Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who Will Police the Police?

Let’s do a little compare and contrast.

Jim Calhoun: Cited by the NCAA for failure to create an atmosphere of compliance. The NCAA Committee of Infractions is accusing Calhoun of recruiting a player, Nate Miles, who had contact with a team manager turned sports agent. First discovered in a 2009 Yahoo! Sports investigation (CITE!!), the agent, Josh Nochimson, allegedly provided lodging, transportation, meals and representation for Miles while UConn pursued him. Calhoun will be suspended three games in the 2011-2012 season, while the program will face scholarship reductions, recruiting restrictions, and a three year probation.

Bruce Pearl: Cited by the NCAA for “impermissible contact with student-athletes during an unofficial recruiting visit, for not being ethical about the matter, for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, and failing to monitor the activities of his assistant coaches.” (CITE). The official NCAA notification did not include punishments (which are expected to be handed down in June), but Pearl has already served an eight conference game suspension, a pay reduction of $1.5 million over multiple years, and a one year ban from off campus recruiting.

    Do these two descriptions look similar? In some ways they should. Lost in the NCAA rhetoric are two coaches who are feeling the heat after breaking rigid (and complicated) recruiting guidelines. Both are being chastised publicly and both either have or are going to face game suspensions. Pearl illegally hosted a recruit at his home instead of on campus, and Calhoun recruited a player who already had a relationship with a professional agent. And according to ESPN’s Doug Gotlieb (along with other sources), they both lied.

    When looking at their penalites, however, it’s as if the descriptions have been switched. Pearl, whose infraction is considered a secondary violation, is the one feeling the NCAA breathing down his neck with the threat of losing his position with Tennessee. (With the threat of a long term suspension, UT may be forced to ask Pearl to step down.) His initial dishonesty with NCAA officials is the core reason he is in this mess. Calhoun, on the other hand, committed the cardinal sin in collegiate coaching. By recruiting Nate Miles and encouraging his relationship with agent, Josh Nochimson, Calhoun introduced the kryptonite of college sports, money. Yet the UConn coach (who, again, alledged lied as well) is being punished with "timeout" compared to Pearl.

    ESPN’s Pat Forde wrote in his article “Coach’s Can’t Escape Accountability”, this decision by the NCAA is a stand against “protecting the coarch at all costs”.

“But the three game penalty is far more than a slap on the wrist,” Forde wrote.

    When looking at the Calhoun decision on its own, this rationale appears to be on the right track. When compared to Pearl, however, it’s as inconsistent as Tennessee’s regular season. ESPN reported the decision on Calhoun would have been more severe if Miles had actually played at UConn (He was dismissed after violating a restraining order.), but neither did the recruit Pearl hosted at his home. And where have the allegations pertaining to Calhoun’s dishonesty gone? Have they been ignored like the blatant pass being given to UConn?

“As the leader of Conneticut beasketball program and an ambassador of the university, the buck stops with me. No qualifications, no exceptions. I fully acknowledge that we, as a staff, made mistakes and would like to apologize,” Calhoun said.

Sound familiar? Bruce Pearl made a similar statement after he willingly admitted to his mistakes. Calhoun decided to wait until the NCAA gave him the necassary “motivation”. In his statement, Calhoun went on to say he would not comment on this issue further (a luxury he arrogantly demanded but will likely not receive).

    My annoyance, however, is not as much with Calhoun as it is with the Big Brother of collegian sports. At this point, the NCAA’s recent decisions are questionable enough to be points of discussion in college ethics classes for years. The lax ruling on the Cam Newton investigation raised plenty of eyebrows on its own, but the decision to allow the Ohio State players (who traded memorabilia for tattoos and money) to play in the Sugar Bowl, coupled with the stiff penalties given to Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, and North Carolina, has left the integrity of college athletics governing body with some dark stains. Their oligarchy approach leaves university athletic departments across the nation at the mercy of their unpredictable (and arguably corrupt) judgement.

    It’s difficult to determine the extent to which the NCAA is paying attention to these claims against them, but the rumblings are beginning.

“The secret but carefully orchestrated one day ineligibility of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for violation of the recruiting amateurism rules once again demonstrates the corrupt culture of the NCAA.” The Bleacher Report

“Goldman Sachs has nothing on the NCAA.” The Kansas City Star

“In the end this is the same old story. College football’s power brokers write a bunch of lip service in an effort to maintain the sports’ ‘amateurism so they can continue to beat federal, state and local taxes. When you pay neither taxes nor the players there’s a lot more cash laying around to line your pockets.” Yahoo! Sports

    In another article from Forde, he called for Tennessee to fire athletic director Mike Hamilton, the man who “has hemorrhaged credibility at an alarming rate”. I would say the same for the NCAA, but who would I tell? The Committee of Infractions?

I guess I’ll pull a Jim Tressel; plead ignorance and pray it goes away.

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