Miami investigation proves NCAA at crossroads
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 6:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 6:58 p.m.
The NCAA's flawed investigation of wrongdoing at the University of Miami has done something I didn't think was possible — make us feel bad for rule-breakers.
For whatever you want to believe about the extent of Miami's violations — the NCAA on Tuesday alleged that Miami was guilty of the dreaded “lack of institutional control” — it is almost as if we're ready to let that go and turn our thoughts to a bigger question.
Is this the end of the NCAA as we know it?
There have been calls for NCAA president Mark Emmert to step down. There had been pieces written long before this that the NCAA should be blown up for a number of reasons.
It is an organization that gets no love and almost seems to revel in being disliked. If you had ever had to deal with the clearinghouse or a player having to wait for months to find out whether he or she can suit up, you'd understand.
I doubt the NCAA's approval rating has ever been lower. Which is worse — the scandal it was investigating or its own scandal?
On Monday, the organization made a sacrificial lamb out of Julie Roe Lach, the vice president of enforcement, for her role in the Miami case. The approval of using an outside attorney in a bankruptcy case to quiz bad boy Nevin Shapiro brought embarrassment to an organization that spends most of its time being red-faced.
The enforcement process is a mess, but it has been for some time now. That Miami, which has taken two self-imposed bowl bans, still doesn't know its penalties is a joke.
Quoting Miami president Donna Shalala, “the lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior.”
And the NCAA is supposed to be the police. What is this, “Serpico”?
Some have written — and I have friends who believe this as well — that the NCAA should just give up and let players be paid and induced to attend schools by whatever means necessary. It's big-time sports we're talking about and millions of dollars come to the NCAA, the conferences and the schools on an annual basis.
Yet, the rules are so complicated and petty that student-athletes and coaches are often confused by them.
We have a major drug problem in college sports, yet the NCAA allows the schools to monitor testing and punishment. We see thousands of fans walking around with the jerseys of their favorite players, yet the ones scoring the touchdowns or making the free throws struggle to scrape up the money for pizza and a movie.
We see the most popular college sport — football — run by conference commissioners with dollar signs in their eyes, and the NCAA looks the other way. We see schools jumping from conference to conference and then back again, and it's met with a shrug.
The NCAA is not corrupt. It's inept. And it's time for a change.
Let the organization do what it does best — run the postseason for all sports except football. Then use some of those millions of dollars to hire a third-party to do the investigation. Jay Bilas proposed that the American Arbitration Association be used because it has subpoena power. Fine with me.
But something must be done. The NCAA has long been an over-the-hill, secretive organization that makes head-scratching decisions. The hard-working people who work there aren't the problem. It's the system that is broken.
And it has been broken for a long time.
Emmert inherited a lot of the problems he is now facing, and they are only going to get worse. This Miami debacle is a long way from being out of the news. Miami has 90 days to respond to its allegations, and you know there is going to be a battle that eventually ends up in the courts.
It's up to the presidents of the member institutions to get something done. They are, after all, the NCAA. And they are at a major crossroads like no other they have ever faced.
We may not be far from the days of superconferences who break away from the organization and set their own rules and bylaws.
It can't be any worse.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.