Now that USC ipso facto has been given the death penalty, the question of what kind of institutional control the NCAA expects its member institutions to have has moved to the fore in the age-old student vs. athlete debate. The main reason USC got hammered is because it essentially had no idea what was going on with Reggie Bush and the football program and with O.J. Mayo and the basketball program.
The NCAA believed USC had at least tacit knowledge that Bush was receiving money and other things from wanna-be sports marketers he knew from high school because of the testimony of a convicted felon (whom USC reps were not even allowed to cross-examine) who said running backs coach Todd McNair sorta-kinda knew about the Bush family’s arrangement in San Diego.
The Bush’s received some very valuable gifts, according to this witness, because they thought Reggie would sign a deal with them after he graduated college. That USC either didn’t know or sorta-kinda knew about the Bush family’s activities is the very definition of a lack of institutional control. Could they have done anything to stop his family’s wheelings and dealings? That’s very, very debatable.
Besides, it was the basketball program that was out of control. The Reggie Bush saga is the sole reason the football team was part of the investigation. The basketball team was absolutely riddled with sketchy players and the kind of characters you hardly see coaches and programs go after anymore. Then throw in the fact that O.J. Mayo was essentially a salaried player when he spent one year at USC.
And then there are football programs like Florida and Oregon, who have not been caught with players taking large gifts or money, but that have arrest rates through the roof. Where is the four-year investigation of Florida’s incredible run of criminal activity? Nowhere, because no one on the Gators has been caught taking money from potential agents or whoever the hell that guy who gave Reggie Bush all that money was.
It’s gotten to the point in Gainesville that even Florida’s own student paper and in-state papers are going after it. And in pretty hilarious fashion, I might add.
So while Florida players continue to get arrested and kicked off the team and Oregon players continue to do the same, the NCAA worries most about sticking it to USC. I’m not saying the Trojans didn’t earn some major punishment, but since there’s no obvious cash changing hands in Gainesville or Eugene, I guess the NCAA figures it has better things to do.
NCAA, this is me calling you out. There are two programs that are legitimately out of control and are making the NCAA look pretty soft on crime. Sure, many of the offenders are getting suspended or kicked out of school altogether, but is that all that matters? What about the coaches who recruited these individuals in the first place?
That’s the easy point to make. The Skip Bayless point, as it were.
The more important point, in my opinion, is that colleges cannot control their players’ actions to a degree satisfactory for the NCAA. They shouldn’t be giving the players money a la Alabama in the 90’s. They shouldn’t be helping the players cheat in classes and changing grades a la Florida State in the 2000’s. And they definitely shouldn’t be running amok in their communities a la The U in the 80’s. But, if Todd McNair’s version is the truth, to expect USC to have any idea what the Bush family was doing a hundred miles away is just silly.
Grade changing and money distribution can be stopped without much of a problem. It takes a special kind of athletic department and coaching staff to get away with that level of cheating. But can the NCAA really expect football and other sports programs to stop their players 100 percent of the time from getting caught with two open bottles of Crown Royal or, say, taking money and a house from potential agents who have nothing to do with the school a hundred miles from campus?
The answer is yes, apparently. That is the reason USC was made an example of when the NCAA handed down its sentence. The expectation is now that programs must control the actions of their players at all times – so far only when it involves money, apparently.
The NCAA has yet to move on programs with players who are out of control in regard to the law, but I would imagine they’re next. Urban Meyer should be getting very nervous right about now. Actually, that might explain his adversarial attitude toward the press lately.
If there is no follow-up, however, no punishment for programs with legal issues beyond what they do to themselves (note: the NCAA offered no further sanctions against USC’s wildly out of control basketball program because the program punished itself), the hypocrisy that has become big-time college football and basketball will be complete. It will be obvious that the NCAA will only care about money – the money that it garners from sports revenue and that which is given to the athletes that earn the organization its money in the first place.