Cheating, pushing the envelope and competitive advantage

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?


Filed under College Football, Recruiting, The NCAA

8 responses to “Cheating, pushing the envelope and competitive advantage

  1. DawgPhan

    Seems like the bar was set purposely low. Just because a program had an infraction one year and won a title many years later doesn’t imply that the championship was impacted by the infraction.


    • Go Dawgs!


      So if School X won the National Championship in 1973, but was found guilty of a major violation in 1998, the ’73 championship is suddenly tainted?


  2. Chuck

    The question that comment raised for me was: is leveling the playing field the business of the NCAA? I thought that member institutions are schools, and that amateur status is what the NCAA seeks to preserve, but when the discussion begins to be about competitive advantage it sounds like their mission has evolved into something more than keeping them amateurs; that the goal is to make everything even. That seems like a hopeless goal. No wonder they are seen as failures.


  3. DawgnAub

    “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.”
    I disagree, this in fact can have quite a positive on competitive impact. The situation described here could very easily impact a school’s reputation among recruits. For example, if player 1 who plays for team A gets after enrollment benefits and is the host (or friend or roommate of the host) for player 2 (a recruit) on a visit, wouldn’t you think words like, “man they take care of you here, just keep your head down/mouth shut, then here is how it works….”? I completely believe this is how it has worked at the village on the plains in the past.


  4. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Like it or not cheating works. That’s why the cheaters do it. See Auburn, 2010.


    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Let me add to the above that, individual yearly analysis aside, if you look at the programs that have been ultra successful over the long haul, there is clearly evidence that the cheaters come out on top. See Bama, Auburn, Miami, SMU (before the death penalty), Texas A&M, Southern Cal and tOSU. You don’t have to be a football genius to connect the dots.I would add UT to that list but they haven’t been successful enough to make it despite their cheating.


  5. Corbindawg

    The problem with the USC logic in my opinion is waiting until a PSA is enrolled to give them benefit may not sway them, but it could encourage future players to sign that they might recieve benefit in the future.

    A player’s family may not get a house until after they sign, but that might encourage people to sign in the future to get the same benefit. If I remember correctly, it is like with Suzanne Yoculan a few years ago taking recent graduates to NYC for the weekend on Leeburn’s private jet. The question is if you come to Georgia, after a 4 years, will you get a free trip to NYC? It gets fuzzy.


    • Don Leeburn

      WTF do you think you are talking about asshole? You better not let me catch you or else you’ll be talking out of another part of your anatomy when I get through with you. (Come on Suzanne. Lets get the f*ck outta here before I have to open up a can of whip-ass on this turd. Bring the scotch with you.)