As college football’s appeal continues to increase, the NCAA’s popularity is trending downwards — and quickly. We just passed the twoyear anniversary of the Yahoo! Sports tell-all of Nevin Shapiro, the disgraced, former University of Miami booster. His allegations included impermissible benefits both routine and debaucherous — from cash and gifts, to prostitutes and an abortion.
Now, two years later, the University of Miami is still waiting; waiting on a punishment, something to end the years of confusion and angst. But tread carefully NCAA, you’re already in dangerous waters.
If the oft-maligned leaders of college football are punitive on the Hurricanes — who have already self-imposed a ban on two bowl games — school president Donna Shalala is ready to play ball. When the school received its Notice of Allegations in February, Shalala put out an open letter that listed the repeated failures of the NCAA during its investigation and detailed UM’s plan to respond negatively to the Notice.
“We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough,” Shalala wrote.
Here we are on the precipice of another season and still no word from the NCAA.If only the UM was their only issue. In College Station reports have surfaced that Texas A&M University’s Heisman Trophywinning quarterback Johnny Manziel took improper benefits for signing autographs. Problem is the NCAA can’t find concrete evidence.
And Manziel is worth a whole lot, to A&M, the NCAA and his parents’ bank account. And just like Shalala, Manziel is ready to play ball — literally and figuratively. He’s puffing out his chest and spreading his shoulders to the NCAA.
Come on, let’s go. Challenge me. Suspend the player who has proved so valuable. Let’s see what happens.
For anyone who wants to see the NCAA shamed, this is a good situation. In one situation, Manziel gets off because the NCAA can’t find any proof of payment. In the other, he gets suspended. And, rest assured, Manziel and his family will fight it with the lawyers they bring in. In the first situation, the media will mock the NCAA’s apparent lack of control of players. In the second, well, it could turn messy, and that would be great!
The NCAA has operated dangerously. It overstepped its bounds in the Penn State University case by levying penalties in an unprecedented manner. Its punitive rules recently forced a women’s golfer at a lowertier university to repay $20 for washing her car with a hose that was only available for athletes. It also has a corrupted system involving poor athletes who don’t have the means to pay for their own meals and can’t afford to pay for their parents and family to attend games.
Now, schools continue to obey the NCAA and players continue to play because, well, what other choice do they have? If you want to play professional football, you have to play in the NCAA first. There isn’t an option; it’s the way it is. For a school to play other high-caliber teams, they must be a part of the NCAA. There is no choice.
That is, unless, a group of schools were to get together and leave the NCAA.
And the SEC, the biggest division in all of college football, has the best opportunity to do so. The conference has athletic directors and players that are infuriated by the NCAA. And they have the money. If they were to leave, it would be the beginning of the end for the NCAA. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. The NCAA should be able to operate in a fair and equitable manner.
If you remember your days in a high school civics class, you will recall the phrase “checks and balances” — a governmental method of separating powers in order to ensure that no branch reigns supreme. Since the NCAA is an autonomous body, it has no checks or balances. It operates on its own accord, in whatever manner suits it best.
In the UM investigation, the NCAA is operating in the name of validating its investigation — and its existence. Officials need to prove that this matter was worth more than two years of their time. But they are not operating in the name of fairness.
A group of schools leaving the NCAA is a last-ditch effort. The NCAA still has time to right its wrongs, and it can. But it’s not trending that way.
Preston Michelson is a freshman at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism and is a graduate of Palmer Trinity School. He is a frequent contributor to this newspaper and the opinions he expresses are his own and not necessarily those of the editors and publishers. Contact him on Twitter at @PrestonMich or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org