In wake of the news that Old Dominion guard Donte Hill has been stripped of his eligibility for this upcoming season (ending his collegiate career) because of an 8-minute closed scrimmage he played in 2010 which counted as one of his four allowed years of eligibility, we are once again reminded of the unchecked and unlimited power of the NCAA, a power which president Mark Emmert and his board seem to have no problem abusing. Time and again the NCAA has proven themselves to be the epitome of corruption; the worst governing body in sports only behind FIFA (at least the NCAA hasn’t been linked to bribes and vote-rigging).
In June 2010, USC was hit with major penalties for former running back Reggie Bush’s actions years earlier. The NCAA found Bush had received “lavish gifts” from agents and his family had received cars, money and a home while he was in college. The NCAA ruled that the family is an extension of the student athlete and that “high-profile players merit high-profile enforcement.” For these reasons, the hammer was lowered on USC for “lack of institutional control” including a two-year postseason ban, the loss of 30 scholarships over three years and had all wins in which Bush played in as “ineligible,” which included the 2005 Orange Bowl in which USC won the BCS National Championship, vacated from the record books. Over five years later, the innocent people at USC have had to suffer the consequences for what one man had done half a decade earlier. USC, which did nothing wrong other than not know about one infraction in their massive athletic department, lost one of the championships and had their football program knocked from the ranks of the elite.
In has since been reported that the NCAA was so harsh on USC merely because they’re USC. ESPN’s Ted Miller, who has been a leading voice in the outrage against the sanctions, said an administrator from a major program outside of the Pac-12 told him that “everybody thought USC got screwed” and that the NCAA “was trying to scare everyone with the ruling, but subsequent major violations cases put it in a pickle.” Miller was told USC was punished for its “USC-ness,” referring to the openness of the program and the presence of celebrities, such as Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell. While this wasn’t against the rules, everyone hated it, and this was used as subtext by the NCAA for the labeling of an atmosphere of non-compliance at USC. Many people have since come out and condemned the NCAA for their handling of the situation. These grievances have fallen on deaf ears, as the NCAA has refused to even review the sanctions.
Last year, the University of North Carolina was mired in an academic scandal. It came out that the school’s African and Afro-American Studies Department taught fraudulent classes in which students had to do little to nothing in order to receive high grades, essentially making the classes glorified babysitting. Some student athletes took these classes knowing what they were like which helped them maintain eligibility. In August of 2012, Julius Peppers’s transcript from his time at North Carolina surfaced as the school accidentally put it up on their website. The grade card showed Peppers had a GPA below 2.0, which should have made him ineligible. However, Peppers never missed a game for academic ineligibility. The classes he did well in were Afro-American studies classes. According to the released transcript, an F turned into a D and an incomplete into a B. In November of 2012, UNC reading specialist Mary Willingham said she worked with athletes who told her they had never read a book and couldn’t identify what a paragraph was.
The NCAA’s reaction to this was nothing. Their reasoning was because the classes were open to all students, and some non-athletes did take them, it is an institutional issue as opposed to an NCAA issue. Why would the NCAA ignore what very obviously seems to be academic fraud and cheating which allowed UNC to keep athletes on the field? Jay Smith, a history professor at North Carolina who has been vocal about his concern for academic integrity, said he doesn’t think the NCAA wants to look into the situation because “it exemplifies too vividly the hypocrisy on which big-time college sports are based.” It seems North Carolina is going to get away with blatant cheating scot-free.
In 2011 violations committed at the University of Miami came to surfaced, which centered on improper benefits given by booster, criminal and unrelenting douchebag Nevin Shapiro. From 2002 to 2010, Shapiro rewarded Hurricane athletes for success on the field with, but not limited to, cash, prostitutes, jewelry, bounties for injuring opposing players and, on one occasion, an abortion. In response, the NCAA launched a slow-moving, multi-year investigation which has unearthed one fact for sure; Emmert is a hack.
After building its case against Miami using mostly the words of Shapiro, the NCAA hired one of Shapiro’s personal lawyers. His lawyer then used utilized her subpoena power in her client’s bankruptcy case to gain information for the NCAA which it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get. This alone is bad enough, but it gets worse. The NCAA, recognizing the ethical violations they had committed, commissioned another investigation into its first investigation which acquitted Emmert and his deputy, James Isch, of any wrongdoing. Isch pleaded incompetence, stating he OK’d the extra expenses for Shapiro’s lawyer but didn’t know what they money was for. Imagine if an average citizen were able to clear their name in such a way when accused of a crime. You could simply tell the police, “no need to get a search warrant. I will conduct my own investigation to conclude if I have committed any wrongdoings.” How can the NCAA slap schools with lack of institutional control when they themselves can’t keep their own organization straight and publicly admit to approving money for things they know nothing about?
For the sake of not exploding my own heart with rage, I will refrain from bringing up the most egregious example of the NCAA’s abuse of power; Penn State. But ignoring that case, it is still quite apparent how the unchecked power of the NCAA has gone off the rails. College athletics is losing more and more integrity with each blunder by its ruling body and for the sake of the fans, the players and the schools themselves, Emmert and the current culture surrounding the NCAA must go.