John Infante, in one of the more depressing posts I’ve read lately, explores the question of whether a coach needs to cheat to win.
There are a couple of reasons it’s a downer. First, Infante’s main point is that it’s hard to measure a correlation between cheating and success because we lack adequate tools. You can point to the edges…
We can start the long process of answering this question at the two extremes. Using the strictest definition of “cheating” we have, the vacating of a national title, the answer in the two revenue sports is promising. Not until USC’s 2004 BCS and AP national titles were vacated had a football or men’s basketball championship been vacated. By the NCAA’s own definition, all the other championships are clean.
On the other end of the spectrum, we can ask how many championships were won by programs that do not have even the hint of impropriety. Put another way, how many national championships in football and men’s basketball were won by programs with no major violations? As you might guess, the answer here is a bit less encouraging:
- Men’s Basketball: 8/73 titles – Georgetown, Holy Cross, Loyola (Chicago), Marquette, Oklahoma State (2), Stanford, Wyoming
- Football: 4/89 titles (Poll Era) – Penn State (2), BYU (2)
… but the points in between are hard to figure out.
And that’s one reason the NCAA struggles so much with rules violators. As Infante puts it,
The trouble with the NCAA’s technical and intricate rule book is that you also lose some of the correlation between cheating and competitive success. If a coach makes a hundred or so impermissible phone calls to a couple dozen prospects over the course of two-four years, how much a competitive advantage was gained? Even more significant violations have questionable true competitive impact. USC argued, quite logically, that extra benefits received by a student-athlete after enrollment do not lead to a competitive advantage since they do not induce her to attend or stay at USC or make him play better.
Sometimes logic sucks. But here’s the thing – if we’re having that much trouble investigating and responding to actions which clearly violate established rules, how much harder is it to resolve oversigning (or, if you prefer Slive’s euphemism, “roster management”) issues which don’t?