When it comes to the NCAA's reputation, the organization is in desperate need of a top-to-bottom makeover.
Following the recent admission that there were "missteps" taken by the NCAA's enforcement staff in its investigation of the University of Miami, the organization's credibility is bleeding out and its already injured reputation has been delivered a knockout blow.
But beyond clearing house or making significant changes to the NCAA's main office, the governing body of college athletics must change the way it approaches investigating and penalizing schools for infractions. It must part ways with a worn-out, flawed system.
The NCAA must also become more accountable for its rulings, owning up to and handing down serious consequences for missteps and failures, no matter how severe.
Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, it must drop its flawed case against Miami, before further damage is done.
Overhaul Personnel and Regulations
Kenneth L. Wainstein, who conducted the review of the NCAA's investigation into the University of Miami, made it clear that maintaining or at this point recovering the Association's reputation for being credible is its top priority:
For an organization with an oversight function like the NCAA, its credibility and reputation for fair-dealing are always more important than its ability to prove the allegations in any particular case. This episode is a reminder of the problems that arise when investigators resort to expedient but questionable tactics.
If this really is the case, why not drop the case against Miami?
The damage has been done. If a good portion of the NCAA's evidence against the university was obtained improperly, what's to say the rest is legitimate?
As if we weren't skeptical enough, the NCAA is feeding right into the doubt with its decision to carry on. The only way for the Association to regain any of the respect it has lost from this debacle is to drop the case and undergo a significant overhaul. After all, it already acknowledged its own missteps, essentially pleading guilty to what it has accused Miami of.
Firing shot-callers and bringing in fresh faces to run things is a great start. But new people working with the same old, awry system won't produce better results. The mentality must change and with it the way the NCAA regulates college athletics.
Dumping former vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach and replacing her with Jonathan Duncan isn't going to repair the organization's reputation, or change how the NCAA runs the show. Replacing NCAA president Mark Emmert would make more noise, but hardly fix what ails the Association.
People with backgrounds in college athletics are needed. Let's start there.
Lou Anna K. Simon, executive committee chair and Michigan State University president, addressed the issue of change in the NCAA's press release regarding the insufficient oversight:
Integrity is vital to the Association’s regulatory functions. Our expectation is that the NCAA uses this review as a launching point for meaningful change. Moving forward, NCAA member schools must engage in a healthy debate about our desired outcomes and expectations of the Association’s regulatory functions.
There's a lot that must happen first, but at least acknowledging that major changes are in the works would be an ideal baby step for the NCAA.
Put an End to the Hypocrisy
The phrase "lack of institutional control" exposes just how hypocritical the NCAA has been recently. In a February article written by ESPN's Heather Dinich, the ACC football expert called out the NCAA for opting to move forward with its tainted case against the Hurricanes:
In a case that has redefined hypocrisy, the NCAA won’t relinquish its role as judge, despite the fact it was just found guilty.
As Dinich points out, it's awfully bold of the NCAA to carry on with this investigation in the wake of such findings. If Emmert and company think that they can rescue their reputation by proving their case and subsequently punishing the Hurricanes, they are mistaken.
Miami has already imposed its own sanctions on its athletic department, which Dinich highlighted last month. The penalties include reduced scholarships, official visits and a two-year postseason bowl ban.
By assessing further sanctions, the NCAA would essentially be kicking the university while it's down, adding to its tarnished reputation as a hypocritical bully.
College athletics' governing body is in need of a serious overhaul and reputation makeover. But before either can take place, the NCAA must own up to its recent shortcomings and admit that there is a problem. Until then, it will continue to spiral downward until it proves too faulty for the times, which one could argue it already has.
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