NCAA “Improper Conduct” Goes Beyond Miami


July 23, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks during a press conference at the NCAA Headquarters with NCAA Executive Committee chair Ed Ray standing behind him to announce corrective and punitive measures against Penn State University for the child abuse committed by former Penn State Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

They just keep reopening the wound.

As a USC fan, I’ve been immersed in the NCAA investigation and sanctions levied against the Trojans in 2009 for nearly a decade. Every time the NCAA slapped other schools on the wrist for infractions at least as egregious as those alleged against USC, it felt like a kick in the gut.

These new developments regarding the NCAA enforcement process and Miami is yet another in a long list of incidents that have rubbed salt in the still very raw wound.

“In light of this incident and other recent events involving the enforcement staff, President Emmert has commissioned an external review of the enforcement program,” the press release reads.

My response: What took you so long?

The Miami situation appears worse than the misconduct that seemed to take place with regards to USC, but both cases point to the same clear, unrelenting effort of NCAA enforcement staff to destroy specific programs by any means necessary.

The NCAA is and has always been in the business of vendettas. Those programs which are determined to have embarrassed the NCAA in any way are targeted for demolition, fodder for the NCAA’s favorite pastime – scape goating.

Miami’s complete disregard for NCAA rules, made all the more embarrassing by the presence of former Miami Athletic Director, Paul Dee, as the head of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, was very publicly unmasked by a Yahoo! Sports investigation.

The NCAA was determined to make an example of the Hurricanes and went so far as to hire a lawyer involved in the Shapiro case so that he could compel under-oath responses to questions relevant to the NCAA investigation in court.

USC’s crime was uncovered by another very scandalous Yahoo! Sports investigation back in 2006. The best player in all of college football, Reggie Bush, had allegedly received illegal benefits from a would-be sports agent.

Not only did the situation turn discussion towards the ever-debatable issue of amateurism, but USC vehemently denied fault. Unlike Ohio State, who escaped major punishment, despite a head coach who knowingly played ineligible players, because they bowed before the NCAA overlords, USC stood their ground. And for that the Trojans had to be punished.

Recently, a judge declared that former USC running backs coach Todd McNair had enough evidence to prove that NCAA enforcement staff acted maliciously towards him. They decided that McNair did not have the character of a man worthy of coaching at an NCAA institution and they made it their mission to bury him.

That same malice is evident throughout the USC case. NCAA enforcement staff took the word of a convicted felon at face value, misstated facts in interviews and then made no effort to correct them. They allowed a representative of USC rival Notre Dame to sit on the Committee on Infractions, despite a clear question of conflict of interest. They also changed their rules midway to throw out the concept of precedent on appeal, lest the extremely harsh penalties handed to USC be compared to any that came before or came after.

What has come after has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the NCAA unfairly punished USC with sanctions that in no way matched the crime.

Yet at no point has the NCAA made an attempt to right that wrong.

And that’s why this hurts.

The NCAA has admitted they were wrong regarding UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. A member of the enforcement staff lost their job over it.

The NCAA has admitted they were wrong regarding the Miami investigation. That investigation is now on hold until the misconduct can be sorted out.

Meanwhile USC will still approach signing day, navigating the difficult waters of a 15 scholarship recruiting class. USC will continue to take heat over having to pull a scholarship from a walk-on or asking an early enrollee to wait until Fall because there is no more room due to sanctions. And USC will have to face another season with a lack of depth on a limited roster.

All because the NCAA has yet to admit they were wrong regarding USC. Until they do, I’m not sure the wound will ever be allowed to close.