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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Morning Five: 08.20.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 20th, 2012

  1. How many Gasols does it take to win a championship? That might be the question asked by basketball-loving Angelenos who are not only Laker but also UCLA fans now that Adria Gasol, the 18-year old younger brother of NBA stars Pau (Lakers) and Marc (Grizzlies) is walking on to the Bruins’ roster. According to all reports, expectations for the 6’10” player should be tempered, as he is far behind his two older brothers in terms of on-court skills at the same age. Still, the bloodlines are there and Marc in particular took some time to develop into an effective player, so Ben Howland stands to lose nothing by giving the young center a chance to learn the game with minimal pressure on him. He certainly wouldn’t be the first big man prospect who has trouble with the fundamental basics of the game at his age.
  2. Indiana athletic director Fred Glass made some interesting comments over the weekend in a piece from the the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel that compared the problems of cheating that go on in college football versus college basketball. His perception is that because of AAU/summer league basketball, cheating is more of a problem in hoops (“It’s terrible, man. I mean, it’s gross.”), and he would go considerably further than the NCAA has in getting control over it. To wit: “I would encourage the NCAA to hire a bunch of former FBI guys that know how to follow the money. [...] I think you need to hire guys that know how to find bad guys and that know their way around tracking money. That’s what I’d do. If we’re serious about cleaning that up, we need to have some people who have a real ability to track money and require people to give them the information they need to do that.” This kind of strong language from someone in a position of power at one of the nation’s pre-eminent basketball schools is what we like to see — otherwise, the pressure will never reach the tipping point needed to make significant changes.
  3. Central Florida may have been facing a lost season in its final tour in Conference USA with a postseason ban hanging over the program’s head, but with the weekend news that its best player, Keith Clanton, has decided to return for his senior year, next year may not be so bad after all. As a result of the NCAA sanctions, Clanton and his senior teammates CJ Reed, Josh Crittle and Marcus Jordan were allowed an opportunity to transfer elsewhere to play immediately, but so far only Reed, heading to Georgia Southern to play for his father Clifford, is jumping ship. According to CBSSports.com, Jordan is set to return to UCF too, although he appears to only be taking classes and is not expected to suit up for the Knights again.
  4. Over the weekend, former UNC two-sport star Julius Peppers confirmed that a leaked transcript purported to be his on a North Carolina portal last weekend was in fact his own, and that all of his grades were earned, “whether good or bad.” In light of his admission, the Raleigh News & Observer outlined its ongoing two-year saga in requesting aggregated and de-identified transcript data from the university — needless to say, the newspaper feels as if it’s been stonewalled, and according to legal professors familiar with the student privacy laws the school is hiding behind, UNC is purposefully misinterpreting the law to protect its own interests. Will the Martin Commission, put in place by UNC chancellor Holden Thorp last week, have the power to get to the bottom of this growing scandal? Or as one commenter notes below the piece, have all the bodies already been buried?
  5. We’ll have more on this in a piece later today, but the New York Times over the weekend published a tremendous article on the whereabouts of former high school star Jonathan Hargett, a Richmond, Virginia, uber-athlete who was compared favorably in the early 2000s with Allen Iverson for his size, crossover dribble, and unbelievable hops (reportedly at 44 inches). Hargett had offers from everywhere, but he told the Times’ Pete Thamel that he chose to attend West Virginia (then coached by Gale Catlett) based on a promise of an assistant coaching position for his older brother and a guaranteed annual “salary” of $20,000 per year. He only survived one season at the school before leaving and becoming involved with drug trafficking on the streets — he is now in prison in Chesapeake, Virginia, and eligible for parole in January 2013. These sorts of cautionary tales about legends who never made it seem to pop up all too often, but if we have to believe that the SIDs in Morgantown are burning the midnight oil with statements and talking points for Monday.
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