by Kent Sterling
The NCAA showed its hand today in meting out penalties to Oregon Football. Those penalties serve more as an affirmation for Oregon’s policies in violating NCAA rules than an admonition, so the question the begs to be asked is why did the punishment for Ohio State Football so badly outweigh that of Oregon?
Here are the Ohio State penalties (in some cases the NCAA added to Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties:
- Postseason ban following the 2012 season
- Forfeiture of nine scholarships over three seasons
- Three years probation through Dec. 19, 2014
- Five-year show-cause penalty to former head coach Jim Tressel for “unethical conduct” when he failed to report that some team members improperly sold memorabilia and for knowingly allowing ineligible players to compete throughout the 2010 season.
Ohio State received those penalties because Tressel responded with indifference to being notified that players sold or bartered swag including Big Ten Championship rings, autographs, and practice gear.
Oregon committed these major violations:
- Oregon paid booster Willie Lyles for $35,000 for multiple recruiting services between 2008-11 that the NCAA found to be improper.
- Between 2007-11, the NCAA has found that Oregon is guilty of making 730 impermissible phone calls to recruits and their high school coaches.
- Between 2009-11, the NCAA found Oregon to be guilty of having one too many coaches involved in recruiting.
- The impermissible calls led to the NCAA finding that Oregon football suffered from a “lacked an atmosphere of compliance.”
- Oregon handed out impermissible levels of apparel to recruits and calling high school players and coaches.
Oregon received today news that they will receive the following penalties:
- Public reprimand and censure.
- Three years of probation from June 26, 2013 through June 25, 2016.
- An 18-month show cause order for Chip Kelly.
- A one-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of operations.
- A reduction of initial football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (25) during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years (imposed by the university).
- A reduction of total football scholarships by one from the maximum allowed (85) during the 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years (imposed by the university).
- A reduction of official paid football visits to from 56 to 37 for the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.
- A reduction of permissible football evaluation days from 42 to 36 in the fall of 2013, 2014 and 2015 and permissible football evaluation days from 168 to 144 in the spring of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
- A ban on the subscription to recruiting services during the probation period.
- A disassociation of Lyles.
In short, Ohio State missed out on a BCS National Championship bid while Chip Kelly will be paid millions to coach the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s fair in only the eyes of the NCAA.
The differences in the violations is this – Ohio State looked the other way as players were paid, while Oregon committed violations while recruiting that included buying the influence with recruits of a booster who runs a “recruiting service.”
The inference a reasonable person would draw is that the NCAA takes far more seriously infractions involving a player getting a little scratch than it does outright cheating by a coaching staff paid to educate young men about life and football.
The fundamental difference between those two very different transgressions is that Ohio State’s could initiate a bidding war among schools for players, and the other is just a simple violation of trust leading to competitive imbalance.
The NCAA member schools do not want to pay players, even by looking the other way as memorabilia is swapped for tattoos or cash with third parties, any sooner than they have to. BCS universities will tolerate or even endorse through nonsensical levies the offenses involving recruiting violations.
The overall message to coaches by the ludicrous 18-month show cause order against Kelly is to cheat their asses off to earn a sweet NFL gig, and as long as you bolt before the assessment, you are a big winner.
Anyone looking for morality in college football or the organization founded to oversee it should feel quite stupid today. For those who have understood since the NCAA was founded that its existence in the realm of creating an even playing field among participants is a charade whose sole purpose is to create a public perception of fairness that in reality does not exist.
More respect would be due to the NCAA if President Mark Emmert brought the rule book to the front steps of NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis and set it ablaze while declaring, “It’s open season on recruits! Call, pay, doctor grades, hire former pros as old looking players, and work the student athletes like indentured servants.”
It would be the first honest moment there since the doors opened.
The NCAA as a disciplinary institution should be disbanded as a sign that morality in athletics exists. That would be the most generous educational offering made to student-athletes in its history.