Sunday, April 3, 2011

AUBurgeddon: It’s not the money. It’s the academics.

JailAubie In the wake of the explosive “pay for play” segment of last Wednesday’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel show on HBO, gallons of ink and terabytes of bandwidth have been used to discuss the allegations that four former Auburn football players—Stanley McGlover, Troy Reddick, Raven Gray and Chaz Ramsey—were paid thousands of dollars by boosters and at least one coach.

While the stories about book bags and envelopes full of cash and $500 handshakes make for juicy opinion columns and intense debate on teh innerwebs, those allegations are not the most serious allegations aired during the show.

I wrote about this last week, also.

By far, the most toxic of the allegations came from Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick, and they have nothing to do with money. Both players made allegations of major academic improprieties during their tenures at the school. Also, unlike the pay-for-play allegations, more than enough documentary evidence will exist regarding academics, including  transcripts, class attendance records, changes in student major and records related to any financial aid the students received outside of their athletic grants-in-aid.

I am no expert on the warehouses of information that must be maintained by colleges and universities in order to comply with NCAA, state and federal regulations. But the odds of locating the “smoking guns” to substantiate wrongdoing in academics are way better than finding receipts and financial records to document pay-for-play.

The alleged academic improprieties are of particular interest to the NCAA because such issues go straight to the heart of the principles of the organization. Nothing would enrage the Committee on Infractions more than a documented case of fraudulently manipulating student-athlete grades, forcing changes in majors, pressuring educators to maintain eligibility and failing to maintain academics as a primary focus of amateur athletics.

From the show last Wednesday:

  • Reddick on why he was unhappy at Auburn - and the remedy for that unhappiness

Kremer voiceover: “Reddick was growing increasingly unhappy because he says the (Auburn) coaches wanted him to change his major. Why? Because his class schedule got in the way of football practice.

Reddick: “I changed my major, so my classes didn’t interfere no more but I didn’t bother to go because I knew I was only there to play football.

Kremer: “So what did you do?

Reddick: “I started complaining and insinuating that I was ready to leave any day. They had to do something about that.”

HBO Real Sports: College Sports Episode by sportsxbrooks

Troy Reddick played at Auburn from 2002 – 2005. During this period, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – SACS – placed Auburn University on academic probation, one step away from removing the school’s accreditation. The announcement was made in December 2003, which would have been at the end of Reddick’s Sophomore year of eligibility. Also during the timeframe of Reddick’s tenure at Auburn, allegations arose regarding academic improprieties in connection with the school’s Sociology Department.

The NCAA investigated, but was unable to uncover evidence that the Athletic Department was involved in the allegations of academic interference. Reddick’s statements to Kremer appear to contradict those findings. 

So what, you ask? Read your handy dandy NCAA rulebook:

Unethical conduct by a prospective or enrolled student-athlete or a current or former institutional staff member (e.g., coach, professor, tutor, teaching assistant, student manager, student trainer) may include, but is not limited to, the following: (Revised: 1/10/90, 1/9/96, 2/22/01)
(a) Refusal to furnish information relevant to an investigation of a possible violation of an NCAA regulation when requested to do so by the NCAA or the individual’s institution;
(b) Knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts for a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete;
(c) Knowing involvement in offering or providing a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete an improper inducement or extra benefit or improper financial aid; (Revised: 1/9/96)
(d) Knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual’s institution false or misleading information concerning the individual’s involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation;
(e) Receipt of benefits by an institutional staff member for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student athlete and an agent, financial advisor or a representative of an agent or advisor (e.g., “runner”); (Adopted: 1/9/96, Revised: 8/4/05)
(f) Knowing involvement in providing a banned substance or impermissible supplement to student-athletes, or knowingly providing medications to student-athletes contrary to medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care in sports medicine practice, or state and federal law. This provision shall not apply to banned substances for which the student-athlete has received a medical exception per Bylaw; however, the substance must be provided in accordance with medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care and state or federal law; (Adopted: 8/4/05, Revised: 5/6/08)
(g) Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NCAA, the NCAA Eligibility Center or an institution’s admissions office regarding an individual’s academic record (e.g., schools attended, completion of coursework, grades and test scores); (Adopted: 4/27/06, Revised: 10/23/07)
(h) Fraudulence or misconduct in connection with entrance or placement examinations; (Adopted: 4/27/06)
(i) Engaging in any athletics competition under an assumed name or with intent to otherwise deceive; or (Adopted: 4/27/06)
(j) Failure to provide complete and accurate information to the NCAA, the NCAA Eligibility Center or the institution’s athletics department regarding an individual’s amateur status. (Adopted: 1/8/07, Revised: 5/9/07)

The improprieties, if proven, consist of information that the school "knew or should have known" about during that investigation, and should have been given to the NCAA during the 2006 NCAA investigation into the academic improprieties discovered in the independent study scandal. That's a violation of the same "lying to or misleading investigators" bylaw that got Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl canned and will almost certainly get the scalp of Ohio State’s Tressel, too.

Of the 81 cases before the NCAA regarding violation of bylaw 10.1 since 1989, 78 of the coaches or administrators involved lost their jobs. In all 81 cases, the Committee on Infractions handed down harsh penalties and wrote absolutely scathing final reports.

While the dollar signs associated with the pay-for-play allegations are eye-popping and make for really juicy headlines, it’s the academic violations alleged by Ramsey and Reddick that will get the most NCAA scrutiny. Those are much easier to prove, they are violations that break some of the NCAA’s most fundamental principles, and they are alleged to have occurred during a timeframe when the school was expected to be honest and forthcoming with information.

That is toxic stuff, sports fans.

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