Category Archives: The NCAA

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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Filed under Crime and Punishment, The NCAA

Babes in the woods

I’m not saying that Nick Saban’s gentle “I think the road we’re going down right now is not always best for the players that are making decisions to go out early” criticism of college players who elect for early entry in the NFL draft is off-base, or that Saban himself is full of shit for making it, but when you prohibit these same players — many of whom come from impoverished backgrounds — starting from the beginning of the recruiting process all the way through the decision to submit to the draft from being allowed to engage professional advisors to look out for their best interests, what do you expect?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA, The NFL Is Your Friend.

This should end well.

“We are always mindful of the voices around college athletics,” Remy said. “and we strive to do the right thing.”

The NCAA has formally opened an investigation into how Michigan State handled Lawrence G. Nassar’s serial sexual assault of female athletes.  Why do I have the feeling this is more about Mark Emmert’s ego responding to the obvious comparison of this situation to his epic mishandling of Penn State in the Sandusky matter than about possible violations of organizational bylaws?  Speaking of which, why should anyone expect Emmert to do any better the second time around?

I ask none of this because I think the MSU administration is beyond reproach.  Quite the contrary.  But I fear we’re about to be reminded again how ill-equipped Mark Emmert is to dispense meaningful justice within the confines of established rules and procedures.  Not that he’s likely to care.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, The NCAA

Pay to stay

So, a record 112 underclassmen have declared for this year’s NFL draft.  Obviously, not all of them will be drafted.  Obviously, that’s nothing new, either.

Since 2014, when NFL draft evaluations changed for juniors, almost a third (31.6 percent) of those declaring have gone undrafted. Using that ratio, a record 37 underclassmen won’t be drafted in April.

Dodd blames that on “a growing trend of bad advice, rampant agent runners and simply bad choices by some players.”  I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that.  But let’s not forget where a lot of that starts:  on the recruiting trail, where high schoolers are routinely reassured that the school making the current pitch will be their best path to professional success.

So you’ll have to pardon me a bit if I can’t get as worked up about the trend as those with more vested interests do.

It’s a trend that long ago got the attention of college and NFL types. The total number of undrafted underclassmen since 2014 (118) is roughly equal to the roster size of the average FBS program.

“Whether or not you want to believe it or not, there are a lot of people in these kids’ ear,” new Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said. “There are even more people in their families’ ear that really don’t understand, financially, you can play your way into a lot more money.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban has railed for years about the influence of agents — both legitimate and sleazy.

“If a guy didn’t get drafted in the first or second round, he should have kept his butt in school,” Saban said last summer.

Yeah, well, let me make a radical suggestion here.  How many of those kids do you suppose would have elected to stay in school instead of chasing a dream if the NCAA did away with the amateurism protocol it so slavishly defends?  And for those of you who think paying players would ruin college football, is losing talented kids at a greater rate every year really a better alternative?

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Filed under Georgia Football, The NCAA, The NFL Is Your Friend.

Today, in “I think it’s really the right thing for student-athletes.”

The NCAA’s Division I autonomy group finally gets around to mandating medical coverage for student-athletes after they leave school.

Medical coverage and mental health benefits for athletes who suffered injuries or sought help during their college careers was extended for at least two years after they leave campus. The proposal passed by 78-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from an ACC school. Wake Forest’s representative did not attend because of what was believed to be weather-related travel issues.

Each institution will be able to create its own policies for who qualifies for the new two-year requirement. Many but not all of the 65 Power Five conference members already provide post-career medical coverage, including the Pac-12, which has a four-year mandate.

Yep, there’s a school out there that voted against that proposal, which, as you can see by the Pac-12’s policy, doesn’t really go far enough.

It’s an open question whether the moves by the wealthiest conferences leads to similar changes in other leagues. Schools with less money may find the insurance costs prohibitive unless the NCAA pitches in.

“Maybe that is the discussion or a proposal that comes forward,” Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork said.

Gee, that would be nice.  Maybe Mark Emmert can shake some loose change out of the March Madness couch to make up the difference.

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Filed under The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

Mark Emmert, tower of courage

It appears we’ve come a long way from Penn State, baby.

So much for all that moral leadership bullshit.

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Filed under The NCAA