Category Archives: The NCAA

Graduate transfer’s poster boy

I posted the other day about the Miami quarterback whose desire to transfer to another program as a graduate was being blocked to a significant extent by the school, i.e., Mark Richt and the athletic director.

It turns out the blockage is more cringeworthy than you might expect.  In fact, I’m not sure you could draw up a worse example of unfairness if you set out to try.  Consider the specifics:

If it’s really about education in that often-repeated NCAA manifesto that props up major-college athletics, Evan Shirreffs is having a hard time believing it.

Miami’s backup quarterback has fulfilled his obligation — the obligation the NCAA tells us — by getting his Business Finance degree in three years. Not only that, Shirreffs killed it in the classroom with a 3.9 GPA. Not surprising given that he had a 32 ACT score out of Jefferson High in Georgia, where Shirreffs was class valedictorian.

But as a graduate transfer, Shirreffs is leaving Miami with more than a degree. He is carrying a significant burden because he cannot go to the grad school of his choice. To make himself the best person he can be for next 50 or so years of his life, Shirreffs really wants to enroll in an elite MBA program.

But Miami has the leverage in his transfer, even after Shirreffs has fulfilled theobligation.

Miami has granted Shirreffs permission to contact other schools. But it has not granted an exemption to the one-year residency requirement (sitting out) at any ACC school or five nonconference opponents on the 2018 and 2019 schedules.

That list includes DukeVirginiaNorth CarolinaWake Forest and Boston College, all in the ACC, all with some of the finest MBA programs in the country.

In short, this kid really is transferring for the academics.  Toss in that Miami has an established starting quarterback who returns for 2018, add this for a topper…

… Shirreffs is now playing for a coaching staff that didn’t recruit him. Mark Richt replaced Al Golden in 2016, Shirreff’s redshirt freshman year.

… and here’s what you’re left with as a rationale for being a dick to a kid who’s done everything he’s been asked to do as a student-athlete.

AD Blake James told CBS Sports of his desire for “consistency” in denying Shirreffs. He has never released a student in a similar situation, why should he now? Student-athlete beware: The transfer policy is right there in the student-athlete handbook.

“You have 114 other guys on that team who have put in the work and made a commitment,” James said, “and you have someone that’s going to leave with the entire playbook and go to a team you’re going to play. To me, I struggle with that as well.”

Man, I hate that for you.

What an effing travesty.  These people ought to be ashamed of themselves, but it seems pretty clear that they don’t really have a sense of shame.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…

… was convincing the world that a YouTube video of a student-athlete throwing a football on the beach with his girlfriend was an NCAA violation.

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“For the first time ever in college athletics, the student-athlete is empowered.”

Dennis Dodd reports that yet another transfer proposal is in the works:

Athletes would be allowed to transfer schools without restriction if their coach were fired or left for another job as part of sweeping proposal that is making its way through Division I, CBS Sports has learned. However, athletes would not be permitted to follow the departing coach to their new program.

The proposal, which originated from the Big 12, would also allow athletes to transfer without sitting out a season (as currently mandated by NCAA rules) in the event a postseason ban is handed down by the NCAA as punishment to their program.

The traditional academic “year in residence” for transfers in all other situations would still be in place and extended to every sport. Presently, that is only a requirement in five NCAA sports.

Bill Connelly has the specific language.  Athletes would be able to transfer without sitting out as long as they met one of the following guidelines:

1. the student-athlete earned a baccalaureate degree at the original institution;

2. the student-athlete’s head coach at the original institution resigned or was fired during or after the most recent season of competition, except that the student-athlete is not immediately eligible at another institution at which the head coach is employed;

3. sanctions have been imposed on the original institution that limit post-season competition in the student-athlete’s sport;

4. the student-athlete did not receive athletically-related financial aid at the original institution; or

5. an exception in bylaw 14.5.5.2 or 14.5.6 is satisfied.

Dodd goes on to write, “Skeptics note it is merely a proposal, not the proposal.”, to which I can only say, no shit.  Coaches are unhappy with any loss of control over player transfers; can you imagine what the reaction of athletic directors will be to item no. 2?  Put it in a very understandable context:  how do you think Butts-Mehre would have handled the Richt dismissal if every player had the free opportunity to leave the program afterwards?  (No doubt Greg McGarity could have turned on his legendary charm and convinced the entire team to sit tight and trust him.)

So count me among the ranks of the skeptics.

The NCAA is stuck flailing around floating this stuff on a regular basis because on the one hand, it knows the transfer policy currently in effect is untenable, given how everyone else in collegiate sports can move without restriction by the organization, but on the other, is stuck promoting changes that those very same constituencies are going to oppose.  I’m sure it’s all meant with the best of intentions, though.

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But they meant well.

Wouldn’t this be one mother of a hoisted petard?

But the Redmond letter could complicate the NCAA’s investigatory efforts. For starters, Nassar’s victims who are already suing Michigan State and USA Gymnastics might seek to add the NCAA as a co-defendant. The victims could cite article 2.2 of the NCAA’s constitution—the same article that the NCAA has warned Michigan State about. The article makes clear that “intercollegiate athletics programs shall be conducted in a manner designed to protect and enhance the physical and educational well-being of student-athletes.” It would seem this language ought to bind the NCAA as much as it binds the schools the NCAA oversees. It certainly wouldn’t be a stretch for lawyers representing the victims to raise this type of argument.

If the NCAA becomes a co-defendant, it would be awkward, at a minimum, for the NCAA to investigate a fellow co-defendant, whose interests are not all aligned with the NCAA. Michigan State and the NCAA could seek to blame the other, along with USA Gymnastics, for any institutional liability for Nassar’s crimes. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to imagine how the NCAA could credibly conduct an investigation into Michigan State. A court might be asked to review such a topic.

Given the NCAA’s litigation track record, it would be an act of malpractice for anyone retained as plaintiff’s counsel not to consider in a serious way bringing the organization in as a defendant.  The Mark Emmert deposition alone would be worth it.

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Filed under See You In Court, The NCAA

Emmert defends Emmert.

If you didn’t think the NCAA president would lay low after the article in The Athletic asserting he had knowledge shortly after taking office that there was a sexual assault problem with Michigan State athletics, well, you’d be right.

A day after a report suggested the NCAA could have years ago looked into problems at Michigan State, President Mark Emmert said Saturday that sexual assault allegations against Spartans athletes in 2010 were “widely reported” and already being investigated by law enforcement and the school.

Emmert made the comments in an email to the NCAA Board of Governors and other university presidents. Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn provided Emmert’s email to The Associated Press.

If you’ve already gotten the hint that maybe this wasn’t the best defense, don’t let me convince you otherwise.

Emmert noted he met with the coalition’s Katherine Redmond and legal expert Wendy Murphy in November 2010. A letter sent by Emmert, dated Dec. 6 and addressed to Redmond and Parker, was also provided to AP. It detailed programs the NCAA was helping to implement on campuses to address sexual violence and student behavior, though it made no specific reference to Michigan State.

As for his role, Emmert told the NCAA board in his email: “The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials. Kathy did not imply that these were unreported cases or that she was acting as a whistleblower to report unknown information to the letter’s recipients.”

You see the holes there, don’t you?  If not, let the author of The Athletic piece spell out the first.

Evidently, if you don’t spell things out completely for Mark Emmert, he’s at a loss about what you want.  Obviously the many programs the NCAA sponsored at the time that Emmert mentioned in his response have had a great impact at member institutions like Baylor and Michigan State.

The other hole?  “The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials.”?  Really, that’s your defense for avoiding direct involvement?  Emmert wants to go there after tearing up the NCAA procedures manual to go at Penn State even as the Sandusky tragedy was being reported and investigated extensively?  If that was the standard at the time, why is the NCAA wading into what’s happened at Michigan State now?

This is the look of a fish flopping around on the shore, frantically trying to throw itself back into safe waters.  I can’t help but wonder what was going through Stacey Osburn’s mind when Emmert asked her to pass this on to the Associated Press.  If it was anything other than “geez, this isn’t going to end well”, she’s dumber than I thought.

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The enablers among us

I gather from the emails and comments I’ve already received that many of you have read the disheartening pieces at ESPN and The Athletic related to the unfurling scandal at Michigan State over sexual assault that appears to have permeated every level of sports administration from the coaching staffs at the school all the way to the upper reaches of the NCAA.  If you haven’t read them yet, by all means take the time to do so.

I suppose I should say at this point that it was almost a relief to find myself getting so angry as I read each.  It’s good to know that my jaded cynicism still has its limits.

That being said, there’s a huge difference here between being angry and being surprised.  And I am most assuredly not taken aback by the notion that powerful coaches of successful programs at best turned a blind eye and at worst… well,

Over the past three years, MSU has three times fought in court — unsuccessfully — to withhold names of athletes in campus police records. The school has also deleted so much information from some incident reports that they were nearly unreadable. In circumstances in which administrators have commissioned internal examinations to review how they have handled certain sexual violence complaints, officials have been selective in releasing information publicly. In one case, a university-hired outside investigator claimed to have not even generated a written report at the conclusion of his work. And attorneys who have represented accusers and the accused agree on this: University officials have not always been transparent, and often put the school’s reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.

Even MSU’s most-recognizable figures, football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo, have had incidents involving their programs, Outside the Lines has found.

Since Dantonio’s tenure began in 2007, at least 16 MSU football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women, according to interviews and public records obtained by Outside the Lines. Even more, Dantonio was said to be involved in handling the discipline in at least one of the cases several years ago. As recently as June, Dantonio faced a crowd of reporters who were asking questions about four of his football players who had been accused of sexual assault. Six questions in, a reporter asked Dantonio how he had handled such allegations previously.

“This is new ground for us,” Dantonio answered. “We’ve been here 11 years — it has not happened previously.”

Please don’t get me wrong here.  There are monsters among us who deserve everything the criminal justice system can throw at them.  Larry Nassar is a monster.  Jerry Sandusky is a monster.

But monsters don’t operate, don’t successfully seek out and find their prey over a number of years without institutional support, whether that comes from coaches protecting their programs, their reputations and their seven-figure annual salaries, or from administrators with similar motivations.

On Thursday, Outside the Lines reported that MSU officials in 2014 did not notify federal officials that the university had dual Title IX and campus police investigations of Nassar under way even though federal investigators were on campus that year scrutinizing how MSU dealt with sexual assault allegations. The Outside the Lines report also found that MSU administrators still have not provided to federal officials all documents related to the Nassar allegations.

Don’t overlook this part, either.

The previously unreported cases that Outside the Lines discovered include three reports of physical violence and three reported sexual assaults by football players. Each was investigated by campus police.

As part of a 2014 reporting effort spanning 10 universities, ESPN requested copies of all police reports involving football and basketball players from campus and local police departments over six seasons. In Michigan State’s case, the university supplied the reports but marked out the players’ names — something East Lansing police did not do. ESPN ultimately sued MSU for the release of material, and Michigan courts ruled that the school had violated the state’s open records laws, awarded ESPN the unredacted records, and told MSU to pay ESPN’s attorneys’ fees. When ESPN submitted a subsequent records request last year, MSU took the unusual step of proactively suing ESPN to defend its withholding of the documents. A judge, in dismissing the lawsuit, wrote that a public body filing suit against a requestor could create a “chilling effect” and dissuade people from requesting records in the first place.

The tl;dr version of that:

That a school president could be a part of something like that and turn around and confidently assert that “there is no cover-up” on her way out the door while collecting a large buyout should tell you all you need to know about the institutional attitude of Michigan State.

Of course, as the second linked piece indicates, the buck didn’t stop at the desk of MSU’s president.  No, this one managed to climb higher.  Much higher.

NCAA president Mark Emmert was specifically alerted in November 2010 — six months after he was hired as the organization’s president — to 37 reports involving Michigan State athletes sexually assaulting women.

Kathy Redmond, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, provided The Athletic with a copy of the letter she sent to Emmert urging him to better protect women with new, stronger gender violence policy measures.

In the letter, which was sent after Redmond and Emmert met in person in Indianapolis to discuss the topic, she specifically highlighted concerns about Michigan State. Emmert was unavailable for comment to The Athletic on Friday afternoon.

That sound you hear is that of wagons circling.

If you look up the word naive in the dictionary, it’s hard to improve upon this as a definitional example.

“Mark Emmert was brand new, and he’d initially said, ‘One sexual assault is one too many,’ ” Redmond told The Athletic on Friday. “As soon as I heard that, I thought I might have an ally.”

How’d that work out?

“What I really got from the experience with Mark Emmert was, that governing body governs him,” Redmond said. “He met with me, which was great and I appreciated that. But the governing board has an awful lot of power. … It’s a strange setup. You do kind of get the fox guarding the hen house mentality. You do feel like the NCAA doesn’t like to do investigations because they like their relationships (with university officials and conferences). I think Mark Emmert came in with the right tone but quickly realized, ‘There’s not a lot I can do here.’ ”

I think we just have seen the epitaph for Emmert’s NCAA career.

The thing unanswered here — you may have already thought of it yourself — is that less than two years later, Emmert himself is ripping up the NCAA procedures manual in an effort to bring Penn State to heel.  But crickets on Michigan State.  Until now.

I’ve already asked what Emmert thinks he can accomplish, given that events on the ground have moved quickly in the wake of Nassar’s conviction, but that question takes on a different perspective when Redmond asks it.

“What are they going to look at, exactly?” Redmond said. “We know they haven’t complied with federal law. They haven’t been helpful with investigations, we know that. … Mark Emmert, when he met with me, said the NCAA can’t be ‘state actors.’ So, what is the policy that he’s going for? Or is he looking to create a different one?”

Still, Redmond said she fully supports the NCAA getting involved at Michigan State now and, in particular, probing the welfare and safety of female athletes treated by Nassar. She hopes the NCAA can help and listen to others, even if it hasn’t listened to her policy ideas or her warnings in the past.

“They shouldn’t ignore the whistleblowers, or dismiss them,” Redmond said. “And they’ve done that.”

Why would anyone expect better, knowing what we know now?  The only way things change is if outside force is applied.

It is time to recognize that collegiate sports at the highest level are a fundamentally corrupt exercise.  Money, power and authority combine to make a toxic brew.  The NCAA exists as an institution to enforce the flow of cash to those with power and authority and away from those without.  It is there, in other words, to have the collective backs of conference commissioners, school presidents and athletic directors on the business side of things.  That’s it.  There’s nothing else there, despite protestations to the contrary by the Emmerts and Remys of the world.  To pretend that these institutions are imbued with some nobility of purpose that drives their actions in the athletics sector is to be even more naive than Kathy Redmond was.

One more point of naivete:  if you still believe that events at Penn State, Baylor and Michigan State are isolated incidents, you need to disabuse yourself of that notion and quickly.  Don’t kid yourself.  Power corrupts and there are a lot of powerful people in D-1 college athletics.

I’m not saying that those who enable monsters are more evil than the monsters they enable.  More disgusting, though?  Yeah, I could go there.

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Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment, The NCAA

Old dog, old tricks

Color me shocked, shocked by this:

The NCAA departed from custom — if not violated procedure — in announcing an investigation against Michigan State, several sources indicated to CBS Sports.

Primarily, the NCAA seemingly deviated from a general principle in speaking to the New York Times about the beginning of an investigation. On Tuesday, the Times quoted an NCAA statement that read, “The N.C.A.A. has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding potential N.C.A.A. rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State. We will have no further comment at this time.”

“It’s like FBI announcing it’s going to investigate,” said Sue Carter, Michigan State’s former faculty athletic representative.

The NCAA typically does not announce letters of inquiry, the process by which a preliminary investigation begins into wrongdoing. In doing so at Michigan State, the NCAA seemingly violated its own bylaw 19.5.2 which pertains to public statements: “The enforcement staff shall not publicly confirm or deny the existence of an infractions case before complete resolution of the case …”

But how would we learn that Mark Emmert’s heart remains pure?

If anything, this move appears like an even more futile gesture than his sanctioning of Penn State was, because the authorities — excuse me, the relevant authorities — have already stepped up.

The same criticisms of NCAA overreach have surfaced with the Michigan State case. Critics have wondered why the NCAA is moving in — once again — to a criminal case that has been adjudicated.

Nassar has been sent away basically for life after pleading guilty to widespread sexual abuse of gymnasts. President Lou Anna Simon has resigned. Carter, a journalism professor, resigned her FAR position in response to Michigan State’s handling of the Nassar situation.

“I don’t think the NCAA is set up to investigate this type of thing,” Potuto said. “Look, Simon has resigned. The state legislature is after it. It isn’t as though the faculty hasn’t spoken up or the students haven’t spoken up …

“If this is indeed [going to be pursued], as member associations we need to talk about it, write some bylaws and have something to tag institutions with if the institution has responsibility.”

Eh, that’s too much like work.  Emmert wants to feel good now.  Who cares about the aftermath?

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