Szwaja's Sports Blog

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Last week the NCAA announced it was vacating the 38 wins the Memphis basketball team gathered in their 2008 Final Four season because one of their players had presumably cheated on his ACT test by having someone else take it to qualify for college. That player was presumably star point guard Derrick Rose. Hard evidence of this incident had only hit newspapers, Web sites and airwaves only a couple months before this decision was handed down.

Meanwhile, 2000 miles away, life is good on the University of Southern California campus, despite a flurry of wrongdoing in their athletic department. We'll examine that later, but before I go on, let me get something out of the way. I'm not siding with Memphis or any of the other schools I'll mention here. What they got was probably what they deserved, which is so far from the truth at USC it's reached a level of hilarious hypocrisy.

"The hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. " -Hannah Arendt, politcal theorist

I did a google search for quotes on hypocrisy, and I liked that one the best, despite the fact that I had not heard of Arendt prior to the google search. It sums up the actions of the NCAA, almost perfectly.

See, the NCAA promises to maintain this "integrity" of amateur sports, keeping its athletes free of major benefits outside the realm of education. Yet, they repeatedly turn their heads on the big boys like USC and Ohio State and drop the proverbial hammer on the little guys.

Just two weeks ago the NCAA came down hard on South East Missouri State, mainly because one of their basketball coaches had been driving one of the players to and from a house where said player's girlfriend was living with their child about 170 miles from the campus. There was also a minor incident reported to the NCAA by SEMS where someone associated with the program had paid off a student's institutional fee balance of $239. You can read about it here.

In April of 2007 the NCAA placed Louisiana Lafayette basketball on two years probation for using a player who had been using 15 hours of credits that were not eligible to count against his GPA. Their football program also went on probation because two of their summer workouts went "beyond NCAA limits." You can read about it here.

In the case of Memphis, the NCAA wasted no time handing down their ruling. It was almost as if they couldn't wait to flex their muscles on a "big school." Why? Because they weren't worried about losing the almighty dollar if they brought sanctions on Memphis, most likely because Memphis basketball isn't going to make them any big money in the near future. Memphis basketball, with the departure of John Calipari, isn't going back to the Final Four any time soon. You can read about the Memphis situation here.

Enjoy those articles for all they're worth, but what you should really take the time to read if you're as peeved as I am about the constant little-guy nitpicking of the NCAA, is Don Yaeger's "Tarnished Heisman...," which details the ludicrous benefits Reggie Bush received from prospective agents during his Heisman season at USC in 2005. You can order your copy here. Yager's main argument is that Bush should have his Heisman Trophy revoked based on the following quote, which appears on the Heisman Trophy ballot:

"In order that there will be no misunderstanding
regarding the eligibility of a candidate,
the recipient of the award must be a bona fide
student of an accredited university.
The recipient must be in compliance with the
bylaws defining an NCAA student."

The main NCAA law in question in Bush's case is the "lack of institutional control" that continues to take place at USC. While the book details no illegal benefits presented by the university directly to Bush, it goes into great detail about the benefits Bush received from potential pro agents. These benefits included hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, a Beverly Hills mansion for his parents and VIP tickets to Hollywood's hottest parties. Yaeger correctly points out that if anyone in the USC athletic department knew of any of these benefits and did nothing to stop any of it, they committed a serious NCAA offense.

The evidence of this is clear as day, when Yaeger details an evening when Bush attended one of the aforementioned Hollywood parties in a stretch limo with USC running backs coach Todd McNair. Neither Bush, nor McNair paid a cent for the VIP tickets, limo or anything else that night. How does a poor college kid from small town Louisiana like Bush afford that kind of evening? Easy, a business-hungry agent with dollar signs in his pupils pays for it all. Never did McNair report any suspicions from that evening to the USC compliance department. And when Pete Carroll received anonymous emails detailing Bush's parents' upscale living situation, he simply ignored them. That's lack of institutional control, plain and simple.

The basketball team is just as guilty. You can read about the benefits star player OJ Mayo received, directly from the coaches, here.

Four years later, what have we heard from the NCAA concerning USC?


And we'll never hear anything. Carroll will continue to lead the biggest program in college football wearing that big ole' smile of his, because both him, you and I know that they won't dare touch USC. Why? Two reasons....

1) It looks bad to bring down your biggest asset. Case in point, look what baseball and Barry Bonds have gone through over the last few years.

2) USC injects money into college football, and even though the NCAA has no say over the bowl games, the NCAA would hate to jeopardize the monetary gain the PAC 10 gets from those bowl games.

The precedent is there. Seven years ago, when Ohio State was on top of the NCAA football mountain, Maurice Clarett was stealing stereo equipment, being paid by boosters, cheating in class and getting irregular benefits in the classroom. Yet Ohio State never even received a slap on the wrist from the NCAA, despite claims from former Ohio State players, as high profile as Robert Smith, that that stuff happened when they were in school there. Read about it here.

So, the NCAA will continue to punish small, insignificant schools for things like uniting parents so they can spend some time together with their only child, but they'll look the other way when bigtime schools continually allow their student-athletes to tiptoe the fine line between amateur and pro athlete status, which is what they continually promise to police.

Even our politicians seem to miss the point. The House recently requested a hearing to discuss the possibility of a NCAA football playoff. Seriously, read about it here. One guy even compares it to Communism. That's another problem for another time, but it's hardly the biggest issue in college football.

As long as the NCAA continues its hypocritical ways, the big schools like Ohio State and USC will continue to get off easy, and thus begins the slippery slope. Where will end? Only time will tell, but if recent incidents are any indication, not any time soon.


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