Mark Emmert is either a good man losing the battle as he paddles against the stiff tide of corruption, or a shameless con artist who continues to blather in opposition to his own understanding that cheating in college basketball is as firmly embraced and long-standing as the 10-foot height of the rim.
He’s the NCAA president – the guy in charge of the good, the bad, and the ugly in college sports.
Cheating has existed in college basketball since the game began because winning the wrong way has always been rewarded at a level that makes the consequences of getting caught worth the risk.
It’s that simple. This isn’t calculus. It’s basic math.
Emmert promised change yesterday as a response to the findings of the recent federal investigation finding fraud and corruption in at least four major college basketball programs, “How do we respond? Well, I think first of all, by not retreating from it. By not getting under our desks…We’ve all made a commitment to have meaningful change, not trivial change, in place by tipoff 2018.”
“Meaningful change” can only be gained through making the penalty for bad actors so massive in proportion to the potential gain that pragmatism will command compliance. But will NCAA members have the stomach for removing the gray area of appeal, forgiveness, and absolution.
Emmert correctly assessed the mood of many Americans, “What we would all recognize about the world around us right now is we’ve got higher levels of doubt, cynicism and anxiety in our society over pretty much everything. The reality is that some of the criticism is justified. We’ve got to look those problems straight in the eye.”
My only problem with Emmert’s use of the word “cynicism.” Just as paranoia is good thinking if someone is chasing you, believing bad actors are all around us is simply an accurate appraisal when our society rewards an amoral philosophy that the ends justify the means.
For change to occur the pain of the status quo must outweigh the pain of change, and sadly there is very little pain associated with cheating. It drives Emmert crazy, but the question of who gains from the pain of cleansing the sport of bad actors is what drives university presidents to look the other way.
Is there more money to be made by conferences and schools if corruption ends? Nope. The Yum! Center in Louisville is filled by fans who want wins – not by pious do-gooders who demand morally at the expense of championships. CBS and Turner continue to write massive checks to the NCAA for the rights to broadcast March Madness.
It sucks that educational institutions are more concerned with cash than educating young men and women that there is corruption is not a viable strategy, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Until Emmert and all NCAA members agree to simplify rules and expel forever those bad actors who violate them, the status quo will remain, and Emmert will be viewed as a paper tiger incapable of backing up his words with meaningful action.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-7p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.