Andy Staples asks a pertinent question.
Every time something new surfaces in the Baylor scandal, a question follows. Where is the NCAA? Another question typically follows that one. When is Baylor getting the death penalty?
The answer shouldn’t surprise anyone. (At least it doesn’t surprise me.)
This explanation will prompt another question. But what about Penn State? The answer is NCAA president Mark Emmert screwed up with Penn State in 2012. Led by Emmert, the NCAA sidestepped its normal disciplinary process to hammer Penn State’s football program with sanctions following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Emmert caved to public outcry without considering whether his organization’s own rules even allowed the punishment. Spoiler alert: They probably didn’t. After Pennsylvania’s treasurer and representatives of Joe Paterno’s estate sued, the NCAA wound up walking back the penalties, and the organization was further embarrassed when Oregon State president Ed Ray, the chair of the committee that issued the penalties, admitted he couldn’t even be bothered to read the Freeh Report, the investigation upon which the sanctions were based, while on vacation.
So that’s why the NCAA won’t hammer the Baylor football program for acts far more heinous than people (allegedly) giving people money for being good at football at Ole Miss or people (allegedly) creating fake classes so some athletes could keep playing sports at North Carolina. The NCAA, an organization made up of universities with rules made by the universities, is not equipped to handle things that matter far more than the trifles it typically polices.
Which brings us to the most important question: Why isn’t it?
Because the schools are only so moronic.
The schools, which once banned cream cheese for bagels, had a chance after the Penn State debacle to alter the NCAA’s rules to allow the organization to take on more serious matters. They could have added language to their Unethical Conduct bylaw—their catch-all rule—that would have made athletic department employees who failed to report an allegation of violence (sexual or otherwise) against another person by anyone under their purview guilty of a violation. The schools could have added language that any program that benefitted from such a cover-up can be hit with further sanctions. Such changes, which could have been made within a year or two of the Penn State mistake, might have allowed for NCAA sanctions in the Baylor case* depending on the timeline.
*The NCAA could conceivably punish Baylor for violations of recruiting or extra benefit rules. There certainly were plenty of accusations on those fronts during the Briles era, but nothing has been proven at this point. When one Baylor basketball player murdered another in 2003 and coach Dave Bliss told his players to lie about the dead player, the NCAA did punish the program. Not for the truly awful stuff, but because Bliss was paying two players—including murder victim Patrick Dennehy—to act as walk-ons to get around NCAA scholarship limits.
But the leaders of the schools chose not to give the NCAA that power. Why? Perhaps they didn’t want the NCAA’s occasionally inept enforcement department messing around in cases far more important in the grand scheme than whether a coach made too many phone calls to a recruit. Perhaps they felt the existing state and federal laws were enough. Perhaps they feared the next scandal would pop up at their school and didn’t want to give the NCAA the option to gut a cash cow football program.
Or perhaps they didn’t want to give Mark Emmert a new framework from which to overstep his boundaries.
I warned at the time that Emmert was engaged in a disastrous ends justify the means mindset, and that ignoring established guidelines because it felt good in the moment would eventually come back to bite him and the NCAA in the ass. Well, here we are.
As a bastion of moral superiority, the NCAA looks bad in hindsight in its dealings with Penn State and looks bad with its present inaction regarding Baylor. Well played, Mark.