Violations, controversies, scandals plague NCAA

By Rob Duffy

Senior Editor

Right now, the NCAA is a mess.

Recently, the NCAA announced that 12 current football players from the University of Miami were found to have accepted improper benefits from a former booster. Eight players were suspended in the first fallout from accusations that 72 Miami football and men’s basketball players received vast benefits between 2002 and 2010.

The Miami scandal was not an isolated incident. Earlier this summer, Ohio State’s football team vacated its 2010 Big Ten Championship after players were revealed to have received improper benefits from a tattoo shop. In February, Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun was suspended for three games for the 2011-12 season for recruiting violations. Last year, the USC football and men’s basketball programs received major sanctions when it was revealed that Reggie Bush and O. J. Mayo had accepted gifts from agents.

The problems are widespread, engulfing many of the country’s most prestigious programs, and the whole system seems to be spinning out of control. Many commentators are questioning the mandate that college athletes be amateurs, suggesting that athletes should receive a share of the revenue that their teams bring in. The best college athletes can reach superstar status, so it is not surprising that many want to take advantage of the benefits that their status offers them—even if these benefits fall outside the rules.

The solution, however, is not to start paying athletes. After all, athletes already get paid: free tuition only seems like an inconsequential amount of money to players who have completely lost track of the point of going to college. Paying players would do nothing to diminish the influence of boosters, since athletes would surely not be content with whatever salaries their schools paid them if they could get extra benefits on the side. Furthermore, a non-amateur system would quickly deteriorate into a battle over which school has the most money, making the lack of parity among college teams even worse than it already is. As a fan of college sports, decreased parity is not something I want to see.

The only way to really deter offenders is to make an example out of someone. Right now, punishments are lax. Both Ohio State and Connecticut were allowed to play in the postseason last year despite their violations, and the Huskies went on to win a national championship. Teams may vacate wins after the fact, but doing so has little meaning. You can’t ever erase the experience of winning a championship. Even postseason bans like USC’s are over in a year or two, limiting how consequential they can truly be.

For egregious violations, the NCAA needs to start using the death penalty. Ending a program for a year is the best way to get everyone’s attention and demonstrate that cheating will not be tolerated. In addition to eliminating a year’s worth of revenue, the death penalty causes a mass exodus of players and forces a program to be rebuilt from scratch. The penalty is harsh—some storied programs will likely get destroyed, such as the SMU football team’s more than 20 year bowl appearance drought after receiving the death penalty in 1987—but it’s a fitting punishment for flagrant and repeated defiance of the rules. Only through such drastic measures can the NCAA hope to clean itself up.

Meanwhile, these scandals should help us Bison fans better appreciate our own sports programs. We may not be competing for Bowl Series (or even the Football Championship Subdivision) Championships, and we may have gotten destroyed by Connecticut in the men’s basketball tournament, but at least we have integrity. Our student-athletes are actually genuine students in real majors on their way to real careers, and we should take pride in that. When we do occasionally do well—like when we beat Kansas in basketball, when we beat Florida State in baseball, or when we took eventual-national-champion Virginia to overtime in men’s lacrosse last spring—our integrity makes our accomplishments even more special.

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