshes.

Since as long as 1985, when Nike introduced The Dunk shoe and entered into sponsorship agreements with colleges whose basketball programs would wear The Dunk in the school’s colors, Nike has forged strong bonds with some of the top college basketball programs in the nation.  Some 27 years later, that bond continues to be strengthened.  In January, Nike unveiled its most recent piece of college basketball apparel:  the Hyper Elite Platinum series.  The focal marketing point of the Hyper Elite Platinum series was an innovatively designed uniform created largely from recycled polyester.  However, from a fan perspective, the highlight of the new series was that Nike designed the uniforms for the nine teams which have won national championships while wearing its apparel:  Arizona, Baylor (women), Connecticut (men and women), Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse.

It is no coincidence that some of the most prestigious college basketball programs have won national championships while donning Nike apparel.  In developing products specifically designed for college basketball players and creating a proactive sponsorship and marketing approach, Nike has set itself apart as the leader in college basketball apparel.

This fact is demonstrated when one considers how many Division I basketball programs Nike currently has sponsorship agreements in place with.  According to Mary Remuzzi, Director of Global Communications for Nike, Inc., 54 teams that competed in this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament are sponsored by Nike, with 50 being “Nike schools” and four being “Jordan schools.”  Additionally, all four of this year’s number-one seeds are sponsored by Nike, while ten of the top-16 seeds are sponsored by Nike (seven being “Nike schools” and three being “Jordan schools”).  Of the teams participating in the Men’s Final Four, two are sponsored by Nike:  Ohio State and Kentucky.

Nike also has a stronghold when it comes to sponsorships for women’s basketball programs.  According to Remuzzi, 50 of the teams that competed in this year’s NCAA Division Women’s Basketball tournament are sponsored by Nike.  Of this year’s number one seeds for the women’s tournament, three of the four are sponsored by Nike.

When asked what the business benefit is to Nike in outfitting college athletes with Nike apparel, Remuzzi provided great insight into Nike’s longstanding history of working with college athletes.  Remuzzi said,

“Nike is a youth brand committed to developing young athletes. We design our products by working with athletes to gain their insights. By supporting college athletics, it helps us create and then showcase our most innovative products.

Nike actually has a long history of supporting college athletics stretching back to when Steve Prefontaine ran for the University of Oregon in the 1970s under the Coach Bill Bowerman, one of Nike’s co-founders.  Ever since, Nike has been about bringing the best athletes at the collegiate level (and beyond) our most innovative products to help inspire them and help them perform at their best. A good example is the University of Oregon (co-founder Phil Knight’s undergraduate alma mater) and the uniforms we developed for the school’s football team that debuted in last year’s Rose Bowl (http://www.nikeinc.com/news/oregon-ducks-will-wear-most-innovative-football-uniform-to-date-for-rose-bowl). This was the most advanced uniform system ever assembled.”

With respect to college basketball, Nike re-committed itself to providing student-athletes with innovative products by debuting its Style of Dress uniforms in 2007.  System of Dress revolved around the idea of giving players a “more tailored look on-court,” while also providing them with a design compatible with high-performance play.  The Style of Dress line was originally introduced to only four programs in 2007 (Arizona, Floria Ohio State, and Syracuse).  The fact that the line’s most recent release (the Hyper Elite Platinum series) was introduced to nine schools, demonstrates Nike’s continued commitment and interest in outfitting college basketball programs with its innovative apparel.

In coming years, one can only expect Nike’s sponsorships of college basketball programs to increase.  For the time being, though, all one needs to do to spot a Nike sponsored program, is be on the lookout for the Nike Swoosh on a player’s jersey or shorts.

Division I Athletics Departments’ Social Media Policies

It seems like almost weekly that a story arises about a coach banning players’ use of social media websites or about student-athletes making controversial remarks on websites like Twitter.  Given the commonality of these stories in this social media age, BusinessofCollegeSports.com reached out to numerous Division I athletics departments to learn what type of social media policies their departments have adopted.  The following demonstrates how some of the top athletic departments in the nation are allowing their student-athletes to utilize social media.

School

Athletics Department Allows Use of Social Media

Teams Restricting Social Media Use

Insider’s Notes

Arizona

Yes

None.

Arizona’s Director of Athletics Greg Byrne said, “Student-athletes must register their accounts with our compliance department.  We talk with them regularly about what they post.”

Boise State

Yes

Football student-athletes are not allowed to use Twitter and are told to make their Facebook accounts private. Boise State’s Assistant Athletic Director of Media Relations Max Corbet said, “There is not a department policy.  It is pretty much left up to each individual head coach.”

Florida State

Yes

None.

FSU’s Assistant Athletic Director/Sports Information Director Elliott Finebloom said, “We try to educate [student-athletes] on the positives and negatives of engaging in various social media platforms.

Georgia

Yes

None.

Georgia’s Assistant Sports Communication Director Kate Burkholder said, “Our feeling on this is that we make it as clear as possible that they are accountable for what they share, and they shouldn’t make any comments they wouldn’t make if they were getting interviewed on SportsCenter.  This year our media training team (outside company) incorporated a lot of social media etiquette into their lesson.  Every team goes through this training regardless of the level of exposure the team receives.  Any further policies are left up to the coaches, but generally speaking, our policy is to educate and monitor rather than to ban.

Houston

Yes

None.

Kansas

Yes

While individual coaches are allowed to determine whether their student-athletes can use social media, none have prevented their student-athletes from using social media. Kansas’ Associate Athletics Director for Communications and Media Relations Jim Marchiony said, “Kansas Athletics has a general student-athlete policy regarding how individuals are expected to present the university. . . Student-athletes’ use of social media falls under our general student-athlete conduct policies.”

North Carolina

While the athletics department adopted a “Use of Social Networking Policy” last year, it encourages the use of social media by its student-athletes. In 2010, football coach Butch Davis banned the use of Twitter when UNC was under NCAA investigation.  However, new football coach Larry Fedora is not banning the use of Twitter.As of two weeks ago, women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell banned the use of Twitter so that her team can focus on basketball. UNC’s Associate Athletic Director for Communications said, “We have a policy that was put into place last year, the Use of Social Networking Policy.  There are guidelines and a monitoring component.  Each sport has a designated coach or administrator who monitors social media.  Each student-athlete who wishes to participate in social media, which we encourage, has to accept the monitor as a friend on Facebook, or the monitor must follow them on Twitter.

Ohio State

Yes

Each sport sets its own social media guidelines. Ohio States’ Associate Athletics Director for Communications Dan Wallenberg said, “Our student-athletes are not restricted from using social media, however each team has the discretion to establish rules and penalties as they see fit.”

Oklahoma

Yes

None.

Oklahoma’s Assistant Director for Communications said, “We allow our student-athletes to participate in social media.  Our coaches do not have a ban on them.”

Oklahoma State

Each sport sets its own social media guidelines. One Oklahoma State coach (unidentified by the university) doesn’t allow student-athletes to use social media. Oklahoma State’s Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations Kevin Klintworth said, “Our policies vary between programs.  We have one coach that doesn’t allow social media at all.  Most of them do as long as coaches are “friends” or “followers.”

South Carolina

Yes

Certain teams restrict student-athletes’ use of social media.  Last season, Coach Spurrier didn’t allow the football team to use Twitter during the season so they could focus on football.  Players were allowed to resume use after the season. South Carolina’s Media Relations Director Steve Fink said, “We aim to educate [student-athletes] with guidelines and tips for using these sites wisely.”

TCU

Yes

None.

TCU’s Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations Mark Cohen said, “TCU student-athletes are permitted to use Facebook and Twitter.  Each sport at TCU sets its own social media guidelines.  No sports at TCU have banned the use of Facebook or Twitter.”

USC

Yes

None.

USC’s Sports Information Director Tim Tessalone said, “We work hard to educate [student-athletes and coaches] on the proper use of social media.”

Wisconsin

Yes

Each sport sets its own social media guidelines.  However, no coach has banned the use of social media by student-athletes. Wisconsin’s Director of Athletic Communications Brian Lucas said, “I know that Coach Bielema [football] deals with his players on a case-by-case basis.  If he has an issue with something a student-athlete has posted, he deals with the student-athlete one-on-one as opposed to imposing limitations on the team.

Financial Impact of Death Penalty at Miami and an Alternative Solution

Photo by Flikr user Kristian Golding

Earlier this week, I explained the history of the death penalty in collegiate athletics and why Miami is unlikely to receive it. Today, I want to show you the financial implications of the death penalty if Miami were to receive it. I also want to suggest an alternative solution that inflicts severe punishment without devastating the program long-term in the way the death penalty decimated the SMU football program.

University of Miami is a private school and thus not subject to open records requests. To look at the financial impact of the death penalty on the football program, I’ve chosen to use fellow conference member Georgia Tech’s football program as an example. Here’s how the two schools compare financially in football when you look at the data each provided to the US Department of Education for the 2009-2010 school year:

Miami Football

Revenue: $24,631,029

Expenses: $17,863,218

Georgia Tech Football

Revenue: $24,870,064

Expenses: $15,519,206

Overall athletic department revenue and expenses are similar at the two schools as well, with Miami bringing in a total of $56 million and spending $51 million and Georgia Tech at $47 million on both accounts. Miami has 417 athletes and Georgia Tech 387. The cost of grants-in-aid is much higher at Miami because it is a private institution, but that doesn’t play into today’s comparison. Also, Miami leases Sun Life Stadium, whereas Georgia Tech owns a stadium on campus. Although Georgia Tech’s financial situation is not identical to Miami, it is close enough to give an idea of how the death penalty would impact the program.

Here’s a brief list of revenues that would be lost (at Georgia Tech) if the death penalty was instituted for one year, based on the Georgia Tech Athletic Department’s audited financial statement for fiscal year 2010: Read the rest of this entry

Will Miami Football Receive the Death Penalty?

Miami Football (via Flikr user @techyourpicture)

Since the Yahoo! report detailing improper benefits allegedly given to a number of University of Miami football and one basketball player, I’ve received a lot of questions about whether the NCAA would levy the death penalty against the football program. This week, NCAA President Mark Emmert made it clear that he’s willing to use the death penalty if the circumstances warrant the harsh penalty.

The death penalty is when the NCAA bans a school from participating in a sport for one or more years. The death penalty is mainly reserved for repeat violators who have a second major violation within five years of being on probation in the same or another sport. However, the NCAA has the power to levy the death penalty in instances where there is no repeat violation if the violation at issue is serious enough in nature, such as when the NCAA determines a program is a “willful violator.” The penalty can bar competition in the sport for one or two seasons.

The NCAA’s silver bullet has only been used five times, only three of which were in Division I: Kentucky (basketball; 1952-53 season), Southwestern Louisiana, now University of Louisiana at Lafayette (basketball; 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons), SMU (football; 1987 and 1988 seasons), Morehouse (men’s soccer; 2004 and 2005 seasons), and MacMurray (men’s tennis; 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons).

Kentucky

Kentucky’s death penalty arose from the arrest of three former Kentucky basketball players who were arrested for shaving points during the 1948-49 season. Another player, who was still enrolled and playing at Kentucky, was accused and investigated and eventually suspended from the University. In the end, the NCAA placed all sports at Kentucky on probation and banned each sport from post-season competition for the 1952-53 season. The NCAA then pressured all other schools into not scheduling Kentucky, effectively cancelling the season for every sport.

Southwestern Louisiana

Southwestern Louisiana’s basketball program was found to have a number of different violations following the 1972-73 season, which ranged from academic fraud to improper benefits to recruiting violations. Among the most serious violations were instances of academic fraud, including five players who were allowed to compete despite having GPAs below the NCAA’s requirement. In one case, an assistant coach forged the principal’s signature on a recruit’s high school transcript. The NCAA banned the basketball program from play for two seasons in 1973-74 and 1974-75.

SMU

The most famous death penalty case was when SMU lost two football seasons in the late 80s. Read the rest of this entry

How the NCAA’s Monetary Penalty Impacts Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech football players (by Flickr user hectorir)

Last week the NCAA leveled a number of penalties against Georgia Tech. The focus was impermissible benefits, but the NCAA also said Georgia Tech didn’t fully cooperate with their investigation.

The most interesting part of the announcement to me was the $100,000 fine against Georgia Tech. Earlier in the week on an appearance on College Football Playbook on Sirius/XM College Sports Nation I said we haven’t really seen the NCAA level arbitrary fines against football programs. While the NCAA has on occasion taken back March Madness money, they haven’t generally included monetary penalties in their rulings against football programs. In fact, when you search the NCAA’s database for major infractions, you’re given the option to search by penalty: television ban, postseason ban, probation, reduction in financial aid, recruiting limitations, show cause or vacation of record. Monetary penalty is not one of the options.

Maybe the NCAA heard me and decided it was time to start using their power to levy fines. Many have called for the NCAA to start hitting programs in the wallet where it really hurts. Last week I told you why they can’t take back bowl money, but they do have the power to fine programs. And they’ve done so against Georgia Tech.

The number one comment I’ve heard since this was announced is that $100,000 isn’t enough to hurt. I disagree.

Georgia Tech is not Florida or Ohio State, which I’ve shown you are self-sustaining in large part due to their football profits. Many fans think the line between the have and have nots is drawn at the divide between AQ conferences and non-AQ conferences. However, my research shows there is a line evident within the AQ conferences. Georgia Tech is not a have in the same sense that Florida or Ohio State is.

For example, Ohio State makes more than $42 million on football ticket sales. Florida makes north of $33 million when you include ticket sales, suites and luxury seating (and that’s not including contributions required to access some of that seating). Georgia Tech? Their audited financials show $9.3 million in revenue from football ticket sales. All of their sports combined bring in just $12 million in ticket revenue.

Georgia Tech isn’t bringing in booster contributions at levels anywhere near Florida or Ohio State either. Ohio State plans to pull $10.8 million from its booster club this year. Florida gets nearly $25 million from contributions for just the football program. Georgia Tech received just $1.8 million TOTAL in contributions for the 2010 fiscal year according to its audited financials.

Back to the $100,000 fine. Would it hurt a Florida or an Ohio State? No. Does it hurt Georgia Tech? Absolutely.

In fiscal year 2008, Georgia Tech posted a $3.4 million operating loss in the athletic department. In fiscal year 2009 and 2010, respectively, the athletic department saw profits of $306,508 and $284,117. That means they’re being fined roughly 1/3rd of their total operating profits. Consider if you were fined a third of your yearly salary.

Let me also point out that the small operating profits they’ve seen in recent years would be impossible without millions of dollars in support in the form of student fees and other direct institutional support. For the 2010 fiscal year, where the operating profits were $284,117, the athletic department took in $4.6 million in student fees and $1.5 in institutional support. Thus, the athletic department would be operating at a multi-million dollar loss without student fees (which they had to increase in 2009) and institutional support.

Georgia Tech isn’t Florida or Ohio State, or any of the other self-sustaining athletic department. A $100,000 fine hurts. Was it enough given what they were found to have done? I’m not passing judgment on that portion. I am telling you, however, that it’s a meaningful penalty in terms of their financial state.

I think it also sets important precedent. Although the NCAA looks at each case individually and is no way bound by its prior decisions and penalties, I still think it’s important that they’ve levied a monetary penalty against a football program. If they’re willing to do it once, maybe they’re willing to do it again. Maybe the mere possibility will become a deterrent. Although the NCAA can’t require a return of BCS money, here’s nothing to stop the NCAA from levying a fine against a program in an amount equal to what a team received from a bowl game or even from television during a season it’s now vacating. Maybe this is the beginning of a new era in the NCAA. (Maybe not. The NCAA walks a fine line when it comes to the big programs who could conceivably break free of the NCAA. But still, this is a new and interesting development.)

Impermissible Benefits: Focus Should Be On Pros, Not NCAA

Reggie Bush

When historians look back on college football today they’ll likely dub it the “Age of Impermissible Benefits”. It seems like every day there’s a new story about an athlete who is accused of receiving money, a trip or even a car.

When I turn on the radio or open Twitter, the chatter is about what the schools or the NCAA are doing wrong. The compliance office wasn’t paying attention. The coach should have known. The coach knew and didn’t tell anyone. The NCAA takes too long to investigate. Players are tempted because the NCAA doesn’t allow them to be paid. The list goes on and on.

The focus is on the NCAA when it should be on the professional leagues.

There are three ways to curb the problem of agents, runners and boosters providing impermissible benefits to college athletes: state law, NCAA regulations and professional league regulations. Only one of those can make a difference, and here’s why.

First, let’s consider state laws. All but seven states have adopted laws regulating athlete agents. These laws often require agents to register in order to do business within the state. They also proscribe penalties for a variety of violations, including furnishing anything of value prior to the athlete signing a contract with the agent.

There are a number of problems with relying on state laws to solve the problem. First, a report last year showed that more than half the states with these laws have never revoked or suspended a license. You can bet that means they’re not enforcing any criminal penalties either.

Generally, these regulations are enforced by the Secretary of State’s office. They handle everything from elections to formation and registration of corporate entities to licensing for a number of industries. They simply don’t have the manpower to investigate or enforce these violations.

To date, the most comprehensive investigation I know of is that being conducted by the Secretary of State in North Carolina. My understanding is that investigators who normally work on white-collar crime cases were being used to investigate the allegations against University of North Carolina. Don’t expect to see this in many other states.

Many state laws also give the school the ability to sue the athlete or agent or both in order to recover any financial damages incurred because of penalties. However, this isn’t a route we see schools taking.

Now that we’ve determined that regulation by the states isn’t going to solve the problem, we turn to option number two: the NCAA. Most of the commentary I see revolves around what the NCAA is or isn’t doing to alleviate the temptation of impermissible benefits. From there, the outcry is that investigations aren’t quick enough or impose penalties that do not deter future rule-breaking.

The problem with the NCAA attempting to handle the problem is that it is largely the schools who suffer. By the time penalties are enforced, many players are either already in the pros or, as we just saw in the case of Terrelle Pryor, are able to leave for the pros instead of sticking around to face the music. So, instead the program is left to suffer the consequences, with players who weren’t even around for the mischief left to carry out the sentence.

I’m not saying that some programs don’t deserve punishment in their own right, outside of whatever the player should bear. What I’m saying is that the NCAA is often unable to punish the real criminal – the player. That’s why they’re so willing to take their chances when an agent, runner or booster offers them a little cash. The odds of getting caught are incredibly low and so often they’re able to escape without ever suffering the penalty. Aside from some sort of public shame, which I’ve not seen effect someone like Reggie Bush, the real wrongdoer escapes unscathed, with a heavier wallet.

The bottom line is that there is absolutely nothing the NCAA can do about this part of the problem. Sure, maybe they could add more staff and investigate more quickly, but most of the players who accept these sorts of benefits are far along enough in their college career to escape to the pros as soon as they smell smoke.

That leaves us with the professional sports leagues. The place where these rule-breakers escape for asylum. The entity formerly known as the NFL Players Association had the authority to suspend the license of any agent who represents players in the NFL (although with the association decertifying this is no longer the case). However, they seem to only have done so in the most egregious cases. Josh Luchs’ license was revoked after he admitted to paying dozens of college athletes over the years. Gary Wichard was suspended for nine months following information about his involvement with Marvin Austin and money that changed hands from him to UNC assistant coach John Blake. The revocations and suspensions are much fewer and far between than the number of incidents the NCAA has investigated.

The NBA Players Association has similar power and, again, exercises its power now and again. Calvin Anderson was suspended for one year following his alleged connection to USC player OJ Mayo.

My humble opinion is that the professional leagues step in only when the misconduct is so blatant their hand is forced. Then they simply slap the agent’s wrist and hand them a minimal sentence. The suspension only covers the individual agent, not the entire agency. I’m unconvinced these suspensions are any kind of real deterrent, or even that they are meant to be. Not to mention it takes two to tango and they’re only punishing one half of the offending partnership. Players walk right out of the mess they’ve left behind at their school and begin lining their wallet in the NFL or NBA.

What I am convinced, however, is that only the professional leagues and their Players Associations have the power to attack this problem by enforcing sanctions at their level on both the players and agents involved in these scandals. If a college player thought his future career in the NFL – his lifelong dream – was at risk, he might think twice. The problem is the professional leagues have no motivation to be the disciplinarians here. They’re not going to deny the next Tom Brady or Adrian Peterson entry into their league because he failed to obey rules about impermissible benefits. They’re looking out for their product first and foremost.

The professional leagues, especially the NFL and NBA, use colleges as minor leagues they don’t have to back financially. They also don’t have to back them up in any other way, including enforcing the NCAA’s rules.

Which is why I’m afraid that in the end there is no solution. Unless colleges and the NCAA are able to catch more rule-breakers and enforce penalties before these guys can make the jump to the pros, the professional leagues have little reason to get their hands dirty. Until the product they are receiving is somehow diminished, they’ll continue to do as little as possible, despite the fact that they alone hold the key to real reform.

Will NCAA Show Consistency When Ruling on Ohio State’s Infractions?

If you read this site regularly or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am in Ireland from May 17-25th. While I’m away, I’m sharing with you the work of Patrick Rishe, my collegue at SportsMoney on Forbes.com.

By: Patrick Rishe

On June 10th, 2010, Yahoo Sports reported that the NCAA’s probe into USC’s athletics program resulted in:

• A postseason ban in football following the 2010 and 2011 seasons;

• A loss of 30 total football scholarships over the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons;

• 4 years probation;

• A vacation of all football victories starting in December 2004 and running through the 2005 season, including the national championship win over Oklahoma in January 2005.

Many of these penalties were levied after the NCAA’s lengthy review of wrongdoing within the USC football program.  Specifically, wrongdoing by Reggie Bush and his family which included multiple cash payments from would-be sports marketing agents, a house for Bush’s parents, an automobile outfitted with rims and a stereo system, airfare, hotel stays, limousine service, meals, auto repairs, clothing, furniture, and appliances.

Now there is no question that these penalties were quite severe.  Partly because of the nature and the volume of infractions at hand (there were other infractions with USC’s men’s basketball and women’s tennis programs).  And partly because, in my opinion, the NCAA had additional venom because they felt the USC athletics department and the Bush family were less than accommodating during the investigation.

Prior to the penalties being levied during the investigation, I can recall friends of mine who did and still work within the NCAA using words like ‘arrogant’ and ‘elitist’ to describe former USC athletics director Mike Garrett.  An attitude that, at the time, permeated throughout the program.

An antagonistic, defiant attitude that showed little contrition or remorse over its actions.  And thus, garnered little sympathy or leniency when the NCAA handed down its punishment.

Conversely, at least prior to December 2010, I don’t think the average college football fan would use those same words and sentiments to describe Ohio State athletics.  I had the impression that NCAA Headquarters looked upon the Buckeye program rather favorably.

So that’s why the NCAA’s ruling and assessment of penalties for Ohio State on August 12th is so compelling.

Will they punish the Buckeyes more or less than they punished the Trojans?

Will that decision be based solely on a comparison of the infractions at hand, or will the NCAA show leniency towards Ohio State because (a) they proactively imposed self-penalties once the truth was discovered and (b) are better liked by NCAA administrators because the program is perceived more positively than USC’s program?

To review the Buckeyes’ mess:

- Coach Jim Tressel was notified in April 2010 via emails from a Buckeyes fan and former player that Ohio State players were trading signed jerseys and other memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor owner for cash and reduced-price tattoos;

- Even though his contract and NCAA rules required him to notify athletic director Gene Smith, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee or the university’s compliance department about this information, Coach Tressel did not;

- It was not until more than 9 months passed—and five players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor had been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season—that Ohio State officials discovered the emails and confronted Coach Tressel. He finally admitted he knew of the players getting improper benefits;

- Coach Tressel was originally suspended for 2 games—later extended to the first 5 games this fall to match the punishment of the five players—and was fined $250,000, required to make a public apology, receive a public reprimand, and attend an NCAA compliance seminar which he will do June 6-10 in Tampa.

And just when you thought you heard the last of it, the Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday that the university is officially investigating used-car sales to at least eight football players and 11 players’ relatives from two Columbus, Ohio dealerships.

Now Ohio State, along with the rest of us, must sit back and await whether the NCAA chooses to impose further sanctions.  The ruling is set for August 12th.

So this begs the question: “What is equitable punishment for Ohio State when comparing their infractions to the infractions and penalties imposed upon USC?”

As it relates to athlete-specific violations, it seems that Reggie Bush’s infractions were more severe than Ohio State players selling their own memorabilia and getting discounted tattoos…though if fire follows the smoke from the afore-mentioned car sales report, that “severity gap” closes.  Especially if players and their relatives were getting discounted cars in exchange for Buckeye football tickets.

And I fear that ‘that’ fire might combust before summer’s end.

As it relates to the behavior of the coaches involved, at least former Trojans and current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had the good sense to get out of dodge before the mess landed on his front lawn.  Maybe he knew what Reggie Bush was up to, but it’s plausible that he didn’t.  Whether you think him corrupt, naive, goofy, aloof, or all of the above, there is no evidence to date that he knowingly lied to his superiors or NCAA investigators regarding Reggie Bush.

Conversely, Coach Tressel knowingly LIED.  He lied to his superiors at the university.  And his calculated deception allowed ineligible student-athletes to compete for Ohio State during the 2010 season.

Student-athletes have the luxury of falling back on the ”young and dumb” argument in the court of public opinion.  Coach Tressel does not have that luxury, especially since he and former players have had previous brushes with the NCAA both at Ohio State and his previous employer Youngstown State.

Just ask Tennessee and Bruce Pearl how the NCAA likes it when you lie to them.  Pearl lost his job because Tennessee wanted to save face with the NCAA, and we’ll find out in a few weeks when they go in front of the infractions committee whether this firing curried any favor.

So if a coach’s lies are seen as equally afoul of the rules as a player’s inappropriate receipt of money and gifts, then we should expect that Ohio State will receive further penalties come August.

Vacated wins?  Check.

Lost scholarships?  Check.

Bowl ban?  Check.

And, at the very least, a one-year suspension of Coach Tressel.  It still would not surprise me if Coach Tressel resigned in light of the continued heat he will face in the upcoming months.

Yet, there’s a small part of me that thinks the NCAA may not be as harsh with Ohio State as they were with USC.

I go back to the animosity that NCAA officials had with the USC program.  The NCAA went after USC the same way the federal government went after Barry Bonds.  They were unrelenting in their pursuit of justice, and they ultimately ‘got their man’.

At least Ohio State has shown a level of contrition which USC never did.

At least Ohio State was willing to impose penalties upon themselves which USC never did.

And because the athletic department has been proactive once the truth was revealed, this might be just enough to lessen the severity of the oncoming and added sanctions.

A fortune teller I’m not, but I can tell you that Coach Tressel and Ohio State football are about to lose a fortune’s worth of credibility and respect.

Only time will tell how severe the upcoming sanctions will be, and whether said sanctions will jeopardize the Buckeyes’ stranglehold on Big Ten football dominance.

But the NCAA is on trial as well, and there will be many interested observers ready to critique if the Buckeye sanctions are inequitably different from USC’s.

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Follow Patrick on Twitter @SportsDocRock or visit www.patrickrishe.net

Did Texas Tattle on Oregon for Suspicious Recruiting?

Thursday night, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports reported that University of Oregon expense records show money going to two men who are tied to “multiple recruits who signed letters of intent with the school.”

For those unfamiliar with how this aspect of recruiting works in college football, scouting services are run all over the country by people who are not affiliated directly with any one school, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.  They act as outside scouts for programs who can’t send their own recruiters to see the athlete in person. Often, they put together tapes and other information on recruits and provide it to colleges who might be interested in the player.

According to Oregon coach Chip Kelly, “Most programs purchase recruiting services.”  This in itself is not against NCAA regulations.

What is against NCAA regulations is paying someone to influence a player’s decision on where to play. These are the allegations now surrounding Oregon’s relationship with a man named Willie Lyles.

Oregon financial documents show a $25,000 payment to Lyles just days after highly-touted recruit Lache Seastrunk signed a letter of intent with the school. The payment was made for recruiting services, but far exceeds the $5,000 a handful of football coaches polled by ESPN yesterday say that recruiting services typically charge. In the previous two seasons, Oregon paid Lyles $16,500 or his recruiting services.

Perhaps most surprised by the news was Lache Seastrunk’s mother, Evelyn. She told ESPN, “Willie said he was a trainer. Now Oregon says he’s a scout? Is he on Oregon’s payroll? If Willie Lyles collected $25,000 off my son he needs to be held accountable. The NCAA must find out for me. I don’t know how to digest someone cashing in on my son.”

New information made available today on ChuckOliver.net from a source who used to be a business associate of Lyles suggests Lyles has a habit of preying on athletes with single  mothers, like Seastrunk.

Ingram Smith, author of the ChuckOliver.net story, makes an interesting point about the origin of the story. Last night the story broke on Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated, leaving Smith to wonder if the same source didn’t tip off all three media outlets.

Smith has sources who tell him that the University of Texas has been growing suspicious of Lyles for awhile. Says Smith, “Inside the Longhorn’s program there is tremendous suspicion regarding Lyles’ influence on some of the state’s top talent and how many of the state’s best players that were associated with Lyles, like Seastrunk, are leaving the state at an historically high rate and under fishy circumstances.”

There seems to be a growing number of instances where schools are rumored to be “tattling” on other schools. Remember that both Mississippi State and University of Florida were rumored to have pointed the finger at Cam Newton initially. Instead of being like a fraternity who protects its members at all costs, it appears college football is splintering as schools battle for top recruits and championships. Given the number of coaches and assistants who move around each and every year, taking with them inside knowledge of their former programs, look for this phenomenon to continue to grow.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients.  Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.