Brand's NCAA Should Be Found Guilty For Lack of Institutional Control

Bill RatkusContributor IJune 12, 2009

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 27:  National Collegiate Athletics Association President Myles Brand testifies before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection about the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports on Captiol Hill February 27, 2008 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee also heard testimony from the head of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and their players' unions.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Apparently, the NCAA passed a new law that has abolished the Death Penalty.

After witnessing the impact that it had on SMU in the late 1980s, the dreaded ruling of a "lack of institutional control" has, apparently, been determined to be a cruel and unusual punishment.

More than twenty years later SMU will not be mistaken for Lazarus, for as much as you dress up a Pony in June Jones Hawaiian outfits, SMU still smells a bit like reanimated body.

SMU will forever be identified with the landmark 1987 ruling handed down by the NCAA.  A refusal to clean up the football program left the Mustangs without one, right before the golden age of cable television and the rise of College Football on the national sports television scene. 

One can only surmise at the impact that this ruling had on the future profits, conference affiliation, and competition that SMU missed out on due to their ongoing rebuilding project. Since the Death Penalty, SMU has had only one winning season in more than 20.

Today, it was learned that the University of Alabama was once again found in violation of NCAA rules. The accusations that players bought textbooks for non-scholarship athletes seems very small in the big scheme of things, yet before 1993 Alabama had no NCAA violations.

Since 1995 Alabama has been on the "repeat offender watch" and the clock is reset with each infraction. With this latest violation, Alabama will not be eligible to be "off the clock" until 2014.

For those of you doing the math, that's 19 years in the NCAA doghouse. How many times must one program circumvent the rules? At what point do you say "enough is enough?"

It was one thing to do it to SMU, it's another thing to do it to a flagship SEC program like Alabama.

In the grand scheme of things this is much less of a violation than Antonio Langham signing with an agent. Much less of a violation than the recruitment of Albert Means. These were kids that were using extra scholarship stipend to get books for friends and family.

But with a coach who is yet to even coach his first NCAA game thumbing his nose at the NCAA and committing secondary violations seemingly every week (Lane Kiffin we're all watching you closely), and compliance officers around the country playing a game of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," who will step in? 

Not all of the rules with the NCAA are rules we agree with, and the rules have trouble keeping up with technology, but Alabama has been committing further major infractions while serving time for major infractions.

The NCAA most closely resembles a referee that has lost control of a game. Now the players and the schools will start to police themselves without a competent official running the show. 

If the NCAA only barks, but doesn't bite, we will see more Phil Fullmer's and Bruce Pearl's blowing the whistles on other programs—not something that sets a sunny precedent.

Alabama will vacate some wins from some lackluster years. It will be as if coach Mike Shula was never even hired. 

To Alabama's credit, for the first time in the past decade, the administration and the athletic department took this investigation seriously. Previous admins laughed all the way to reduced scholarships and bowl bans. They swept the evidence so far under the rug that the Catholic Church was impressed with the buck-passing and ignoring skills of the Crimson Tide. 

Perhaps with all the noise that Tennessee and South Carolina are chirping at each other, and the newest Florida Penal Institution in Gainesville, Alabama is looking to clean up an image that well. . . lets face it. . . Alabama fan, outside of Alabama is largely portrayed unfavorably in the media.

While I could spend all day mocking the SEC, and pointing out how the only school in the conference that officially runs a "clean" program is the school that removed their own athletic department (Vanderbilt), this article is about the NCAA lacking the chutzpah to actually back up all the barking with any kind of bite.

In the past 20 years, the NCAA has no fear in coming down hard on non-flagship sports.  Baseball, Lacrosse, Track and Field, Softball, and other "non-revenue generating" sports have been on tickers and blotters with reports of major infractions. Even so, the death penalty has only been used twice since SMU: On Morehouse Soccer, and Division III's MacMurry College Men's Tennis. Those programs were barely visible on their own campuses.

The most egregious non-use of the NCAA death penalty occurred a few years back with  Dave Bliss and the Baylor Bears basketball team. A lack of institutional control?! You had one player killing another. Welding certificates counted for transfer credits, and lord knows just what else was going on there. 

Baylor received some of the stiffest punishments the NCAA could dish out, but not a death penalty. 

If a coach was covering up that one player on the team killed another player and that did not fall under a "lack of institutional control" then where does the test begin?  Does the coach himself have to kill a player? 

If the NCAA could not bring themselves to kill a program that was as rogue as Baylor basketball, they will not kill Alabama Football, or crack down on the rampant cheating going on at Florida State.

Repeat offenders are repeatedly slapped on the wrist, and the biggest lamentation and fallout is the outcry for Bobby Bowden's wins, be they at some "dips*** school" or FSU.

Call me old school, but if a coach sits on top of a cherry picker and runs practice, but he is unable to pay attention to clear warning signs and e-mails given to him by compliance officers, tutors, academic advisers, and even whistle blowers, that coach does not deserve to be a college coach. 

In the NFL there are different rules, and it is not required for a coach to police his own program, especially in Cincinatti. But in college, a coach meets the parents of the recruit, sits in their living rooms, and promises that his school and his team will be like another family—a family where a young man grows up and hopefully matures into a professional football player or a productive member of society. 

Unfortunately, many of these players end up becoming defacto "latch-key kids" who are tossed under the bus as soon as they make a mistake, while the coaches claim no knowledge of any problems.

If the NCAA means business, and they mean to have themselves taken seriously, then sometimes they have to exercise the disciplinary stick.

Is it the NCAA that runs college athletics? Or is the conferences and the BCS money?

At this point, I feel there is an ongoing power struggle. The NCAA's refusal to stand up and enforce their own rules will only encourage further infractions by other institutions.  The NCAA is like a nun at a private school who was told "while you still can rap a student on the knuckles with your ruler, we don't want to get any calls from the parents, okay?"

Alabama is on the "repeat offender watch" until 2014.  Perhaps Nick Saban will reign in the program. And perhaps Urban Meyer will recruit a few players who stay out of a police blotter. And perhaps Bobby Bowden will retire and Jimbo Fisher won't give out free shoes or Internet music tests.  But does anyone reading this honestly believe it? 

Alabama keeps extending their stay by their own efforts, FSU is making Miami look like a clean program, and Urban Meyer needs to hire some corrections officers to help his special teams.

But how much longer will we watch our favorite schools, rival schools, and other conferences constantly "cheat" before the rules are meaningless?

Those that argue in criminal law for a death penalty argue that it is a deterrent to future crimes. Will the NCAA again use it to deter future offenders? Or has the NCAA been declawed by their own financial success?