Does the NCAA Need Stronger Enforcement Mechanisms? Difficult Times Call For Radical Solutions…

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 20th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

The college athletic franchise has long championed itself as a strictly “amateur” system, with financial compensation for athletes standing as one of the cardinal sins behind an elaborate and unwieldy set of rules and regulations. The legislation preventing such illicit activity is diverse and wide-ranging, and several prominent athletic programs have been subjected to its punitive aptitude in the past decade. USC football received heavy sanctions in June 2010 including a two-year postseason ban and severe scholarship reductions as a result of a pay-for-play scandal surrounding former star running back Reggie Bush. Connecticut men’s basketball lost its head coach, Jim Calhoun, for three games last season among other restrictive penalties for recruiting violations committed during the pursuit of highly-touted shooting guard Nate Miles. The list of transgressions in the past few years alone is considerable, but the retributive measures have done little to prevent other programs from repeating previous mistakes and inventing new ways to game the system. College sports’ amateurism label is continually disgraced by programs willing to risk punishment for the end result of competitive advantage, whether that is through recruiting violations, pay-for-play, or some combination therein. And the NCAA, for all its intricately defined policing mechanisms and retributive wherewithal, remains largely impotent in preventing forbidden activity.

As Hargett’s Saga Shows, The NCAA’s Penalty Structure Has Been Problematic Dating Back Many Years

Instances of NCAA rule-breaking are revealed with frequent regularity, but the organization’s monitoring policies have done little to stem the tide of illicit behavior in the world of power conference athletics. The lawless activity has remained a fixture in the seedy underground world of college hoops recruiting, from Michigan’s dealings with booster Ed Martin to USC’s illegal recruitment of O.J. Mayo to UConn’s mishap with Miles. On Saturday, The New York Times‘ Pete Thamel provided another excellent example of the prevalent and deep-rooted iniquity that goes part and parcel with the process of courting the nation’s top high school players. In fact, his story takes us back more than a decade ago and offers up detailed insight for just how pervasive and systematically entrenched the criminal activity has become. Jonathan Hargett, who is now serving a nearly five-year sentence on drug charges after a promising basketball career was derailed by agents, runners, drugs and a number of other regrettable choices, is the subject of focus. According to Hargett, who played one season at West Virginia under coach Gale Catlett, agents approached him seeking to engage in financial-based representation when he was 15 and ultimately steered him toward the Mountaineers. Hargett’s wrongdoing was extensive, so much so that Dan Dakich, hired to replace Catlett (who retired shortly after Hargett’s one season in Morgantown), recounted vividly the specifics of Hargett’s institutionalized payment program: “They [agents] promised me $60,000 and only gave me $20,000,” Hargett told Dakich, according to the now ESPN sportscaster and radio personality. And even as Dakich departed what he called a “culture of dishonesty” after just eight days on the job, the NCAA could not compile a substantial body of evidence to punish West Virginia.

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Deconstructing the NCAA’s New Penalty Structure

Posted by rtmsf on August 3rd, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

After meting out unprecedented sanctions just over a week ago against Penn State’s football program in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual molestation scandal and alleged cover-up of high ranking officials within the program, it appears the NCAA is leading a charge to ramp up the severity of future penalties in keeping with the precedent established in this watershed case. NCAA leaders reached a consensus Thursday on a new proposal endorsing a revised four-tier penalty structure that includes many of the same punitive measures handed down last week against the Nittany Lions, including hefty fines, up to four years’ postseason ban, and suspensions for head coaches. Far more significant is the radical shift in both the process used to interpret violations and the culpability of coaches in either concealing or enabling forbidden activity. Under the new punishment structure — which is expected to be voted into approval at the Board of Directors’ Meeting in October — coaches will be held accountable for any violations committed by members of their staffs, with suspensions awaiting any coach unable to prove innocence in any wrongdoing.

Mark Emmert Seems Serious About Punitive Sanctions, But Will They Stick?

The new guidelines also call for increasing the size of the infractions committee from 10 to 24 members, a modification designed to streamline the enforcement process, which has been widely denounced in recent years for its lumbering proceedings. In the wake of the most heinous and unconscionable scandal in the history of intercollegiate athletics, these changes provide a measure of legitimacy to the NCAA’s handling of the Penn State scandal and pushback for those who criticized the organization for their misplaced priorities throughout the enforcement process. Many chided NCAA president Mark Emmert for overstepping his bounds in bypassing the infractions committee and fast tracking the harsh punitive measures, fearing he was setting a dangerous precedent with the breadth and severity of the sanctions along with the hasty and unprecedented procedure used to deliver those penalties. By legislating a speedier decision in implementing a harsher punitive scale for violations, the new guidelines represent a step forward in support of Emmert’s recent actions. That NCAA leaders were overwhelmingly supportive of similar measures disputes the notion that Emmert operated without the consent and backing of organization members.

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Besides UConn, Which Teams Were Most Significantly Hurt By APR Ban?

Posted by EJacoby on June 22nd, 2012

When news broke this week that 10 teams would receive postseason bans due to insufficient Academic Progress Reports, immediate reactions all centered around the one big name team on the list – Connecticut. Sadly, the National Champions of just two seasons ago won’t even have a chance to participate in March Madness next season. But there are nine other schools that also flunked the APR test and are therefore disallowed from the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Did any of these other teams have shots at the Big Dance next year? The answer: Three teams in particular lost out big time from the punishment, while the five others will find rebuilding that much more difficult.

Rian Pearson is a great player for Toledo, but he won’t get a chance at the Big Dance next season (The Blade/J. Wadsworth)

  • Toledo The Rockets were just average in the MAC last season (7-9), but Toledo didn’t lose a single player to graduation. Rian Pearson, who averaged 16.4 points and 8.3 rebounds in his first year on campus last season, is a really good player who loses out on a shot at the Big Dance next year. The Rockets are not happy about the postseason ban, but it’s only a result of their own players’ inability to graduate or stay academically eligible at a strong enough rate over the past four years. Read the rest of this entry »
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Will Coaches Abuse New “Unlimited Recruiting Calls” Rule?

Posted by EJacoby on June 11th, 2012

Starting at the end of this week, men’s basketball will become the guinea pig of a new NCAA rule that allows college coaches unlimited contact via phone calls and text messages to recruits who have finished their sophomore year of high school. While this may not seem like huge news, the altered rule actually represents a massive change from current NCAA guidelines that prohibit coaches from texting players and allow just one call per month to a recruit. Instead of one monthly nerve-racking phone conversation, high school kids can now get more comfortable with coaching staffs through open dialogue, and that’s a good thing. But by the same token, coaches are now given free rein to unleash their manipulative recruiting pitches without restriction, a privilege that some might feel compelled to abuse. There is a thin line between showing persistence and being a nuisance so coaches must show caution with how they adapt to the new freedoms.

Top prospects can expect to hear from Coach Cal a lot more often now (

The new rule change offers yet another way for coaching staffs to try to get a leg up on their competition. Rutgers head coach Mike Rice said that “kids are going to get sick of the recruiting process quicker now, to be honest with you,” offering the idea that overwhelming kids with texts and calls is sometimes to a recruiter’s detriment. Recruiting has always been an area where some coaches excel over others, but now their communication skills will be put to the test on an everyday basis. There is no doubt that school administrators will check in often with their hired guns and push them to have constant contact with top recruits to gauge their level of interest.

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Baylor’s Recruiting Strategy: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

Posted by rtmsf on April 9th, 2012

It’s no secret among college basketball observers that the recruiting prowess of Baylor’s Scott Drew has been largely looked upon with a skeptical eye. In just the past three recruiting cycles, Drew has signed top 10 prospects Perry Jones, III, (2010), Quincy Miller (2011), and Isaiah Austin (2012), making the Christian school in Waco, Texas, one of the premier destinations for elite high school basketball recruits in the country. To those skeptics, Baylor’s quick ascendance from Big 12 doormat to national relevance perhaps signaled that Drew’s recruiting bounty may have been achieved through extraordinary measures — some of which may have been counter to the rules and regulations of the NCAA.

Baylor's Drew Is Feeling Some NCAA Heat, But Does He Care?

The critics appear to have some basis. According to a report released today by’s Jason King, both Drew and Baylor women’s basketball coach, Kim Mulkey, presided over staffs who rampantly and repeatedly violated NCAA rules via text and phone communication with prospects during impermissible periods. Most of these contacts were alleged to have occurred during a 29-month span from 2007-10, but the total number of violations are staggering — 738 impermissible text messages and 528 impermissible phone calls between the two programs.

In a bit of an ironic twist, it was Baylor women’s star Brittney Griner — the Anthony Davis of the women’s game — who in 2008 as a high school star originally notified the NCAA about Baylor’s impermissible contacts. She eventually signed and matriculated at the school anyway, leading the Bears to a flawless 40-0 title season in 2011-12. Since the majority of these contact violations occurred from 2-5 years ago, and the men’s program has since reached two Elite Eights and the women’s program has made an Elite Eight, a Final Four, and won a National Championship, is it wrong to suggest that the illicit contacts performed by Baylor staff to entice elite recruits such as Jones, Griner, Miller, et al, was well worth the risk?

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NCAA Sticks to Its Guns: UConn Appeal Denied

Posted by rtmsf on April 5th, 2012

In news today that was only surprising to those who believe the NCAA has no spine, the organization denied Connecticut‘s final appeal over its eligibility for the 2013 NCAA Tournament based on its Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. NCAA legislation enacted last October requires a four-year average APR of 900 or a two-year average of 930 in order to become eligible for next year’s Tournament — UConn’s APRs of 826 in 2009-10 and 978 in 2010-11 average out to a two-year score of 902 (well below the 930 cutoff), and its four-year average of 893 also comes up shy of the eligibility threshold (900). The Husky program argued that its proposed remedial measures, which included the possible forfeiture of NCAA Tournament revenue, greater academic support mechanisms and the existing loss of two scholarships, should be sufficient punishment for the school’s past academic failings. But that appeal was rejected, presumably on the grounds that the NCAA cannot afford to lose further credibility by backtracking on this mandate.

How Will the NCAA's Decision Impact Calhoun?

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy got involved on Thursday, telling the Hartford Courant:

It’s almost as if they’ve decided to get UConn one way or the other. [The NCAA] can’t get out of their own way. I think I have the same reaction a lot of people have when they understand what’s going on. For the first time in its history, the NCAA is making a retroactive application of a new rule. They modified a rule without modifying the time in which he comes into effect. … They changed the rule and didn’t give people time to adjust to it. … They are breaking their own precedents to bring this about. UConn has cleaned up its act, and now the NCAA is punishing a bunch of kids who have absolutely nothing or very little … to do with the failures of the past.

NCAA spokesperson Eric Christiansen responded to this criticism by saying that “schools have known since 2006 that APRs below 900 could result in serious penalties including postseason restrictions.” Of course, he’s right. UConn and other schools have known about the 900 threshold for a long time — they only started to take it seriously, though, when the NCAA gave it the necessary teeth to impact postseason eligibility through last year’s added legislation. And about the argument that the players from the 2009-10 team that caused so much of the APR problem are no longer around? No disrespect intended toward those former or current Huskies, but how is this different from other rules violations where a school is placed on probation for the actions of a former coach and/or players? The list is long of such situations on the other side of the rule-breaking fence — why should academic issues be treated any differently?

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Will Bob Knight Be Caught Committing an NCAA Violation Now?

Posted by nvr1983 on October 19th, 2011

Indiana‘s legendary coach Bob Knight has been a controversial figure for nearly four decades. Media, fans, coaches, opposing players, and even some of his own players have said just about everything you can say about him. One thing that he has never been called before is a cheater. That is until this past Friday.

Bob Knight Probably Doesn't Find The Current Situation That Funny

In a story that was posted on Friday, The Indianapolis Star reported that Bob Knight spoke with two Indiana-based recruits (Jason Smith and Donnell Minton) about how they would fit in well playing for his son Pat Knight at Lamar, the school that they both eventually committed to earlier this month. On the surface, it appears to be an innocent enough interaction and surely would be viewed as a highlight for these two young players who grew up in a state where Bob Knight is college basketball. When you dig a little deeper though it turns out that Bob Knight may have committed a NCAA violation by calling the players, which the NCAA prohibits as NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson states, “telephone calls to prospects can only be made by coaching staff members or those listed in the exceptions” with the exceptions being the university president and academic advisors.  As the article notes, this rule was created to prevent celebrities or other well-known people affiliated with schools from directly contacting and attempting to influence recruits. In this case, Knight is the celebrity, which he most certainly is in the college basketball world, who appears to have used his reputation (knowingly or unknowingly) to direct a recruit (or two) to play for his son.

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Bruce Pearl’s Show Cause: Which Schools Might Take a Shot at Him?

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2011

News leaked on Tuesday night that the NCAA will hit Bruce Pearl with a three-year “show cause” penalty for his role in facilitating and later lying about numerous violations while acting as the Tennessee head basketball coach from 2005-11.  We all remember the story of NCAA investigators presenting Pearl with a photograph of current Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft standing next to him at his own cookout, and his subsequent disavowal of knowledge of such a thing.  But his transgressions were considerably more than that incident alone — it was the systematic and rather clumsy attempts at a subsequent cover-up that ultimately doomed the jocular head coach to the harsh penalty he faces today.  Here’s the relevant statement from the NCAA’s 21-page Infractions Report:

A Scene at Pearl's Home, Apparently (credit: KSR)

From the 2008-09 academic year through June 14, 2010, the former head men’s basketball coach acted contrary to the principle of ethical conduct when he knowingly engaged in violations of NCAA recruiting legislation and failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics by providing false and misleading information to the institution and the enforcement staff and by attempting to influence others to furnish the institution and enforcement staff false and misleading information concerning their involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a violation of an NCAA regulation.

Ouch.  Once again, the lesson learned from an organization in an authoritative position is that the cover-up carries more weight than the actual crime.

What does this really mean, though?  It seems as if most commentators are interpreting this as an effective banishment of Pearl from the NCAA for the next several years as a direct result of carrying a cheetos-colored letter on his chest, but a reading of the fine print of the NCAA’s report shows that this isn’t true.  Mike DeCourcy points out in an article today that the “show cause” is one of the most misunderstood penalties that the NCAA has at its disposal.  Even a spectacularly reliable source such as Wikipedia states in its first sentence about such a penalty that “a coach involved in major rules violations at a university’s athletic program may not be hired by any other NCAA member institutions without permission from the Infractions Committee for a set period of time.”

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Memphis’ Near-Miss Highlights The Absurdity Of The NCAA Rulebook

Posted by nvr1983 on August 22nd, 2011

Over the past five years many fans of college sports have become well-acquainted with many of the NCAA bylaws related to communications (thanks to people like Kelvin Sampson, among others), but it seems like schools still find a way to break those rules. Or at least that is what the NCAA thinks. As Kyle Veazey at The Commerical Appeal in Memphis reported, the NCAA recently contacted Memphis as part of its investigation into suspected impermissible calls it had been making to Shabazz Muhammad based on an interview last July. Based on Muhammad’s report, the NCAA had its Basketball Focus Group investigate the matter. In addition to the phone calls, they also questioned Memphis on how Muhammad and other recruits had been able to fly to Memphis for visits.

However, the heart of their inquiry was based around the claim that Muhammad — not yet a senior — was making that Memphis had been “calling and calling and calling,” which would exceed the NCAA’s limit of one call per month from a school (assuming that those calls were not coming once a month). When Memphis looked into the rule, it found that it had, in fact, not even violated the rule. With a document signed by coach Josh Pastner and five other staff members, Memphis claimed that the calls were to Ron Holmes, Shabazz’s father and coach of his high school and AAU teams. Citing a clause that allows schools to speak with parents of recruits who also happen to be coaches about other prospects as frequently as they want, Memphis claimed innocence (corroborated by Holmes) and the NCAA appears to have bought that despite Shabazz previously claiming the calls were about him in prior interviews, stating, “They call my dad almost every day, talking about what they can do for me at their program, so that means a lot.”

Pastner & His Staff Know the NCAA Rulebook Better Than the NCAA

Where does this leave us? Either Muhammad lied (exaggerated, if you prefer) to a local newspaper, or the NCAA does not even realize all the loopholes in its own rules. While it is possible that Memphis was talking to the father of the #1 recruit in the country about every other player he coached, this seems fairly dubious. To be fair to the NCAA, this would be very hard to disprove unless they were tapping the phones of either the Memphis staff or Holmes. The real issue is that regardless of whether or not the calls were about Muhammad, the NCAA does not appear to be aware of how its own rules are written. If a simple letter from Memphis with a document signed by six members of the coaching staff is enough to get a program out of the NCAA’s cross-hairs, there is something wrong with how the rules are written or how the organization is run. It is unrealistic to expect the NCAA as an entity to change, but at the very least they could simply read the rulebook to the point that they know their own rules.

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Washington Assistant Chillious Charged With Violation — Fair Or Not?

Posted by jstevrtc on July 22nd, 2011

Washington assistant coach Raphael Chillious now has a secondary NCAA violation attached to his name, a little gremlin that will follow him around for free for the rest of his coaching life. True, it doesn’t sound like much, but if you don’t think you did anything wrong, and you felt like you had some assurance from the NCAA that you wouldn’t be found guilty of anything, you wouldn’t want it on your record, either.

Chillious Didn't Intend Any Wrongdoing, But Still Took the Ding (image: UW)

The reason we’re debating whether or not the flick on Chillious is justifiable is an article by Todd Dybas at Sportspress Northwest, and it’s a piece that you should read in its entirety for its detail and the quotes from the principals. Here’s a quick version of the story:

Chillious let a Sports Illustrated reporter shadow him as part of a story about the recruiting process. While on a recruiting trip, during a conversation with an old friend, Chillious mentioned the name of a prospect he was in town to see. The reporter, sitting nearby, wrote the recruit’s name down.

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