Editorial: NCAA needs to crack down

NCAAcourt.jpgAllegations of NCAA rules violations rocked the world of college football several times during the 2013 football season, and we are only in week six.

Before the season even began, ESPN Outside The Lines reported Johnny Manziel was under investigation by the NCAA for accepting money for signing hundreds of autographs. He is accused of receiving a five-figure flat fee while in Miami for the Discover BCS National Championship in January.

After a suspiciously short investigation, the NCAA suspended Manziel for the first half against Rice at the beginning of the season. He was suspended because of his violation of NCAA bylaw ,which says “After becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual: (a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind; or (b) Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.”

Then Sports Illustrated began a five-part series into Oklahoma State football on Sept. 10 based on a 10-month investigation that included interviews with more than 60 former players as well as members of the former and current coaching staff. During the course of SI’s investigation, they discovered allegations:

  • Of money handoffs from boosters and football staff, overpayment for jobs performed and payment for work not performed.
  • That football players had others doing their schoolwork for them in addition to being placed in lax classes where they were given a passing grade with little to no work.
  • Of prevalent drug use by football players as well as numerous drug dealers being on the team during the years covered by the investigation. School officials were accused of ignoring the drug use by elite players, while suspending or expelling players deemed expendable.
  • That a small number of women in the football program’s hostess group performed sexual acts with recruits when they came for their official on-campus recruiting weekend.

The five-part series ended with a look at players that were cut from the OSU football program and ended up back in the environments they hoped to escape. Some former OSU football players ended up incarcerated.

Other former players are forced to live on the streets with many battling drug and alcohol addictions as well as attempting suicide.

While SI was publishing its five-part series against OSU, Yahoo Sports released its own investigative report on Sept. 11 into five Southeastern Conference football stars that allegedly violated NCAA rules though receiving extra benefits prior to the completion of their college careers.

The five players identified were University of Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, University of Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis.

These five players were linked to Luther Davis, who served as an intermediary between financial advisers and agents to the five players.

He is linked to the players via numerous wire fund transfers, flight receipts, text messages, banking statements and other materials that Yahoo obtained.

After the NCAA finished its investigation of Penn State, the football program received a bowl ban and scholarship reduction, was put on probation and was forced to pay $60 million to child abuse prevention programs.

If the allegations against OSU are accurate, it could face extensive sanctions from the NCAA, including scholarship reductions, a bowl ban, probation and having affected members of the coaching staff given a show-cause penalty.

If allegations against the five players from the SEC are true, it could spell problems for several programs, starting with the University of Alabama.

If proven true, Alabama could be forced to vacate its 2012 National Championship the same way University of Southern California did following its penalties for extra benefits that Reggie Bush received during his college years.

The trouble would not end there for SEC teams, because both the University of Tennessee and Mississippi State are on probation until the summer of 2015 for previous NCAA rules violations.

After the SI series about OSU became known, numerous people took to the comments to blast SI for its journalism.

However, rather than attacking the media that reported the allegations after an extensive investigation, attention should be turned to the program that was accused and see what can be done to make sure that it is operating within the rules. If programs followed NCAA rules, then SI, ESPN, and Yahoo would have nothing to report in terms of violations.

Furthermore, others criticized SI for not looking at what is happening at OSU today. Our response to that is the fact that current success built on ill-gotten gains is wrong and should be punished regardless of whether those NCAA rules infractions are still happening today or not. Besides, as history has shown us, those that break the rules and do not get punished are more likely to continue breaking more and bigger rules.

If these allegations are true, the affected schools need to take a page from Baylor’s actions in 2005 after Patrick Dennehy’s murder. Because of actions that Baylor took, the NCAA praised Baylor for the swift and meaningful action it took even though then-head coach Dave Bliss lied to NCAA investigators. As a result, Baylor avoided the “death penalty,” a one-or-more-year ban from competing in a specific sport.

It is time that all college sports clean up their act. Sports is not the be-all and end-all of college.

Colleges should not be allowed to admit students solely because of their athletic abilities. Colleges exist to educate students to be successful and productive members of society, not train athletes for the pros.

In light of all of the numerous violations that programs across the country are being punished for, maybe it is time the NCAA issues the death penalty to a Division I school for the first time in 26 years, since the death penalty was given to Southern Methodist University in 1986.

At a minimum, the NCAA needs to be willing to do more Penn State-like serious sanctions for flagrant NCAA rules violations. By doing so, the NCAA can remind college athletic programs across the country that they and their programs are not above the rules and that cheating never wins.