This marks the third major conference commissioner who’s expressed serious concerns about the NCAA’s ruling in Camgate. I’m hard pressed to remember the last time a major ruling like that has garnered that sort of critical response.
I think there are several reasons for this. First, there’s the strange way the NCAA went about its business here. Paul Myerburg compares it with the quick ruling denying Arizona State’s bowl waiver request, and asks,
… I’m just confused as to why the N.C.A.A. has put its foot down so forcefully in this case while dragging its feet, making excuses and throughly embarrassing itself with the Newton investigation. Why take this simple matter — whether A.S.U. can participate in bowl play — so seriously while acting so wishy-washy on a far more meaningful matter occurring at the same time?
Even more damning,
… According to the N.C.A.A., each investigation into a player’s eligibility must be considered on its own: there is no black-and-white when it comes to a case like Newton’s, merely various shades of gray. In shutting down Arizona State’s bowl hopes, the N.C.A.A. is ignoring evidence that plays strongly in A.S.U.’s favor: the Sun Devils had scheduled San Jose State — yes, part of the F.B.S. — but the Spartans opted to drop that game in favor of a bigger payout in a trip to Wisconsin.
Without any F.B.S. options left to choose from, the Sun Devils had to add an F.C.S. team; that gave the program two F.C.S. foes on the schedule, as noted. Can Arizona State be held responsible for S.J.S.U. backing out of a contracted game? I wouldn’t think so.
The second issue is money. Implicit in all the amateurism rulings which have roiled the college football waters this season is that the NCAA has established at the top of its hierarchy of sins the receipt of a tangible benefit. Thus, because Cecil Newton didn’t receive a penny of the $180,000 he requested from MSU, Cam stayed in the clear; A.J. Green’s receipt of $1,000 for his jersey got him four games on the sidelines. This is obviously the big issue, because it trumped one element common to both Green’s and Newton’s situations: the lack of knowledge on the part of the school that any violation had occurred.
The problem is that there are people who are much, much smarter than and at least as motivated as than Cecil Newton out there who will find ways to exploit the system far more subtly than Cecil’s crude attempt. If it took this long for the NCAA to get a handle on what happened in that hotel room in Starkville, good luck on figuring out what’s about to come down the turnpike.
And then there’s the lack of knowledge on the part of the player, in Cam’s case, as a mitigating factor. Aside from the questionable assumption made there (anybody notice that Cam is still being kept away from the media, including Lundquist and Danielson this week, after being cleared to play?), the loophole the NCAA chose to open – and it was a choice – is both gaping and scary in its ramifications.