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Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)
With America's elite college football teams closing in on the playoffs to determine a national champion and a new race to basketball's March Madness about to begin, the burning question might be (actually is) who is in charge of the keeping the huge fortune the two events produce out of the hands of cheaters?
For more than three quarters of a century, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has ruled major college sports with an iron fist, clamping down on any hint of scandal that might taint the association and its member schools... and damage the money flow.
At times, the NCAA's legendary gum shoe committee has seemed to have taken its duty to preserve purity to the point of absurdity, penalizing its members for trivial infractions of its Byzantine book of rules - so large now, it has become a lawyer's dream or nightmare whichever side you're on. You can't give that recruit a baseball cap, T-shirt, etc., or your best player is suspended for appearing fully clothed on a calendar that was being sold for charity by a sorority, which actually occurred.
Often it seemed to observers that there was an unholy selectivity to the association's punishments. In other words, schools that were the most successful in pursuit of records and the revenue they produce were somehow less likely to be sanctioned. It has taken a long time for the University of Louisville and its famous basketball coach, Rick Pitino, to fall, although his program's not to mention personal indiscretions were common knowledge for years.
The shadow of scandal and prosecution now hovers over the new basketball season.
The late UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, once said only half in jest, "that the NCAA is so mad at Kentucky it probably will tack another two years (sanctions) on Cleveland State."
While there has been no solid proof to back up these allegations of favoritism, there obviously is plenty of circumstantial evidence. And the NCAA's decision not to pursue a horrendous breach of academic propriety by the University of North Carolina, almost puts a rubber stamp of authenticity to the claims. By not doing so, any credibility the governing body has left may have been lost forever. If you have been unaware, UNC had given academic credit to favored groups for what it at one time admitted was a phony course. While some of those who took the nonexistent course or courses weren't athletes, at least 50 percent to 60 percent were.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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