Could it get any worse for college athletics? Every time you look, there’s some scandal or controversy brewing.
Ohio State, Miami, North Carolina, Tennessee, USC, Oregon, Auburn, Georgia Tech, LSU Michigan ... the list of schools either sanctioned or investigated by the NCAA goes on without any sign of stopping.
It's probably the worst period in the history of college athletics.
The NCAA wants major reform, and wants it ASAP. Texas A&M wants out of the Big 12 because it finally realized how bad a deal Texas' Longhorn Network will be for the rest of the conference teams. Despite rejecting Texas A&M overtures now, the SEC seems poised to expand to 14 teams. Commissioners from the Big East, Big 12 and ACC are likely to meet to discuss conference realignment as a preemptive strike against possible raids by other conferences.
And then there’s the University of Miami booster fiasco, brought to light by a well-researched piece by Yahoo! Sports writer Charles Robinson. If true, and the NCAA is investigating, it could bring down at least the Hurricanes’ football program, and perhaps the entire athletic department. If all these millions of dollars of extra-benefit allegations really did happen –- paying for strip clubs, night clubs, prostitutes and meals; access to a $6 million Miami Beach mansion; cash payments; and more –- it might even put Miami out of the college sports business.
Sodom and Gomorrah had nothing on these guys.
Yes, we know. Not even Baylor’s attempted basketball murder coverup was enough to shut down the program, but that was in a more forgiving era. It’s gotten so bad now, you almost have to figure everybody cheats, just some are better at it than others.
That’s a shame.
NCAA president Mark Emmert says he wants to clean up the mess, starting with fewer regulations. He wants the rules that stick (involving major transgressions) to have penalties so severe, making the fear of getting caught cheating so strong, that nobody will risk breaking them.
That’s easy to say, not so easy to do, but Emmert and university presidents seem more determined than ever to change a culture that has produced scandal after scandal in recent months.
So what would be severe enough to keep everybody in line?
If the so-called “Death Penalty” is too extreme, how about a five-year postseason ban for any major violation? Make the head coach totally responsible for ANY violation in his/her program, whether or not he was aware of it, and any major violation results in his being fired and a two-year show-cause penalty instituted. In other words, he can’t coach in college for two years.
To balance that, allow more off-season access between coaches and players. If coaches are going to have more accountability, they should have more time with their players. Provide some balance -– players do need a break from coaching pressure –- but scrap a system that if a coach walks into a weight room to ask a player about how he’s doing in a summer class, it’s a secondary violation. Use common sense.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need regulations because nobody would cheat. But in this world, with competition and money at all-time highs, everybody seeks an edge. It’s human nature. No matter what rules you make, somebody will try to beat them. Look at the battle between those who use performance enhancing drugs and those who test for them.
Sometimes fear is the only thing that works. Scare enough people badly enough and you get results. Otherwise, well, we’ve seen that option, and it stinks.
For those who stay up at night thinking about IU baseball and softball (TOTALLY PROFESSIONAL PITCH -- we wrote a book on IU baseball called “Hoosier Hitmen,” and an ad to buy the book just happens to be posted on this blog), consider the board of trustees is considering a basically $20 million proposal to build a new baseball and softball complex at what is now the intramural fields next to the old state police post and just north of the IU tennis facililty.
The baseball-softball complex would be one of the showpieces for the entire athletic facility, and it would put the Hoosiers on at least equal footing with their Big Ten rivals. That hasn’t been true in half a century.
Baseball coach Tracy Smith likes the location of the current baseball facility, Sembower Field, because it’s so close to student dorms. He has concerns about the traffic noise coming from the expanded by-pass. But he’s not about to quibble over a long-delayed, much-anticipated, multi-million-dollar, state-of-the-art new ballpark.
Assuming the board of trustees gives it the green light, the complex should be finished by 2013. The only thing better would be a jam-packed stadium full of fans waving copies of Hoosier Hitmen to distract opposing players.
Did we mention that Hoosier Hitmen is the greatest book about IU baseball EVER written, and why buy one when you can buy 10?
We say that with total objectivity.