Mark Emmert’s “Pandora’s Box”

Matt Hayes pretty much nails the NCAA’s new problem:

But there’s no avoiding academic fraud; no escape from what it exposes and how it jeopardizes the lifeblood of a multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt industry. There’s no denying the reality that if this unthinkable case of academic fraud is happening at North Carolina, where else is it hiding?

It’s easy to get emotional about a pedophile, and make snap decisions in the name of children. It resonates with everyone and produces instant credibility—no matter how skewed the process.

What happens when Emmert has to make a real decision? What happens when the very existence of college sports comes into play and the general public isn’t as engaged as Joe Sixpack was with Penn State?

Hayes is right about the reaction to child rape being an easy one, but there’s another reason that’s the case.  It’s rare, relatively speaking.  There aren’t a bunch of Jerry Sanduskys running around with schools casting blind eyes to that.

Academic scandals, however?  That cuts a lot closer to home in a lot more places.  My bet is Emmert cuts back on the self-righteousness big time, assuming he’s even moved to do something about North Carolina in the first place.


Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA

60 responses to “Mark Emmert’s “Pandora’s Box”

  1. ChicagoDawg

    I swore I wouldn’t get baited into another Sandusky/Emmert/PSU/Sky is Falling debate, but are we really suggesting because the NCAA has not punished academic fraud in a sufficient way they should not hammer an instituion that enabled child rape? Really?

    • C’mon, man, you can do better than that. You know that’s not what’s being suggested here.

      What we’re suggesting is that Emmert is FOS.

      • ChicagoDawg

        Then just say that. That is my point. It has become gratuitous.

        • The problem I have with your point of view here is that Emmert set the standard with the PSU sanctions. As Hayes put it,

          When he announced crippling sanctions against Penn State, when he stuck the governing body’s nose in a legal action, Emmert made it clear that he alone had been given power to ignore due process and NCAA bylaws to protect “the foundation of amateur sports.”

          Skipping the due process part, how do you call Emmert out for his bullshit without referring to the justification he gave himself to act?

          • ChicagoDawg

            Because the cases are false equivalents first and foremost. Secondarily, if we are to adopt the point being made then we must conclude Emmert and the NCAA are forever disqualified from dealing with any future matters. We may like to say that in a snarky way, but we are left with the reality that the NCAA is at the party and they are not likely to go home anytime soon.

            • Hayes isn’t comparing the two. He’s simply arguing that Emmert has imbued himself with the power to act on a grandiose scale and that academic fraud should be an issue that Emmert responds to if he was serious about his rhetoric. That’s the opposite of arguing that the NCAA is disqualified from acting against North Carolina to set an example.

              • ChicagoDawg

                You know good and well what the Sanduskyreference is being used for here. To suggest it is not being used as a cudgel is to disingenuous. It was easy to go after PSU, but this is hard therefore Emmert is a d-bag and will avoid it. Had Sanduskynever existed do you think Emmert would deal with academicfraud in a more suitable fashion? Or, would he kick the can like the NCAA has for decades, because it is pervasive? Again, the Sanduskystuff cheapensthe dialogue on this topic, but it is irresistable fodder.

    • Hogbody Spradlin

      Or, are you suggesting that Emmert’s judgment about North Carolina is going to be tougher and cloudier because he suspects a LOT more schools are doing the same thing?

  2. Scorpio Jones, III

    The NCAA, or Mark Emmert if you can’t get your head around the idea he’s only the messenger, has always avoided making too big a deal out of academic fraud. It is, for one thing, hard to prove, especially if the school makes a real effort to disguise the problem. If you are using Carolina as a point of judgement you may have to wait a while, the more investigation there is, the longer the problems seem to have existed.

    If you are saying academic fraud in one form or another….changing high school transcripts, for instance, has become institutionalized through out college football, I tend to agree, but this is a long fight for the NCAA and administrators everywhere….it’s not like the problem just appeared, you know….Tennessee….cough, cough Jan Kemp cough cough.

    And policing the problem is further complicated by a school’s being within its rights to create a “jock class” or two. The NCAA can not keep a school from doing this, all it can do is make sure the class is actually taught and grades are actually earned by athletes…this won’t solve the problem.

    So in a sense, picking at “Mark Emmert” cause you can’t type NCAA is easy, why don’t you pick at something the “Mark Emmert” can do something about in our lifetimes. Like extra benefits.

    • Because Emmert’s doing the talking.

      And what’s going on at North Carolina isn’t your typical case. It’s massive, perhaps criminal (the state is investigating some aspects of it). If this isn’t something that Emmert can step up and grandstand about in the name of changing the culture, it’s hard to see how he’s truly serious about it.

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        I beg to differ that Carolina is not your typical case.

        The main difference between this and other cases equally massive I could name is that some people at Carolina seem to be surprised enough to check the records. In other words the football coach did not have everyone all in at Carolina.

        If Carolina seems massive to you it is because the records actually exist.

        I hope you understand the Carolina situation is really not much different in scope from what happened at Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia and (horrors) Notre Dame under Lou Holtz, and the beat goes on.

        Carolina, to borrow an SOD analogy, is like the German army…they kept good records of the bad things they did.

        Most other folks don’t.


      “picking at “Mark Emmert” cause you can’t type NCAA is easy, ”

      Emmert used executive powers to punish Penn State. You’re missing the reality by a light year if you think he’s some kind of hired narrator or wizard of oz talking head hologram.

  3. DawgPhan

    Sad that the good senator felt the need to say that Matt Hayes pretty much nailed anything. That article is far more hackish than the Mr.CFB article.

    Rape and easy classes are not the same thing. No amount of easy classes is going to be equal to 20 years of raping children. PSU was not treated unfairly, they agreed to the penalties. If you plead guilty is it really hard to claim you didnt get a fair trial.

    • One more time: Hayes isn’t making the case that the two situations are equivalent. He’s saying that if Emmert is serious about attacking the culture – that was his ultimate justification for action against PSU, right? – then what’s going on at UNC justifies NCAA involvement.

      • DawgPhan

        And I guess my point is, is the NCAA not involved? Are they not investigating? Have they not been investigating for at least the past year. Didnt several coaches lose their job over the investigation? The issue seems to be that since PSU was rightly, justifiably, and swiftly hammered that now all infractions regardless of their severity need to be met with the same swiftness and intensity.
        Every case should be treated fairly and on it’s own merit. What happened at PSU has nothing to do with what may or may not have happened at UNC and should UNC be found guilty I am sure that the NCAA will extract their pound of flesh.

        Hayes is just a hyperbolic hack looking for clicks. UNC situation might be bad, but we now have seen what real bad looks like…and UNC doesnt look real bad.

        • You are confusing the agent debacle at UNC with the academic scandal.

          • DawgPhan

            Wasnt part of the agent investigation where the whole Hakeen Nicks was ineligible because of academics thing came from? Also a part of the agent investigation was improper academic assistance. Seems like this is more an example of the limited scope of NCAA oversight. Isn’t this how these things always play out…they go looking for one thing, and uncover something entirely different?

            Regardless, what makes anyone think that the NCAA isnt going to involve themselves in this situation again?

      • Scorpio Jones, III

        Of course you are right, the Emmert should be involved at Carolina and who is to say they won’t be at some point…but the school can’t even figure out yet how long the fraud had been going on…shouldn’t the Emmert let them do that before they drop the hammer?


          I think the point of the post, though, is this:
          1. Emmert showed in the Penn State case that, to your point, they’re fine punishing a school without doing a full (or, really, any) investigation. The justification here is that from a PR perspective it’s important to take swift action for the betterment of the NCAA brand.
          2. Emmert showed in the Penn State case, to DawgPhan’s comment: “Seems like this is more an example of the limited scope of NCAA oversight.” — that there is no such thing as a limited scope of the NCAA, and that the NCAA can act on and punish for anything that they deem is related to the “culture of college athletics”, which is, of course, anything.

  4. Scorpio Jones, III

    And a further thought. The individual schools may have very different individual academic missions. Thus very different types of academic requirements. What might be construed as bad teaching practices at a private school, or even fraud, might be perfectly acceptable at a big state school, considering the vast differences in academic culture and the academic needs of the student body.

    With the limited investigative power the Emmert actually has, unless the school has an academic death wish, or, in the case of Carolina the academic moral high ground to defend, it is almost impossible for the Emmert to change this culture I would think.


      You’re missing the point. Emmert very publicly refuted the argument many had before the Penn State case that the NCAA “can’t” do whatever they want, or that they need any kind of investigation. Penn State was punished, and rightfully so, even though the NCAA did zero independent research or investigation and broke no specific NCAA rules. (They used the Freer report, which by the way did zero interviews with the five main culprits in this case.)

      The point people are trying to make is that by doing that, he can’t within weeks turn around and throw his hands up saying “sorry we don’t have specific jurisdiction here,” because in the Penn State case he made it very clear they don’t actually feel that way.

  5. Connor

    In my opinion the PSU and UNC issues are very similar. They are both symptoms of the same disease. You can’t dismiss widespread fraud and administrative coverups of one kind and then be surprised when those same administrators perpetrate a fraud or coverup you’re less comfortable with. Corruption breeds corruptions. Every football/basketball school knows better than to go nosing into the classes their atheletes are taking, or the transcripts they submitted from high school, or the suits they are wearing or the cars they are driving, or all the tattoo’s they are getting… because they won’t like the answers. It’s the kind of environment that allows a Jerry Sandusky or a Nevin Shapiro free reign because no one wants to be responsible for actually policing it. Emmert can get on his high-horse when it turns out the crime being covered up was something as visceral as Sandusky’s, but let’s not pretend he did a thing to “change the culture.”


      Thank you. The NCAA’s pivot foot was planted very squarely on the concept that Penn State’s “culture” was completely poisoned. They were pervasively breaking the very tenants the NCAA wants to stand for. I agree it’s similar to claim that kind of leadership failure at PSU is similar in this particular context to dozens of people at UNC conspiring to circumvent the fundamental concept of college sports, which is that the athletes are also students (and therefore can’t be paid, ect.).

      And yes, all the smart people in here, I understand this isn’t child rape. We should all pat ourselves on the back for being smart enough to point that out.

  6. Always Someone Else's Fault

    That’s the beauty of language and metaphor. Hayes can say that a no-show class is the same thing as raping a child. A congressman from West Virginia can say a smoking ban is the same thing as gassing Jews and burning the bodies. They can assert these things all day long and try to persuade us that these things are, underneath all the seeming differences, the exact same thing.

    And we can laugh at them.

    Hayes et al are going to do this for a year or two – trot out PSU whenever a scandal and demand that Emmert use his “new found power” or be exposed as a hypocrite. That’s because they opposed PSU action in the first place and want to expose what they consider the absurdity of it. It’s just fighting that lost battle over and over again. Must be a Southern thing (and I’m Southern, so spare me the responses).

    The NCAA members see the NCAA as an athletic organization. They are never going to give the NCAA powers to accredit anything on the academic side, because it’s an athletic consortium, not an academic accrediting body. That power belongs in this case to SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools). If SACS accredits UNC, and if UNC vouches for the classes, then the NCAA cannot do a thing.

    I kind of get amused when one day we’re up in arms over a college coach making an academic recommendation to a kid – because those should be separate things – but the NCAA can tell a university what is and isn’t acceptable course design and course work.

    Did UNC game the system? Sure they did. And there isn’t squat the NCAA can do about it. At Florida State, they had hard evidence that the athletic department personnel were doing course work for athletes and providing answers to tests – easy, black and white fraud.

    But at Georgia and Tennessee, the NCAA walked away from larger academic scandals because those ultimately came down to its academic standards – and that’s an issue between a college and its academic accrediting organization, not a college and its athletic accrediting organization.

    But that article doesn’t get Mr. Hayes very many page views, does it?

    • But at Georgia and Tennessee, the NCAA walked away from larger academic scandals because those ultimately came down to its academic standards – and that’s an issue between a college and its academic accrediting organization, not a college and its athletic accrediting organization.

      Ironically, Penn State’s accrediting organization is now calling them into question.

      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        But this has nothing to do with academics! No Middlestates rules were broken! Leave it to the courts!

        I jest. Lesson: when senior management covers up child rape, everyone wants their pound of flesh.


        Also ironically, Penn State has had some of the best academic performances from their football team than any other major football program over the past 50 years.

    • Hackerdog

      If I say that an accused jaywalker and an accused child rapist each has the right to due process under the 6th amendment, I am obviously not equating jaywalking with child rape. It amazes me that so few people are capable of understanding that.

      Similarly, the NCAA bylaws state that all institutions have the right to the different due process set out in the NCAA bylaws. But obviously that shouldn’t apply to PSU.

      If child rape is the only crime that the NCAA will throw its bylaws out the window for, then why not amend the bylaws to state such? If the NCAA isn’t willing to do that, then Emmert has just established himself as the dictator of college sports who keeps urging us all to trust him.

      And, as the Senator has pointed out, the new dictator doesn’t have much of an appetite for furthering the core mission of the NCAA.

      • Gravidy

        So you’re not one of the “ends justify the means” guys, huh? Good for you.

      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        PSU waived that right. Why is that so difficult for people to get that?

        “They were coerced.” You could make that argument with every plea bargain ever made by the legal system. If it’s good enough to put someone in jail for the rest of their life with no possibility of parole, I fail to see how it becomes a Cosmic Injustice in this instance.

        The NCAA did not throw out its by-laws. It came to an alternative agreement with PSU, which they mutually agreed upon. If PSU had exercised its rights under the by-laws, the NCAA would have accepted that position. Again – how is this a violation of due process? It’s a voluntary suspension of it that you don’t like – but that doesn’t make it a violation. A violation would be imposing the penalties without obtaining PSU’s agreement or against PSU’s stated wish to go through normal by-law procedures.

        Cojones nailed it – the NCAA cannot and will not get into the business of judging what is and isn’t a college course. That’s for universities, accrediting agencies, and state legislatures. The NCAA can and will get into the business of member athletic programs covering up heinous felonies in order to protect an athletic brand.

        • Scorpio Jones, III

          I don’t understand why it seems to be so hard for people to understand how Penn State got their punishment?

          Maybe, ASEF, it is just too hard to get the mind around what happened in Happy Valley so you try to equate it with something like cheating on recruiting.

          Folks, there is no precedent for judging what was an unprecedented situation at Penn State….Hayes or anyone else who tries to do that is showing their intelligence….to be low.


          “PSU waived that right.”

          This isn’t what happened. Penn State was given two options, the PSU president has publicly stated so — (1) accept the current punishment and not be given due process as stated under NCAA bylaws, or (2) be given a four year death penalty and not be given due process as stated under NCAA bylaws, except keep the right to “appeal,” which the NCAA would just deny without due process.

          Explain to me how this means Penn State was given the option of due process as stated under NCAA bylaws.

          • Always Someone Else's Fault

            PSU: “We’re not accepting these penalties. We go through all the normal COI procedures, or we sue.”

            PSU waived that right and all others when they signed the consent decree. The consent decree expressly states that they are waiving their rights to pursue remedy through an NCAA appeals process or the legal system. You can complain about the NCAA setting those standards. You can complain about Erickson accepting. What you cannot do is call it a violation of due process. It violates your sense of decorum, perhaps, but nothing else.

            A solid, well-written summary from an expert on such things….



              That article is explaining that Penn State doesn’t have a right to due process because the NCAA doesn’t have to provide it. This makes your comparison to a murder suspect in a court of law totally inaccurate, which it is. That’s my point. Penn State had no real recourse (appealing to the NCAA, you think that is an actual process? this is not in any way like appealing to a higher court, you’ve jot Emmert making a decision, and then you saying “but that’s not fair, we appeal,” and then Emmert is the guy who decides whether to overturn his own decision or not — and no Penn State was not likely to get the NCAA bylaw process for appeals, because they weren’t given the NCAA bylaw process of an investigation, because the NCAA decided this case warranted throwing out all of the bylaws — there are no “experts” on this type of thing because it’s not in any way following any precedent the NCAA has ever set).

            • Hackerdog

              You’ve missed the point of that article. It’s making the argument, which is a stupid argument, that NCAA “due process” isn’t the same as Sixth Amendment “due process,” since the NCAA isn’t a governmental agency. Nobody has argued that.

              The due process that we refer to is the framework that the NCAA agreed to use in its contract with member institutions. And the article agrees that the NCAA bypassed all of that due process.

              Then, it argues that, since none of us are PSU, we can’t challenge the NCAA’s findings. Which is, again, stupid. I’m not prepared to take the NCAA to court over this. I have no standing. But I can certainly disapprove and call a spade a spade.

              • Always Someone Else's Fault

                We’re not arguing about whether you called it a spade. We’re arguing about calling it a violation. We can now descend into a discussion about all of the possible permutations available to the word “violation” in this context, but why bother?

                I never said you couldn’t challenge the NCAA’s actions. You’re free to call them whatever you want. But characterizing the NCAA’s actions here as unilateral on Emmert’s part, or illegal within the bounds of their own charters, is an incomplete representation. People are going to call you on it. You’re free to call them on their calls. And so it goes.

                • Hackerdog

                  We’re not even arguing over calling it a violation. We’re arguing over whether an NCAA investigation is necessary before determining that violations occurred and assigning sanctions. According to you and the NCAA, it’s not.

                  Again, even your source agrees that the NCAA circumvented its own bylaws and due process. If you really want to throw the NCAA bylaws out the window and hand unlimited power to Mark Emmert, then I’ll simply disagree with you.

        • Hackerdog

          Yes, some plea bargains may be seen as coercive. The difference is that the actors are acting within the framework of the law. If a prosecutor is given discretion to seek a fine or to seek jail time, he can offer leniency within his discretion. What he can’t do is threaten a speeder with the death penalty unless he pays his ticket.

          Now, you may say that a prosecutor using an unauthorized threat of the death penalty is simply coming to an alternative agreement, which is mutually agreed upon by the defendant. I disagree.

          As for what the NCAA will, and will not, get into, you have much more faith in Mark Emmert than I do.

          • Always Someone Else's Fault

            “unauthorized” — there’s that insinuation again that something illegal or outside the NCAA’s charter occurred here. The Board approved Emmert’s actions. The plea deal and alternatives were authorized.

            • Hackerdog

              So, you’re saying that, if a judge illegally approves a prosecutor threatening a speeder with the death penalty, then everything’s cool? Again, I disagree.

              According to NCAA bylaws, only special legislation could give Emmert the power that he exercised. The fact that a board approved his actions doesn’t change the bylaws.

  7. DawgPhan

    I am not going to read the entire release by UNC but this quote from ESPN sums it up for me.

    “The school has confirmed that every student (and student-athlete) who got a grade in the suspect classes turned in assigned work, he said. The classes were open to all students, he added.”

    This isnt a case of fake classes, forged transcripts or any other way it is being reported. These are easy classes at a university and is a UNC issue and not a NCAA issue. It is the same as the Auburn Sociology classes or the Harrick Jr. Basketball principles class. There is nothing wrong with having easy classes. It is also not an NCAA issue to get involved in. If students signed up for classes, turned in the work and got grades, that is perfectly fine. End of story. This is not like PSU at all, there is no cover up, because there is nothing to cover up.

    The NCAA should not be investigating this issue. I am sure that they are aware of what is going on and if they fell that grades were changed, or that teachers were pressured by Ath. Dept. employees to manipulate the system, then there could be a violation, but right now this is nothing.

    • Cojones

      Nothing to the NCAA. It should be everything to UNC and all other Universities who dilute their academics in order to field a football or any other kind of team. The tail wagging the dog in academics is a pornographic horror film for academic standards. In the case of my University I want it investigated and stopped from within. Placing the mantle on the NCAA’s shoulders for resolution is folly. Only the University can rachet up pride of excellence in academic standards.

  8. DawgPhan

    Oh and Emmert has already changed the culture. I believe that Honey Badger is one of the first of many SAs that will feel the weight of that culture change. I think that without PSU honey badger probably plays this season.

    • The Lone Stranger

      If The Badger had only read the tea leaves during his recruitment to the school formerly headed by The Emmert…

  9. The Lone Stranger

    And now for something completely different … w/ Hayes in mind, does anyone know if Sporting News still puts out a preseason CFB mag? It does not exist where I am.

  10. 69Dawg

    PSU not withstanding, you will not clean up college football until the NCAA adopts the policy that a sports agent said they should. The school compliance staff needs to be NCAA employees reporting directly. It’s hard to blow the whistle on your school when you know your going to get fired first. The problem with this is that there would be a lot of schools that would get punished at first until the under the table stuff is stopped.

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      There is a semblance of that at Penn State….the school is paying for an outside compliance officer….but can you imagine say….Mike Adams putting up with that? I don’t think so.