Thursday, May 26, 2011

USC case has ominous implications for programs under scrutiny

image Mark Emmert was named the NCAA President on April 27, 2010. Emmert almost immediately began talking up a revamp of the Enforcement process, and before he formally took office in October, he’d already begun shaking up staff and reorganizing the front office. Forty-four days atfer being named President, the league’s Committee on Infractions released a scathing, 67-page report, painstakingly detailing a four year pattern of rules violations at the University of Southern California. The violations, wrote the committee,  “struck at the heart of the NCAA's Principle of Amateurism.” 

USC appealed, holding out slim hopes that recent reinstatement decisions would at least provide an avenue for the Appeals Committee to set aside some of the sanctions levied by Infractions. Yesterday, that committee DENIED that appeal and let stand a series of extraordinarily punitive measures against the school’s Football, Men’ Basketball and Women’s Tennis programs.

Make no mistake about it—sanctions for major violations are designed to punish the institution and do so in a manner that the committee deems appropriate for the violations committed. Whether or not you agree that these penalties are consistent with the crimes, you can’t deny that they are harsh and that they will bring the Trojans to their knees for years to come.

The severity of these penalties and the league’s unwillingness to show any mercy on appeal should also serve notice to the host of college athletics programs currently under NCAA Enforcement scrutiny, especially those involved in high-profile cases with headline-making allegations of impropriety. Auburn, North Carolina, Ohio State and Tennessee are all under ongoing investigations, some of which allege the same types of amateurism violations as those demonstrated in the USC case.

Should any or all of these programs come before the Committee on Infractions, they can expect to defend themselves against allegations contained in a highly detailed Enforcement report, with every “i” dotted, every “t” crossed and every footnote documented. They can expect to receive harshly punitive sanctions that will severely hamper their competitive abilities on the field or court, and they can expect the Appeals committee to show no mercy whatsoever, absent a glaring error on the part of Enforcement staff or the Infractions Committee.

You might think it’s a stretch to correlate Emmert’s “get tough” approach to rules violators,  the severity of USC’s penalties and yesterday’s seemingly merciless denial on appeal. Don’t kid yourself. This is Mark Emmert’s NCAA and it’s Mark Emmert’s Enforcement philosophy.

If you get caught committing major rules violations and try to stonewall or deceive the league, you will become the conference whipping boy for the better part of a decade.  Watch USC’s performance on the field over the next several years, and behold your likely fate.

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