The more the NCAA talks about Camgate, the more confused I get. Here’s what President Mark Emmert had to say in his extraordinary defense of the decision to declare the player eligible:
“We recognize that many people are outraged at the notion that a parent or anyone else could ‘shop around’ a student-athlete and there would possibly not be repercussions on the student-athlete’s eligibility,” Emmert said in a statement.
“I’m committed to further clarifying and strengthening our recruiting and amateurism rules so they promote appropriate behavior by students, parents, coaches and third parties. We will work aggressively with our members to amend our bylaws so that this type of behavior is not a part of intercollegiate athletics.”
What I get from that is there are no repercussions for Cecil Newton’s behavior, but that there should be. Yet here’s this comment from a lower-level official:
… Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president for academic and membership affairs, said there have been numerous cases resulting in the same type of ruling: a restoration of eligibility after a school declares a player ineligible following a rules violation.
“We did find a violation of our bylaws, and I wouldn’t want that to be lost,” Lennon said. “The reinstatement of a student-athlete begins with his or her culpability and other mitigating factors are looked at: Were benefits actually received, and what was the nature of the benefits?”
It’s nice that he doesn’t want the message that there was a finding of a violation to be lost, even though that’s the exact result of his organization’s ruling in the matter. The whole idea that we’re supposed to accept Emmert’s hand wringing at face value is what’s at the heart of the criticism the NCAA faces. If Emmert thinks the amateurism rules need strengthening, whose fault is that?
There are two things I don’t understand here. First, if the SEC and the NCAA couldn’t satisfactorily resolve the inherent conflict they faced trying to find an appropriate punishment regarding Cecil Newton that didn’t affect his son or Auburn, what makes them think they’ll be able to draft something going forward that will be more effective? Neither of them has any authority over friends or family members and if they don’t want to penalize the parties over whom they do have authority when “culpability and other mitigating factors are looked at”, what’s the point of coming up with any new bylaws?
But here’s the thing I really don’t get: somehow, I’m supposed to believe that Cecil Newton is smart enough to game the system to confound two of the shrewder groups of people on the planet, but not smart enough to profit from it. Does that makes sense to anyone not named Mark Emmert or Mike Slive?
UPDATE: You know it’s a sketchy call when Jim Delany comes off sounding like the voice of reason.