Notre Dame’s football program will retroactively forfeit 21 wins earned during the 2012 and 2013 seasons because of academic misconduct.
The NCAA is able to mete out that penalty only because the Fighting Irish reported its misconduct to the NCAA.
That’s how the NCAA as a member institution operates. An earnest compliance staff at athletic departments root out potential violations, report them to the NCAA, and await their consequences. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Some less cooperative athletic departments skirt or ignore rules, and hopes the NCAA’s enforcement staff is unable to prove violations.
Take the University of North Carolina for instance. Student-athletes were herded into sham classes to buffer their grades and maintain eligibility. Whistle blowers in Chapel Hill screamed until the NCAA finally investigated. North Carolina responded with aggressive legal arguments that the NCAA had no purview over academics.
UNC basically told the NCAA to get bent because non-athletes were enrolled in the sham classes along with the athletes, and bend is exactly what the NCAA did by imposing no consequences whatsoever upon the Tar Heels.
North Carolinians rejoiced having outsmarted the NCAA.
The Irish are being severely penalized because they fessed up while North Carolina skates because it was clever.
There is a lesson there that the NCAA will regret conveying to athletic departments. It’s a lesson best addressed by a Chicago attorney who is a former classmate of mine at Indiana University. He tweeted at me last night, “I would not counsel a school to self report. Risk/Reward? Deal with academic issues internally.”
Even if you are trying your damndest, like Notre Dame, to maintain the integrity of the athletic department by requiring athletes participate in academics beyond the demands of the NCAA, why involve the NCAA in the maintenance and execution of those ideals?
What is there to gain?
The only legit path is to hold yourself accountable, while completely shutting out the oversight organization that hammers good eggs while issuing free passes to the true bad actors.
It’s the only choice because the investigatory and disciplinary methodology built by NCAA members decapitates the repentant and ignores recidivist offenders.
Notre Dame gets hosed while UNC skips consequences for doing far worse.
If you the NCAA is looking for a reason fans don’t trust them, this is a great place to start.
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.