Did the NCAA Finally Hit Rock Bottom? for Our Sake, I Hope so

Adam KramerNational College Football Lead WriterJanuary 24, 2013

The NCAA’s ineptitude has firmly seized the spotlight yet again.

A bizarre seven-day stretch, which included a heartless ruling over a uniform request as well as the mockery that has become the Miami investigation, has many—including the NCAA—looking for answers.

The investigator is now the investigated, and the NCAA is now investigating…the NCAA.

Mark Emmert sheepishly announced this in a conference call on Wednesday, saying he’s had “better days” when discussing his very foundation crumbling before his eyes. I would hope so. 

After determining that improper conduct took place while scrutinizing the Nevin Shapiro situation in Miami, the NCAA has turned its focus to uncovering what went wrong with its information-gathering process.

Translation: Oops.

The NCAA national office has uncovered an issue of improper conduct within its enforcement program that occurred during the University of Miami investigation. Former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information for the purposes of the NCAA investigation through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.

In light of this incident and other recent events involving the enforcement staff, President Emmert has commissioned an external review of the enforcement program. The review will include a thorough investigation into the current issue as well as the overall enforcement environment, to ensure operation of the program is consistent with the essential principles of integrity and accountability.

As it relates to the Miami investigation, the NCAA will not move forward with a Notice of Allegations until all the facts surrounding this issue are known.

Emmert acknowledged that this process—the investigation into the investigation, which is just so much fun to say and type—should last seven to 10 days “at the latest.”

In terms of specifics, it would seem that the bulk of these issues centers on subpoena power with witnesses when it comes to investigators and Nevin Shapiro’s lawyer. In a strange turn, someone at the NCAA apparently hired Shapiro’s lawyer, and the entire Miami case is now in limbo.

It gets worse. The NCAA actually had the Shapiro attorney on its payroll. "This is obviously a shocking affair, said Emmert.

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 23, 2013

This is great news for Miami and a public kick to the NCAA’s groin in the midst of a two-year investigation that should have been finalized long ago.

And so we’re left with another cluster, another sign of the NCAA’s inability to consistently and legally enforce rules it puts in place. Not only has the process to determine these decisions been questionable—just look at Penn State last year—but the integrity of an organization is now cluttered.

Regardless of what punishments are eventually handed down to the Miami program, they will come with questions and concerns. The investigation is now tarnished, and while rules were certainly broken, it may not matter now. We’ll find out with a ruling whenever that may come.

The NCAA did, however, find the time to make a ruling this week, trying to keep its “integrity” up to standards. (Oh, if there were such a thing as a sarcasm font, I would have gladly used it right there.)

The Iowa basketball team was hoping to honor the late Chris Street, a former player who was tragically killed in a car accident 20 years ago to the day this past Saturday. The team’s director of basketball operations, Jerry Strom, asked the NCAA if they could place “STREET” on the back of each jersey, just for one game. The NCAA denied the request.

"If you read the rule itself it's pretty self-explanatory," Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said (via USA Today). McCaffery continued:

In that case it would have to be an exception granted. And I think the issue was there have been so many exception requests, I think they decided, 'The rule stands as it is.' And that's pretty much what it was. If you start granting exceptions, then every game somebody wants to do something for some other reason, some other legitimate cause. They just didn't want to do that.

Just a name, for one game, on the 20th anniversary of a player's passing. Not a trend. 

We could go on and on about why denying a team something like this makes absolutely zero sense, but we’d be wasting our time. The NCAA has proven time and time again that common sense has no business in these rulings.

Any clear-minded person with a conscience would have seen the intent behind this, broke out the “APPROVED” stamp and been on their way. Heck, they might have issued a press release promoting the wonderful gesture.

But instead, it was denied. They leaned on the outdated rulebook when it was convenient to them, simply because it was convenient to them. There was no leniency when leniency was needed. Denying a team a uniform change isn’t a groundbreaking decision, but it’s telling. It outlines just how out of touch the NCAA can be.

Only days later, and we’re learning that the NCAA is now trying to determine where they went wrong in a much grander matter. An investigation that has taken thousands of hours and who knows how much money is now in question because basic protocol was broken.

Emmert has called the most recent developments “stunning,” although should we really be stunned? Where exactly should previous confidence stem from? What have we seen the NCAA do in the past few years on the enforcement front that would allow us to expect a more positive result?

Whether it’s getting help from an outside party or truly blowing the whole thing up and starting over, something needs to change. The NCAA’s inefficiency to handle cases both big and small speaks volumes. And unfortunately, this is when we need them most.

If we’ve been waiting for it to hit rock bottom so we can see actual change, I’d say the past week just might qualify.