Andy Staples points out something I’ve wondered about ever since Todd Gurley got nailed for taking $3000 in improper benefits… or, really, since AJ Green and his $1,000.
… From a public relations standpoint, a harsh penalty with no new allegations will satisfy Mississippi State fans and Alabama fans. But outside the fanbases whose schools play Ole Miss on an annual basis, it would appear the NCAA is decimating a program over a little more than $15,000 in extra benefits. Among those with no dog in the hunt, such sanctions will play quite differently in 2016 than they would have in 2006 or even in 2010. Freeze and every other coach in the SEC West make at least $4 million a year. The SEC rakes in millions from its network partnership with ESPN. The general public no longer views a few hundred dollars here and there—or a few hotel stays*, as the Notice of Allegations alleges—as sins that could bring down the republic.
In the context of things, he’s got a point. There’s so much money washing over college football these days, including the now-permitted COA stipend paid to players; how pushy do you really want to get over a relatively piddling amount?
On the other hand, there’s that damned slippery slope to consider.
… But if the COI doesn’t hammer Ole Miss, the people within the programs with skin in the game could view any leniency as a tacit approval to bring back Southwest Conference-style bidding wars. In its own way, the Ole Miss case might be as much of a referendum on the NCAA’s ever-shifting definition of amateurism as any of the cases currently circulating through the federal court system.