Stare decisis

You may think the harsh stance the NCAA has taken with Southern Cal means bad news for the likes of Ohio State and North Carolina.  I may think the harsh stance the NCAA has taken with Southern Cal means bad news for the likes of Ohio State and North Carolina.  But as Andy Staples astutely points out, that doesn’t mean the NCAA has to agree with us, even at the cost of looking arbitrary.

… USC got drilled for an extra-benefits case in which a player received great quantities of cash and goods from an outside source because of his notoriety. An assistant coach allegedly knew and did nothing about it. (Former USC assistant Todd McNair has denied this, and the NCAA’s most compelling piece of evidence is a two-minute phone call between McNair and one of the would-be agents after Bush left USC.) In August, Ohio State will go before the COI in an extra-benefits case in which multiple players received lesser quantities of cash and goods from an outside source because of their notoriety. The head coach knew and did nothing about it. (No allegedly necessary here. The NCAA has smoking-gun e-mails, and coach Jim Tressel has admitted he hid the information from the proper authorities.) At some point in the not-too-distant future, the NCAA enforcement staff will wrap its investigation into North Carolina’s football program. The Tar Heels face an extra-benefits case in which multiple players received cash and goods from an outside source (in this case, an agent or multiple agents) based on their notoriety. In this case, the associate head coach was a former employee of one of the suspected agents, and the NCAA will presume he knew and did nothing about it. It’s entirely probable the NCAA will accuse former UNC assistant John Blake of acting as an agent runner.

So will the COI consider the precedent it set in the USC case when it adjudicates the Ohio State and North Carolina cases? Not if it follows NCAA guidelines. The organization recently launched a Web page designed to demystify the enforcement process. Among the nuggets is a section which concerns using precedent when assigning penalties.

“Each case is unique, and applying case precedent is difficult (if not impossible) because all cases are different,” according to the Web page. “Each case has its own aggravating and mitigating factors, and the committee considers both sides in assessing penalties.”

No two robberies are the same. No two Ponzi schemes are the same. No two DUI cases are the same. Yet every day, judges in real courts weigh precedents and try to find the most similar cases so they don’t issue a sentence out of step with the sentences handed to those who committed similar crimes. Is it too much to ask that the NCAA give its member institutions the same kind of justice?

Sadly, it might be.  After all, it’s not like the NCAA’s decision to allow Ohio State to play in the Sugar Bowl was consistent with sanctions it delivered in similar circumstances to other schools.

It’s pretty sad when doing the right thing turns out to be a surprise.  But that’s how I feel about what’s coming.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Stare decisis

  1. ChicagoDawg

    Consistency has nothing to do w/ NCAA decision making, if it did Marcel Dareus would have sat out 4 games. Of course, we could go on w/ a laundry list of other inconsistent absurdities, but it would be more productive for us to jam sticks in our eyes.

  2. paul

    The only surprising outcome will be if Tressell and OSU get what they deserve. I don’t know anyone who expects that they will. The fact that the head coach knowingly withheld information and kept ineligible players on the field for an entire season (even negotiating their bowl performance in exchange for future penalties) somehow DOES NOT, in the eyes of the NCAA, warrant a charge of lack of institutional control, let’s us know they want to levy the most lenient punishment possible. It’s most likely the NCAA will take the Gordon Gee strategy and thank Tressell for not firing them.

  3. Dave

    USC got hammered as much for Garrett’s “one finger salute” response to the investigation as they did for the transgressions themselves. Maybe more.

    UNC and OSU have an excellent reputation at the offices in Indy. How they “handle the scandal” will be a mitigating factor for both. With USC, that was a major aggravating factor even before Garrett hired Lane.

    If UNC and OSU both end up with lighter penalties than USC, it will be proof that the NCAA cares more about the response to scandal than it does scandal itself. Something tells me the programs are going to get minor penalties and the coaches are going to get hammered.

  4. nk_knight

    I don’t know if UNC self-reported their problem to the NCAA, but that’s that difference between USC and Ohio State. If you come down on a school harder for self-reporting the issue, then the NCAA might as well close the enforcement office because nobody in their right mind would ever self-report again. Also, like the above poster said, USC said screw you when it hired Kiffin who was already under investigation by the NCAA.

  5. Chuck

    I actually support the idea that each case is unique, and actually, most courts begin from some basic guidelines, have sentencing hearings, and then deviate from the basic guideline – both up and down – depending upon the unique considerations found. Each case really is a little different from another, and treating them all the same without thinking doesn’t work.

    But the NCAA has to show some nads, too. They are being challenged on a lot of fronts right now. Just scroll back a page or two and player compensation issues, tv contracts and the BCS are areas where schools have indicated a desire to tell NCAA thanks but no thanks. They already have with TV contracts, and player compensation is getting traction. So, they need to show some competence with both UNC and tOSU or they lose whatever credibility they have left.

    • paul

      I couldn’t agree more Chuck. If they blow these cases, which seems highly likely, we’ll see the super conference idea get a lot more traction too. In fact, I still believe the super conference will think very seriously about abandoning the NCAA altogether.

  6. nk_knight

    Here’s a question for you about the super conference. Do you think the PAC-10 and Big Ten would join with the SEC to form these superconferences without guidelines like oversigning and grey-shirting being equal?

  7. Go Dawgs!

    I expect an NCAA spokesman to announce a light pat on the wrist for Ohio State and the loss of 40 scholarships at North Carolina, followed by the spokesman throwing down smoke pellets and disappearing before the air clears, without taking questions.

  8. Stoopnagle

    The arbitrary nature of NCAA enforcement reflects it’s foundations in higher education. When students appeal things like academic requirements to committees on campuses, the approach the NCAA describes is generally the approach of such committees. That is, at least in my experience.

    Generally speaking, rarely does that arbitrariness punish the student more severely than, say, a more legalistic approach. I guess we’ll see on our own campus how that plays out in student judiciary as we’ve just revamped it to be more “legalistic” and less “educational.”

    FWIW, I think the NCAA should be a bit more “legalistic.”

  9. Cojones

    Now that the tatt owner has been charged, there are a few loose ends.He is charged, among other things, with intent to distribute “more than 200 pounds of marijuana”. Having bought a 2005 Infinity with other cash from drug deals, what’s the odds that the Tosu players received more than a tatt for their memorabilia? That’s better than 12,800 qtr oz bags. That translates into $600k-$1.6M depending on the quality. So what are the odds that he doesn’t fix up the players? His lawyer stated, “If he was guilty of anything, it’s being a quality Ohio State fan”. Wonder what the not-so-quality fans are like? Of course being a quality fan means you will keep your yap shut as to how much ganja you supply to players and students. Think you have that many local businessmen smokers to burn it up? There aren’t that many bikers in the midwest. The FBI was probably scrutinizing him after noticing that plastic baggies were sold out for a 50-mile radius and he was the only person with any.

    What contraction? How long has this Punctuation Fund been going on? I don’t use spll check, so how much money have you been charging to my account? Have to leave and check my bankaccount. I may be destitute by now, thanks to you pedantic jerks. Sorry, didn’t mean to infer that you pray on kids.