I mentioned before in the context of Mike Slive’s faux concern over his hands being tied in regards to Cecil Newton’s shopping his son to the highest bidder – those damned ineffective regulations! – that it’s hard to see what steps the grand poobahs of enforcement could take to make college athletics a better world in that regard.
It’s not that they can’t rewrite the regs to give themselves more authority to do something. John Infante has a few suggested changes you can read here. They’re fine as far as they go, but the real issue is whether the NCAA and the SEC have the stomachs to enforce them.
… NCAA president Mark Emmert discussed his organization’s ruling last week that reinstated Auburn quarterback Cam Newton without penalty, even though the NCAA said his father had solicited money from Mississippi State in exchange for his son signing a letter of intent. Emmert argued the facts, or the lack of them, compelled the NCAA’s decision, even as that decision “stretches credibility.”
“The burden of proof that we have to rely on before we make a decision that affects a university, a young man, a program, or a young woman in a program, is obviously greater than someone who writes in a blog or somebody who has heard a rumor or has a story,” said Dr. Emmert, speaking speaking before the commissioners.
I may write in a blog, but I’m not an idiot. No one contests that Cecil Newton had his hands out for a six-figure payment. We’re way past a burden of proof threshold. Far enough past it that even Emmert admits in a nice turn of phrase that the NCAA’s ruling “stretches credibility.” I’m curious what part of it remains credible.
For whatever reason, in this case college athletics’ organizing body and the SEC were reluctant to enforce the rules on the books (does anyone really believe that neither has ever pondered the issue of a parent or relative seeking bids for a student-athlete’s services before?). So what are a few new sentences in the guidebook going to do?
And I’m not sure that’s even necessary. Jim Delany, arguably the biggest prick in college athletics and a former NCAA investigator, has a suggestion that makes a lot of sense.
… Delany, a former NCAA investigator, said, “Nobody likes the facts of this case.” He suggested that the rule be changed to put the burden of proof on the future Auburns and future Newtons. That’s what the NCAA does in infractions cases. It has not been as demanding in eligibility cases.
“In the eligibility area, there’s a tendency to look at the welfare of the athlete,” Delany said. “I agree with that. But then it comes to a point where certain circumstances, certain facts emerge, then the reversal of that presumption is appropriate.”
What I like about that is it takes the decision out of the hands of parties that may be compromised by, shall we say, market forces and makes it the responsibility of those who have the most at stake to prove their hands are clean. Instead of having an incentive to cover up and hide (and I’m not saying that’s what occurred with the Newtons and Auburn, because I don’t know, obviously), the player and the school become obligated to prove that a violation didn’t take place.
It’s not a politically correct solution, though, which means it’s unlikely to see the light of day, Delany’s power notwithstanding. Emmert’s walking a tightrope here. He doesn’t have a lot of friends with the NCAA’s call and any attempt to offer a solution that is little more than window dressing is likely to be met with more skepticism. Or maybe something even stronger. We’ve still got showboating Congressmen out there, right?