If College Coaches Can Pay for Assistants' Mistakes, What's Emmert's Excuse?

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterApril 1, 2013

Mark Emmert
Mark EmmertBrian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NCAA President Mark Emmert was interviewed on ESPN's "Mike and Mike In the Morning" radio show last week and unknowingly opened a new can of worms.

Strangely, it hasn't sparked any outrage, which is hard to fathom since anytime the NCAA sticks its foot in its mouth it gets called out immediately. Especially when it magnifies what so many fans have perceived to be the Association's biggest problem.


Emmert defended the NCAA's reputation and why he shouldn't be held ultimately accountable for the bungled Miami investigation. An excerpt from that radio interview:

"For those people that said, 'Oh, something bad happened at the NCAA, this is a coach's control rule, Fire Emmert!’, you got to think about this for a minute. That is exactly like saying if an assistant coach did something wrong, the president of the university ought to be fired.”


Let's review what has happened over the past year-and-a-half, shall we?

Penn State President Graham Spanier "resigned" in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal involving a former assistant coach at the same school in November of 2011—whether that resignation was voluntary is up for debate. But the bottom line is that a president no longer has a job as a result of a former assistant coach's actions. 

That in itself directly contradicts Emmert's opinion on who shall not be held accountable for subordinates' mistakes. The Penn State situation, of course, involved horrific crimes including allegations that Spanier failed to follow up on sex abuse reports. Obviously what happened during the NCAA's investigation of Miami pales in comparison to what happened at Penn State, but it does have some commonality. 

One president exited a job over a badly-handled ongoing investigation, while another president is still employed after a badly-handled ongoing investigation. 

So yes, the NCAA has serious credibility issues. And nothing has been fixed. In fact, the college football landscape keeps getting greener and greener with all the money it makes while the stench of NCAA-produced manure still lingers. 

Last November the NCAA came up with a new plan regarding head coaches' responsibilities for assistant coaches committing NCAA violations. From USA Today

As of October 30, 2012, NCAA Division I Bylaw will state that an institution's head coach is presumed to be responsible for the actions of all assistant coaches and administrators who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach.

Pursuant to Bylaw, a head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations (e.g., academic fraud, recruiting inducements) occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff. After August 1, 2013, if the Committee on Infractions finds that a head coach violated Bylaw, he or she may be suspended, pursuant to a show-cause order, for an entire season for Level I violations and half of a season for Level II violations. The number of contests that a head coach would be suspended from will depend on the severity of the violation(s) committed by his/her staff or the coach himself/ herself.

Of particular interest is that the NCAA doesn't distinguish between an assistant (or administrator) reporting directly or indirectly to the head coach—he is still presumed responsible. Yet in that radio show interview last week, Emmert implied he shouldn't be held responsible for his then-Director of Enforcement Ameen Najjar's attempts to gather evidence unethically. Emmert implied that the organizational structure of the NCAA limits his knowledge of all of the going-ons within the NCAA's 120-plus committees. He didn't know, folks.

So why does the NCAA presume the head coach responsible and liable for severe punishment when one of his subordinates commits an NCAA violation, yet the NCAA won't adhere to that very philosophy when it comes to one of its own?

Is a head coach a president? Absolutely not. But by making the head coach liable for all of his assistants' mistakes, the NCAA has inadvertently made him the ultimate authority. The president. And if that head coach's assistant violates an NCAA bylaw, he may be suspended for a year. It's his head. 

Emmert's "assistants" violated NCAA investigative procedures and policies yet...he's still president. Let that sink in. But there's more.

While Emmert made some staff changes and commissioned an independent review of its investigation of Miami, Emmert's new lead investigator apparently didn't follow directives. More from the Miami-Herald:

The NCAA investigator who took over the University of Miami case last May attempted, as her fired predecessor did, to use Nevin Shapiro’s attorney to help build a case against Miami – a detail curiously omitted from the NCAA-commissioned report detailing the NCAA’s improper handling of the case, according to an email exchange between the parties that was relayed to me by two people.

Stephanie Hannah, an NCAA director of enforcement who took over the UM case late last May from fired Ameen Najjar, continued Najjar’s policy of working with Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, to try to build a case against UM.

Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach lost her job over this embarrassment. Chief Operating Officer Jim Isch—second in charge at the NCAA—did not, despite Isch signing off on Najjar's arrangement with Perez. Emmert, of course, didn't lose his job either.

Because he's president. He shouldn't be held responsible for his subordinates' actions because he wasn't aware of the arrangement with Perez until the fall of 2012.

He didn't know.

Just like then-USC running backs coach Todd McNair claimed he didn't know that Reggie Bush had a relationship with sports marketer Lloyd Lake. The NCAA disagreed—McNair should have known—and that outcome was largely a result of what many perceive as an investigation lacking due process.

Despite its bylaws allowing the accused to confront his witnesses at a hearing, the NCAA did not produce Lake at the hearing, according to this email exchange.   

McNair is currently embroiled in a civil lawsuit against the NCAA and last November the NCAA was denied a motion to dismiss the case—the presiding judge called the NCAA's investigation of McNair "malicious."

But that's old news.

Emmert's latest radio interview seems to indicate that the NCAA does not understand its own hypocrisy. The NCAA claims it's fair and wants what is best for the student-athlete, yet it denies student-athletes what the Sixth Amendment guarantees to the accused standing in court—to be able to confront witnesses.

It also wants head coaches to be held responsible as an organization's highest authority but excuses its own president because he was too high up to be held responsible for his subordinates' failures.   

When you have a moment, hit up the NCAA's Enforcement page, Mark Emmert's picture is right there. 

Along with the its mantra.

"Integrity. Fair Play. Accountability." 


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