(Aaron's Note: This is an incredibly, incredibly long article, but something that what consider to be a very important one. Go ahead and take your time with it, print it out, or come back to it a few times. But do look it over it over closely. I think you'll be shocked at some of the stuff that's contained in here.)
In case you hadn’t heard, UConn’s reign as one of the elite programs in college basketball may have come to an unofficial end on Saturday morning. And its thanks in large part to a totally idiotic, inexplicably dumb NCAA rule.
The moment happened on Saturday morning, when 6’8 forward Roscoe Smith decided to transfer out of the program. Smith’s departure alone doesn’t signify the end, but it is symbolic; Smith is the fifth player to leave the program since the 2012 season ended with a first round NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa State. And while each player has a slightly different reason for leaving, all of them were helped out the door by UConn’s 2013 NCAA Tournament ban, thanks to a bad APR score.
Since this article isn’t about the UConn case in specific, I won’t get into too many of their particular details here. However, below are a few key bullet points on the APR, and why UConn will be banned from next year’s NCAA Tournament:
Simply put, the APR is an academic standard set by the NCAA, in which you lose points for every time a player leaves the school in bad academic standing. We’ll save how the APR score is tabulated for another day (when you’re less inclined to gouge your eyes out with the boring details), but essentially what you need to know is that the APR works on a four-year rolling cycle, and a school needs at least a 900 average over four years, or a 930 average over two years, to avoid sanctions. Previously, schools lost scholarships for falling below the APR line, but starting in the 2013 school year, they’re also banned from postseason play too. Well, in the case of UConn specifically, their two-year score for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 seasons, was 902 meaning they’ll miss the 2013 NCAA Tournament. That score is thanks in large part to an embarrassing score of 826 after the 2009-2010 season (the Huskies were well above the necessary APR threshold with a score of 978 during their 2011 championship season).
So in essence, UConn didn’t meet the NCAA requirement, and they’re banned from the NCAA Tournament. Seems simple enough, right?
Well sort of, but not totally. That’s because, it wasn’t until last summer- the summer of 2011- when the NCAA actually decided that low APR scores resulted in an NCAA Tournament ban. Beforehand, there was still punishment (including lost scholarships) but it wasn’t until 10 months ago, that a school got banned from the postseason for a bad APR score. So hopefully you can now understand (if not sympathize with) why UConn fans for why they’re so upset with the NCAA Tournament ban. When the NCAA established the ban last summer, there was no grandfather clause, and no real way to appeal the NCAA ban.
Meaning, in essence, UConn is being punished for a rule that didn’t exist when they broke it.
Let me repeat that again, just so it settles in. UConn… will miss the NCAA Tournament next year… for breaking a rule… THAT DIDN’T EXIST WHEN THEY BROKE IT!!!
How is that fair? Forget fair, how is that logical? If anything, it’d be like you as a parent telling your kid, “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’re going to have to go to bed early” then, when the kid was walking upstairs, you changed your mind and said “You know what, forget that. Don’t go to your room. You’ve got to go sleep outside in the rain.” Does that make sense? Of course not. Then again, it’s just another day of illogical logic at the NCAA offices.
But beyond that, you want to know what the saddest part of the whole thing is? I’m one of the last five people on the planet who actually still defended the NCAA’s way of doing things. I may have not have necessarily agreed with everything they did, but I did believe that for the most part, their hearts were in the right place. That rules were rules, and that whether you like them or not, you’ve got abide by them. That just because you’re genetically predisposed to being good at football or basketball or some other sport, doesn’t guarantee you any special privileges. Not beyond a free college education anyway.
To a degree I still believe that stuff, but if anything, this whole story really just opened my eyes to just how truly idiotic, and frankly, how stubborn the NCAA can be. How they can plant their flag in the ground on an issue, and not let common-sense, logic or reason sway their final decision.
And the sad thing is, UConn is hardly alone, with others getting screwed long and hard before they were.
Which is why over the weekend, I started thinking: What are the stupidest, most illogical and just plain dumb decisions that the NCAA has made over the past several years. I put the question out on Twitter (@Aaron_Torres) and and asked for people to respond using the hashtag: #10DumbestNCAAPenalties. I got a lot of responses, with some folks nice enough to submit suggestions I hadn’t thought of, and quite a few others ones that I’d long since forgotten about (I was sure to credit everyone's suggestions below). I’m sure there are plenty we’ve forgotten as well.
Regardless, here are what we came up with, as the 10 Dumbest NCAA Penalties in recent history.
10. Jamar Samuels: Kansas State Basketball
What He Did Wrong: We’ll ease into the list, with a story you probably know about. That’s the case of recently graduated Kansas State basketball senior Jamar Samuels, who was suspended for the Wildcats second round (or I guess we’re calling it third round) game of this year’s NCAA Tournament. The suspension came just moments before tip-off, and was described by Kansas State as only “an eligibility issue” without further details provided.
So what was the eligibility issue? As we later found out, it stemmed from Samuels accepting a $200 wire transfer earlier that week from his former AAU coach Curtis Malone, a man he'd known since he was 13-years-old. Because Samuels was a senior in the 2011-2012 season, the suspension ended up being the last game of his Kansas State career.
Why The Penalty Was Dumb: Look, no matter how you feel about extra benefits, we all know you can’t accept free cash. It’s against the rules. We get it. Then again, what if you’re accepting the cash from a family friend, who you’ve known since you were 13-years-old? Is it still easy to delineate just how wrong that is?
In Samuels case, apparently not, since Malone (his AAU coach) said that he didn’t know it was a violation when he sent the cash. Following the incident, Malone told CBS Sports: "If I knew it and wanted to hide it, I would have done it differently. The kid's family doesn't have anything and he called me for money to eat."
Hmm, makes sense.
Now again, I understand that these rules are in place for a reason, but I really do wish common-sense and logic would play a role here. Was Malone trying to gain some inside edge or competitive advantage by giving Samuels the cash? I doubt it. If he were, don’t you think he would’ve been a bit more discreet about it? Heck, don’t you think he would’ve given him more than $200? My guess would be yes. But then again, I’ve never tried to get access to a basketball player for financial gain. Maybe $200 really goes a lot further than I thought it did. I could be wrong.
By the way, you know what the goofiest part of all this is? Kansas State uncovered the “violation” when someone found Samuels wire transfer receipt in the trash can, and turned it into the Wildcats compliance office.
To which I must ask: What kind of loser would even think to do such a thing?
(*** One quick note: I want to add one relatively important note, and mention that in Samuels’ case, he wasn’t actually the NCAA who suspended him, but instead the school. That is important, and in a way absolves the NCAA here. But I'm not totally letting them off the hook here either.
The truth is that the only reason K-State suspended Samuels in the first place, was because they were terrified of retribution from the NCAA. Had the school knowingly played him despite the violation, they could’ve gotten in big trouble; K-State would’ve certainly had to forfeit the game, and could’ve put the careers of both Frank Martin and the athletic director John Currie on the line. Whether it was the NCAA who explicitly suspended Samuels or not, is kind of irrelevant. Because it was their bullying that led to the school to make such a rash decision.
Besides, its hard for me to imagine that if this weren't the last game of Samuels' career, that the NCAA wouldn't have suspended into next year as well)
9. Jeremy Jarmon: Kentucky Football
What He Did Wrong: I’m sure when you opened this link, you fully expected to see a Kentucky basketball player or two on this list. But a Kentucky football player instead? Who would’ve guessed?
Only that’s what happened when Jarmon- a fifth-year player who opted to skip the NFL Draft and return for his senior year- was found to have used a supplement banned by the NCAA. Once found guilty, he was suspended for his entire final season of eligibility, and eventually entered the NFL’s Supplemental Draft.
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: The penalty was stupid mainly because, by all accounts, it seems like Jarmon was an honest kid, who made a bad mistake.
Now obviously, we all know that a kid can’t take a performance-enhancing supplement, in the same way a kid can’t take cash from an agent. At the same time, Jarmon took the supplement without knowing that the specific supplement was against NCAA rules (he supposedly bought it at your standard GNC), to help with recovery from shoulder surgery. Upon finding out that it was against NCAA rules, Jarmon immediately stopped taking it, and six weeks after failing the first drug test he passed a follow-up one. And from all the research I can find, Jarmon never had any issues with performance-enhancing drugs or supplements before or after that one incident.
Still, it wasn’t enough for the NCAA, who suspended Jarmon for his entire last season, ending his college career. Even though Jarmon would've been 100 percent clean by the time he took the field in the fall.
(Big thanks to @CDM_77 for the tip)
8. Shariff Floyd: Florida Football
What He Did Wrong: In the fall of the 2011 football season, Floyd was suspended four games for accepting a total of $2,700 from a charitable organization called the “Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation” based in Delaware, and near his home city of Philadelphia. Eventually, after the case was further investigated, the NCAA knocked the penalty down to two games for “mitigating circumstances.”
Floyd was forced to sit out home wins over Florida Atlantic and UAB, before eventually returning to action in Week 3 against Tennessee.
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: So what were those mitigating circumstances that allowed Floyd’s suspension to be cut in half? Well, I hate to be blunt, but they centered on the fact that Floyd was poor. Dirt poor. And he used the “money” he received from the organization to take unofficial visits to colleges, and for basic living expenses on campus.
You see, of the many bullet holes in the NCAA’s rulebook, unofficial visits are one of the bigger ones; simply put, schools can’t pay for them. The school can pay for official visits, but a kid only gets five of those, and if he wants to take more visits (which most kids would logically want to do), those have to be paid for out of his or her own pocket. Some kids are lucky enough to have families that can afford to drive them all over the country, and once in a while an ambitious high school coach (like Ted Ginn Sr. in Glenville, OH) will load up a van and take his players on the trips themselves.
Then there are kids like Floyd, who don’t come from a place where money grows on trees (a place I'd like to visit, by the way), and where he couldn’t just hop into a van and drive to the college campus of his choice. According to reports, Floyd grew up without either of his parents involved in his life, and bounced around between the homes of his great-grandmother, and a high school coach and guidance counselor.
So when Floyd did want to take those unofficial visits, he took money from the “Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation” or “SAM,” a group which describes itself as providing "supplementary support to high school student-athletes in both their academic and athletic endeavors." Wow, they sound real crooks, huh? Either way, SAM is not registered with the NCAA, and a little nugget that may or may not have complicated Floyd’s situation was that one of SAM’s board members (a man named Kevin Lahn) was considered a “booster” by the NCAA.
Now, that sounds bad, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that there's just not much is there. Lahn is considered a booster yes, but not at Florida (which would have actually justified the Floyd suspension) but instead at South Carolina, where he is a season-ticket holder. It is also a place where Floyd never bothered to take an official visit, meaning that if Lahn was trying to influence Floyd into going to school there, well, he just might’ve been worst influencer ever. Still, Floyd was suspended two games because of his relationship with with SAM (again, a charitable organization).
However, despite the sheer stupidity of the Floyd suspension, there was one benefit to it. It led to one of the single greatest prepared speeches, in the history of prepared speeches when Florida coach Will Muschamp told reporters:
“In my opinion Sharrif is getting lumped into what is bad about college athletics. … Sharrif is what is good about college athletics — his life is about survival, struggle, disappointment and adversity. I have recruited kids that did not know where they would sleep that night or what they would eat. Growing up, Sharrif was one these kids. Sharrif’s life is also about triumph, honesty, integrity, determination, perseverance and character. The NCAA stated that he received preferential treatment; there is nothing preferential about his life.
“He grew up with only his great grandmother and still sends her Pell Grant money so she can pay her bills. How many kids do you know that would do that? I know one — Sharrif Floyd.
“I want to make it clear that this issue is not about sports agents, Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida or anywhere else. The issue is about his survival and the only reason the NCAA, the SEC and the University of Florida were aware of these issues is because Sharrif brought them to our attention last February. He came forward because, as I said before, he is honest and because of his integrity.
“The toughest day that I have had as a head football coach at Florida was the day that I had to tell Sharrif that he could not play in our game vs. FAU last week. I took away part of his family.
“He had tears in his eyes and said “What have I done wrong?” I told him he did nothing wrong. It wasn’t any easier to tell him today that he would be missing Saturday’s game.
“I have two sons at home — if they end up like Sharrif I will consider myself a successful father.”
Tell ‘em Coach Boom!
(Thanks to @Travis_Coffey for the suggestion)
7. Perry Jones, Baylor basketball:
What He Did Wrong: Of every person or school on this list, Jones may be the single greatest example of the NCAA’s selective enforcement process, and lack of common-sense when enforcing the outdated rules they have.
Essentially what you need to know about Jones’ case is this: He was suspended six games at the end of his freshman year (five were served at the beginning of his sophomore year), after his family accepted a total of a little over $4,500 cash from an old AAU coach.
In a nutshell, that makes him no better or worse than a lot of rule breakers, until we get to…
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: Hmm, where should I begin? For starters, let’s give you a little background into that $4,500 Jones’ family accepted.
According to this brilliantly reported article by Jason King, that $4,500 was taken on loan, from Jones’ AAU coach Lawrence Johns. The key word there is “loan” and Jones’ mom took three payments of $1,195 at the beginning of the month, and promptly paid Johns back on the fifteenth of the same month. To throw a little salt in the open wound, we should also note that money wasn’t to fund a high-end lifestyle or to buy fancy cars or jewelry. Nope, the money was to pay the Jones’ mortgage, after the family had spent most of Perry’s senior year living in hotels, after the family house had been foreclosed on. And again, I cannot emphasize this enough: Even after taking the money, Jones' mom repaid it. By the end of the same month.
And if you don't think it can get any better, let me add one more little nugget: Perry Jones had no idea that his mom had taken the loans from Johns.
Now, that might not seem like a big deal, until you remember a pretty high-profile case from a few months prior to the Jones case. Remember the name Cam Newton? Remember how his father Cecil Newton shopped his son to the highest bidder, during Cam’s recruitment out of Blinn Junior College? And remember how Cam never had to end up missing a single snap of Auburn’s title season, in large part because the NCAA found no proof that Cam had any idea what his dad was doing?
Yeah, well, four months later Perry Jones’ mom was found to have taken three loans, which she promptly paid back, and her son had no idea about. Yet he was suspended six games.
Seriously, sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up.
6. Enes Kanter, Kentucky basketball:
What He Did Wrong: Ultimately, Kanter’s biggest mistake was being born in the wrong country.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s a more loaded statement than you might actually think.
For starters let’s give a little background. Kanter is a Swiss-born, Turkish bred big man, who- like so many players in Europe- signed to play for a professional team as a teenager. He played for a club in Turkey called Fenerbahçe Ülker (say that 10 times fast), from 2006-2009, before transferring to the United States, and playing his final year of high school ball in California.
The problem of course, is that while he was playing as a professional in Turkey, he did accept a salary. The NCAA allows European players to accept money for basic expenses (room and board, food etc.), but they found that Kanter had accepted over $33,000 that didn’t count toward those expenses.
Because of it, Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible and never played for Kentucky. He eventually entered the NBA Draft, where he was the third overall pick in 2011, and now gets paid again as a professional. This time though, he doesn’t have to justify any of his expenses to the NCAA.
Why The Penalty Was Stupid: On the surface, it all seems pretty basic: You accept $33,000 in extra benefits, you can’t play college sports. Simple enough, right? Only it isn’t. It never is.
For one, it was later reported that of the $33,000 Kanter accepted, close to $20,000 of it went to tutoring expenses, for a player that was, again, in his mid-teens when he played professionally in Turkey. So in essence, what we’re actually talking about is roughly $13,000 in extra benefits. To which I ask, should a guy lose a whole season of eligibility for that?
Maybe you think he should, but if you do, don’t forget that in the same college basketball season, another highly-rated recruit was found to have accepted extra benefits. That player was Josh Selby and he took $5757.58 in gifts. He was suspended for a grand total of nine games.
Hmm, let’s think about that for a second.
For starters, let’s forget about the fact that Selby grew up in America, and presumably should’ve understood the system better. Let’s also forget about the fact that Selby flaunted taking those extra benefits, in a New York Times piece from during his senior year in high school.
Let’s put all that aside, and just do some simple math: Selby was suspended nine games for accepting $5757 dollars. Well, according to my fancy computer calculator, $5,757 is approximately 43 percent of the $13,000 Kanter accepted (after taking out tutoring expenses). So why didn’t Selby get 43 percent of the punishment that Kanter did? Why was Selby allowed to play by the end of December, when Kanter couldn’t play at all? How does that make sense?
It doesn’t of course, and the worst part is that this all goes back to what I was saying: Kanter was simply born in the wrong country.
The truth is, if Kanter had just wanted to be a professional basketball player, well, I’m guessing he would’ve stayed in Turkey. There he could’ve blown off school full-time, played as a pro and still made it over to the United States to play in the NBA when he was 19 or 20. No problem, right?
The problem is that from all accounts, both Kanter and his family did truly value education, which was one of the main reasons he came to the United States. In addition, let’s also remember that his father is a doctor in Turkey, meaning, umm, the kid probably didn’t need the $33,000 (which was really $10,000) in the first place. Let’s call a spade a spade here. Kanter’s case isn’t one of a European kid rising from the depths of poverty that none of us in the United States could ever understand; by all accounts, Kanter lived a relatively middle-class life overseas.
The bigger problem was that if you read the reports, in a sick, twisted way, his own European club conspired against him. After all, it doesn’t benefit a European club team to have their best young players go overseas and play in college for free. Not when they can stay in Europe, the team can make money off them, then make more money when an NBA team buys out their contract. Because of it, Kanter’s European team not only didn’t help Kanter in any way once he got to the United States, but if anything, tried to submarine the process of getting him eligible.
Yes, Kanter took $13,000 and should’ve been suspended to some degree. But losing his entire college career? Come on man.
By the way, where can I get one of those “Free Enes” t-shirts?
(Big thanks to @DeanBowling for mentioning this one)
5. A.J. Green, Football, Georgia football
Why He Got In Trouble: Green was suspended four games to open the start of the 2010 season, after selling his game-worn, Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. The person who bought the jersey was a man named Chris Hawkins, who the NCAA considered an agent, although even if he wasn’t an agent, it was still against NCAA rules for Green to sell the jersey. Green later admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong but “didn’t think it through,” and he actually paid back the $1,000 to charity before the completion of his suspension.
Georgia went 1-3 without Green, and finished the year just 6-7, in one of Mark Richt’s most disappointing seasons between the hedges.
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: Look, we’ll save you the time, and avoid the whole, “NCAA profiting off a player’s likeness” conversation for right now. It seems idiotic to me that the NCAA can sell “replica” jerseys, make a buck off them, and not feed any of it back into the system. Even if you’re not paying the player directly, couldn’t you put it into some kind of fund that benefitted all athletes? Would that be such a bad thing?
But here’s why Green’s specific case is stupid: He wasn’t profiting off his own likeness. He was literally selling the shirt off his back.
Again, I know the NCAA’s fear here; essentially they don’t want a black market created for players to sell for profits the jerseys, rings and whatever else the school gives them. At the same time, it was in fact Green’s jersey, and why can’t he do what he wants with it? More importantly, where does it end? If Green decides to sell his couch on Craigslist for profit, can the NCAA mandate that too?
Also, the NCAA got bonus points on this one for the following reason: At the same time Green was being investigated for this subject, the NCAA was also investigating Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus for accepting free airfare and hotel accommodations to Miami. Eventually, Dareus was suspended two games for accepting $1,787.17, which he was also forced to repay.
Now, let’s think about this for a second: A.J. Green was suspended four games for accepting $1,000 cash, and Dareus was suspended two for accepting $1,787.17 cash? I’m no math major here, but how does that make sense?
Oh NCAA, you never cease to amaze me!
4. Dez Bryant, football, Oklahoma State football
Why He Got In Trouble: Interestingly, when Green’s suspension was eventually lifted, he made an interesting, semi-cryptic comment about the whole experience. In his first interview back, he told reporters that he was honest with the NCAA about selling his jersey, because he didn’t want to “lie, and get suspended the whole year.”
Hmm, where could he have gotten that idea from? Oh that’s right, Dez Bryant a year before.
For those who don’t remember the specifics, Bryant came under investigation by the NCAA for his relationship with the one and only Deion Sanders. The two worked out together and eventually ate at Sanders house, neither of which was an NCAA violation in its own right. But when Bryant was first questioned by the NCAA, he initially lied about everything, before eventually coming clean later.
Oklahoma State benched him during the investigation, and the NCAA eventually suspended him for the remainder of the 2009 season, costing him nine regular season games and a bowl trip in his junior year. Bryant would enter the NFL Draft the following spring, and never again played another down of football for Oklahoma State.
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: Well, besides the fact that Bryant didn’t take any extra benefit, didn’t have an improper relationship, and didn’t actually break any NCAA rules… this punishment wasn’t stupid at all! (And I hope you know I’m being incredibly sarcastic).
That’s right, Bryant wasn’t suspended for any of that, but instead suspended for a total of 10 games for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Sanders. Again, I cannot emphasize this enough: NO RULES WERE BROKEN. It was a little white lie that cost Bryant the remainder of his college career.
What’s so stupid about this is that again, the NCAA didn’t just let common-sense prevail here. Sanders told reporters that although the workout was at a facility where he conducts business meetings, no agents were actually on the premises when Bryant was there. And while it’s impossible to confirm, I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that Sanders wasn’t using the meeting to try and angle his way into being an agent for Bryant. Again, it’s just a hunch, but given that he made close to $40 million as a professional football and baseball player and is believed to make more than $1 million annually broadcasting, I’m guessing he didn’t need the 3 percent commission on Bryant’s future earnings.
On top of all that, we know that since retirement, Sanders has made a second (non-paying) career out of mentoring local kids, regardless of their football skill and talent. Given that Bryant was from a broken home (we all remember the incident around the NFL Draft when an NFL executive asked Bryant if his mom “was a prostitute”), it’s hard for me to believe that Sanders was trying to be much more than a mentor and male role model to the kid.
But hey, why let common-sense prevail when you can instead suspend a guy 10 games for one lie, right?
(Big thanks to @UConnThoughts for suggesting this one)
3. UConn Basketball/Toledo Basketball 2012-2013
Why They Got In Trouble: Mentioned Above.
Why It Was Stupid: I already went into it, so I won’t get into too much of it here, but how can a team be banned from the postseason for breaking a rule that didn’t exist when they broke it? Can someone explain that to me?
(For the record, this only seems like an appropriate time to mention three things:
1. I’m a UConn fan, which 99.9 percent of people reading this article know anyway. Still, for the .01 percent that didn’t know, it only seems fair that I be transparent.
2. The rule is still bulls*** regardless if I were a UConn fan or not.
3. Toledo also has the same ban for the 2013 NCAA Tournament, which may (if it’s possible) be dumber than UConn’s ban. Why? Well, Toledo not only broke a rule that didn’t exist when they broke it (like UConn), but broke it with a staff that is no longer there. Good work NCAA! No, seriously)
You know what the saddest thing about this whole situation is? UConn tried to work with the NCAA to find some alternative to the postseason ban, so the kids currently at the school wouldn’t be punished for others indiscretions.
Ultimately, that’s my biggest problem with all these team-related punishments: Why are we punishing kids currently at the school, for stuff that happened when they weren’t there? (Just wait until we get to USC football in a minute) Well to UConn’s credit, they proposed an alternative where the school gave back all the revenue earned from the postseason, and even took away a few out of conference games. In essence, it would punish the school for their wrongdoings, take money out of the athletic department, but not negatively impact the kids who had nothing to do with the lousy APR scores.
Of course in the way that only they can, the NCAA shot down that idea in approximately .0000000000072 seconds.
Given everything you’ve read above, are you surprised?
2. Memphis Basketball and Derrick Rose, 2008
Why They Got In Trouble: One of the most famous, and famously stupid NCAA decisions centered around one of the best players currently in the NBA, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Rose played one season at Memphis, and lead the Tigers to the National Championship game before declaring for the NBA Draft and becoming the No. 1 overall pick.
Of course as we now know, Rose shouldn’t have been at Memphis in the first place. That’s because after getting cleared by Memphis (which means he was also cleared by the NCAA), reports surfaced that there might have been something a tiny bit off about Rose’s SAT scores, and that he might not have actually taken the test himself. It was SAT officials who actually tipped off the NCAA and Memphis on Rose, and in May 2008, it was the SAT officials who declared Rose’s scores null. Because of it, Rose should’ve never been eligible to play for Memphis, but by May 2008 it was too late. His one year at the school was done, and he was gone to the NBA.
Of course that didn’t stop the NCAA from waving their magic wand and saying “Well, if Rose’s SAT scores are null, than so too was Memphis’ season.” In 2009, the Tigers were forced to forfeit all 38 wins they had when Rose played for them, and forced to take down their 2008 Final Four banner at the FedEx Forum.
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: Well, first off, I think we can all agree that fundamentally, vacating wins and taking banners down from the rafters is just stupid. Really stupid. Fans don’t forget what happened and memories don’t fade, simply because there is no written documentation of what happened on the court. So really, what’s the point? Why not just make the school pay back the money they earned, keep the banners up and call it a day? For that reason alone, I feel terrible for Memphis fans. The greatest moment in the history of their basketball program was taken away in one, broad-brush by the NCAA.
Still, that’s not why this specific instance is stupid though. Nope, not by a long shot.
The reason that this specific instance is stupid isn’t because they took away the victories, but because the NCAA punished Memphis… after the NCAA themselves had cleared Rose to play! That’s right, like every other athlete Rose had to go through the NCAA’s clearinghouse, and had to have his grades and SAT scores verified. Just like every other young man or woman who plays college sports.
Which brings me to the bigger point: Once the NCAA cleared Rose, what was Memphis supposed to do? Sit Rose, on the .00001 percent chance that something like this might happen? If that were the case, wouldn’t every team have to sit every freshman for fear of the same thing? Besides, who the heck is going to sit Derrick Rose when he was eligible? I don’t care who the coach is, or what program we’re talking about, nobody would’ve. Not John Calipari, not Roy Williams, not Coach K.
If anything, the NCAA is as much to blame for clearing Rose as Memphis is.
Any chance they sanction themselves? Of course not.
1. USC Football:
What They Did Wrong: Folks, if the Rose Bowl is “The Granddaddy of them all” then USC’s football program is “The Granddaddy of Getting Screwed by the NCAA." Since you probably know the details by now (and since this article is approximately 600,000 words long as is) let's quickly recap what went down in Hollywood.
In a nutshell what you need to know is that over the course of his entire junior year, Reggie Bush and his family were accepting cash and gifts from a handful of several different agents, all vying to represent him after he got out of college. According to the NCAA’s report, an assistant coach named Todd McNair had some knowledge of the situation (read the report and you’ll know that McNair wasn’t nearly as culpable as the NCAA made him out to be), and according to the NCAA, the school should’ve done more to oversee it all from a compliance standpoint (a point of contention that I actually agree with on the NCAA by the way).
So what were the results? Catastrophic. The school was hit with a “Lack of Institutional Control” penalty, which is one of the worst an athletic department can get. As for the football team in specific, they got a practically unprecedented two-year bowl ban, put on probation for four years and lost 30 scholarships over a three year period, a period which actually started in this past 2012 recruiting cycle. They also had to forfeit every win Bush participated in from December 2004 to January 2006, including the 2005 BCS National Championship Game.
Simply put, these were the worse sanctions any school has received in a very, very long time.
Why the Penalty Was Stupid: Look, let me start by saying that by all accounts, what happened at USC was bad. Really bad. And I will be the first one to admit that some sanctions were necessary. But to hit a school with a two-year bowl ban, and a loss of 30 scholarships (30!!!) for what essentially came down to one rouge football player? Come on now. That’s a bit much, no?
Of course this wasn’t really about Reggie Bush, but instead it was about making an example out of USC. During the Bush years, USC did little to control access to the program, their compliance staff was woefully understaffed (especially for a school the magnitude of Southern Cal) and USC AD Mike Garrett was outright defiant during the entire investigation process with the NCAA. For some strange reason, USC’s basketball program sanctioned itself during the NCAA investigation (for stuff that happened with O.J. Mayo), but decided to continue on with business as usual on the football side of things. It’s also why new AD Pat Haden and coach Lane Kiffin are maybe the most compliance-consciousness pair of administrators in the country right now; after what happened at ‘SC, they have no choice but to be.
(And by the way, I’m cutting out a lot of details here, if only because again, this article is insanely long, and also because I already wrote about USC back in 2010 when the sanctions were first handed down. Feel free to read that here.)
But the end result was the irony of what happened with USC.
The clear motive with USC wasn’t just to punish the school, but again, to make an example out of them. To say to every other school in the country: “Look, we’re not backing down from anyone. If you don’t have your s**t together, you better get it together quick, or you could be next.”
Simply put, it was a thinly-veiled threat to everyone else out there. I’m sure in a lot of ways, the NCAA believed at the time that they were avoiding future problems before they even cropped up.
Of course what the NCAA didn’t know was that while all this was going on at USC, there was stuff happening which was just as bad at a bunch of other schools all across the country. In a strictly apples-to-apples case, there’s no way anyone could look at what happened specifically at North Carolina or Ohio State over the last few years and say that it wasn’t as bad as what happened at USC. It was. They had more players, accepting more total gifts (for example, North Carolina had six players receive improper gifts, as opposed to ‘SC’s one) than anyone could’ve ever dreamed of at ‘SC.
At the same time, it also put the NCAA in a pickle. Because if you give USC a two-year bowl ban, what are you going to give those schools, whose transgressions were actually worse? Give them a three-year bowl ban? You might as well just give them the death penalty at that point.
Now there were obviously mitigating circumstances that played into the favor of those two schools, mostly their compliance in the investigation process. In addition, a large part of the “Lack of Institutional Control” penalty at USC stemmed not just from the football program, but also from others getting in trouble too, like the men’s basketball program. Then again, the men’s basketball program didn’t get hit with a two-year postseason ban either. Actually, come to think of it, no one has been hit with a two-year postseason ban in nearly a decade, since Alabama ended in the 2002-2003 football seasons..
Still, USC has become the gold standard for stupid NCAA penalties.
As we learned at the time from the man in charge of USC’s investigation Paul Dee, when you’re a school like USC, you simply have to hold yourself to a higher standard. If not, the NCAA is going to come after you. “High profile athletes, demand high profile compliance” Dee said in the NCAA report.
The ironic thing? Well, it’s that as we've since found out, Dee was the Athletics Director at Miami when quite possibly the worst set of NCAA violations ever took place.
Oh, the irony.
Only with the NCAA, right?
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