What If The NCAA Had No Idea What It Was Doing?

June 3, 2012 – 9:32 am by McD

Food Inc. and other books and documentaries, not to mention the “pink slime” controversy, have pretty well driven the point home that it probably isn’t a good idea for the food industry to police itself with little intervention from the government. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was caused, at least in part, because there wasn’t a whole lot of oversight of BP’s operation in the Gulf of Mexico. And despite the obviousness of their oversight role, the NCAA hasn’t really been policing drug use among football players.

I only conflate the government and the NCAA here because each entity’s job is mainly to enforce rules. Sometimes those rules are made to be intentionally vague so that the overseeing group doesn’t overreach with their enforcement of the law, essentially creating situations that allow derivatives to be traded willy-nilly or letting the Fiesta Bowl act like a drunken fraternity. Other times the NCAA and the government are just “outmatched,” as in the Deepwater Horizon spill and, apparently, enforcement of rules relating to positive drug tests among athletes.

No one should be shocked that the Southeastern Conference didn’t bother creating a uniform standard of punishment for athletes caught smoking marijuana. Anything involving over 25 percent of athletes that could potentially result in suspension or worse is not going to elicit a strong reaction from the SEC. It and its member-schools want to make money first, so of course each school is allowed to create and enforce its own policy. Hell, Ole Miss barely even has a policy at all.

No entity that warrants oversight is ever going to do anything regulatory that costs itself money. Nor would we want anyone to behave like that. It isn’t how capitalism works…or socialism for that matter. This is why it’s the Environmental Protection Agency’s job to make sure anti-pollution rules are followed, and it’s got to be the NCAA’s job to enforce drug use rules.

Oh wait. It is. Instead, the NCAA is “not in the position to provide intervention throughout the year, but schools are.” Or so says the NCAA’s Associate Director of Health and Safety. Instead, the NCAA sees itself as an organization which creates rules “complementary” to those created by schools.

So why is the NCAA not in a position to enforce drug rules on athletes when they are always enthusiastic about enforcing esoteric phone call rules on universities? That was meant to be sarcastic, in case you didn’t catch that. They actually leave much of the oversight for recruiting and other violations to the universities themselves as well. Or to Yahoo! Sports.

So I guess the real question is: why is the NCAA not in a position to enforce virtually any of its own rules? Why does this organization exist at all when they “aren’t in a position to enforce” anything, and when they do, against USC for example, there is outright hypocrisy and stupidity?

Hey, the NCAA really is like the government.

Wait, wait, wait. Not to go all Conspiracy Keanu on you, but what if this is the SEC trying to prove the NCAA doesn’t need to exist at all? If they can make the NCAA look repeatedly powerless and stupid, then that could create a groundswell to get rid of it entirely and “replace” it with something else. In the mean time, the conferences and schools would be left to self-enforce even more and make even more money.

The money schools make from football is completely independent from the NCAA, which is why the BCS still exists instead of a playoff for an actual NCAA championship instead of a mythical one. If the NCAA tried to move in and take control over football the same way they control basketball, there is the real possibility that dozens of member institutions would simply leave the NCAA altogether rather than lose any football money.

It never occurred to me until now, but maybe the individual conferences are making a grab for the NCAA’s basketball money instead. People would probably watch March Madness even if it was for a mythical championship and without the NCAA in the picture, the institutions would get all that money too. Huh.

OK, maybe that went too far, but we cannot go on watching NCAA sports knowing that rule enforcement is largely a charade and the NCAA is so pathetically weak that they couldn’t enfore any real rules even if they wanted to. Something needs to be done, but it pretty much feels like the fans are screwed no matter what happens.

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