College Football: Ratification of New Penalties Will Hurt, Not Help, the NCAA

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterAugust 3, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Braxton Miller #5 of Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass during the first half at the Gator Bowl against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field on January 2, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Something that has been flying under the radar for the last several months has been the NCAA's push to revamp the rulebook and punishment structure.

While some of the measures—streamlining the rules, eliminating redundancies, clearing up recruiting and the like—could be seen as positives, the big news is the penalties structure.

The proposal, as shown on CBS Sports back in January, calls for a stiffening of penalties that include more multiple-year bowl bans, budget reductions, larger fines, reduction of recruiting activity and, of course, scholarship losses.

Pretty hefty stuff, as Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports showed us just how much worse the terrible USC sanctions would have been under the newly proposed structure.

Now, as The Chronicle of Higher Education reports, the NCAA is in the final stages before pushing the measure through. From the NCAA's own website, you can get a more "fleshed out" view of what Ed Ray, Chairman of the Board of Directors, wants to have pushed through by October.

According to Ray:

Coaches come to me and say, "I feel like a chump. I’m trying to do things the right way and I have peers who laugh at me because I don’t play the game and bend the rules the way they do."

That’s got to stop. ... Most coaches are terrific people who love their student-athletes, try to do it the right way, try to have the right values and succeed. They’re very frustrated. ... This has got to stop. I think most coaches are saying it’s about time. We want a level playing field.

If you believe that, with respect to big-time football and basketball, then more power to you. I've been in and around the game far too long to view coaches as much more than guys who just don't want their opponent cheating more than they can. 

Many folks will applaud the move.

They'll talk about how, finally, the NCAA is showing its teeth. This is proof that it's serious about stopping the scandals. It's going to scare people into compliance with stiff penalties if they get caught!

Given the current climate—Miami is under investigation, while UNC, Ohio State and USC just absorbed serious sanctions—the time is right for the NCAA to show its balls. People are "fed up" with all of this cheating, and fans, coaches and the NCAA just will not put up with it.

Except there is no more cheating going on than any other time in history. There is no more rule-breaking going on now than during Myles Brand's era.

UNC, USC, Ohio State and other situations are not egregious infractions that are a sign of the times. They are three cases where people got caught, and they happened to come at the same time.

Don't fool yourself, people: If the NCAA truly wanted to reform its platform, I'd be for it.

If you want people to take your rules seriously, then watch them. Instead, the NCAA is going to rely on the same mechanisms it always does:

Someone else doing the work.

In the case of UNC, it was Charles Robinson, the school itself and, of course, the fine folks on Twitter. For Ohio State, it was the FBI, IRS, Columbus Police and Franklin County Sheriff's office. For USC, it was a disgruntled Lloyd Lake. For Miami, it is a hurt-feelings Nevin Shapiro.

The NCAA will have to sit around and wait for someone else to break the news, someone else to find the details and then hope that the school is willing to roll over. In the case of UNC, the Tar Heels were most certainly willing. In other cases, not so much.

In other words, don't expect this new measure to stop rule-breaking.

Winning is and has always been better than not winning. People are going to get better at hiding the rule-breaking. Lawyers are going to get paid a lot more money to stonewall the NCAA, and schools are going to go about their business.

Without active monitoring and an actual presence to discourage rule-breaking at the base level, the threat is quite empty.