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.