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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)
On Sept. 26, after a three-year undercover FBI investigation, 10 individuals, among whom were an Adidas executive, four college assistant coaches, a sports agent, financial advisor, and a former NBA official were charged with colluding to bribe star athletes to enroll at specified universities.
Federal prosecutors claimed that at least three top high school recruits were promised payments up to $150,000 to attend the universities of Louisville and Miami. The University of Louisville is already reeling from sanctions brought on by an assistant coach who hired strippers to influence recruits' decisions. Naturally, the head coaches at these institutions claim no knowledge of the deplorable events.
It's not like the current NCAA basketball scandal is a surprise. Any fan who is half way paying attention knows that big time college sports is a self-serving, cash-driven and hypocritical exploitation of "student-athletes." There may be some nay-sayers out there, but the recent scandals dump the sleaze clearly on the table.
Unfortunately, recent indiscretions are merely the tip of the iceberg. From its founding over a century ago, the NCAA, coaches, and college administrators have successfully swept all but the most egregious scandals under the rug. Nevertheless, when forced to the wall, the NCAA's enforcement division has several significant weapons in its arsenal.
The "death penalty" bars offending institutions from competing in a sport for at least a year. However, the last time the NCAA invoked the "death penalty" against a Division I school (SMU) was 1987. More recently, Penn State was considered for the death penalty because of the Jerry Sandusky case, but, instead, the NCAA meted out a $60 million dollar fine and forfeiture penalties.
The "show-cause penalty" enables the NCAA to bar athletic staff from working at any NCAA member school without NCAA permission. In 2011 this sanction was levied against Tennessee's head basketball coach who was fired and then bounced around for a while before ending up as head coach at Auburn. There have been several similar cases. In essence, though - while some of the penalties are severe - the NCAA seldom levies the big hits.
Meanwhile, the situation cries out for "somebody" to get a firm grasp on the collection of devious coaches, sports agents, athletic equipment makers, and hyperactive alumni whose goal is winning at all costs. Hopefully, a committee could be formed to drastically reduce and replace the mind-numbing plethora of unwieldy NCAA regulations that result in many time-consuming investigations and minor violations. Moreover, more big hits are needed to force the perpetrators to pay attention and reel in their excesses.
The NCAA model is not working and needs major changes. The scandals continue to surface with no end in sight. Can any solution turn things around? Or will the public permit the NCAA to meander through its second century of chasing the dollar and endure scandals that have bathed college sports in squalor since forever? One fan's bet is that athletic misconduct will survive in perpetuity. For who would be so bold as to slay the golden goose?
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