The Cam Newton/OSU Controversy and the NCAA: What Happened to the Rule Book?

Del KerbyContributor IJanuary 5, 2011

Did the NCAA give preferential treatment to Cam Newton?
Did the NCAA give preferential treatment to Cam Newton?Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Well folks, the year is almost over and the controversies still rage on almost every sports website, with regard to the NCAA and its rules enforcement. 

With CamGate and the OSU Tattoo Gang, the NCAA has left the vast majority of sports fans with a foul taste in their mouths.  The organization that is supposed to protect the student athlete and balance the playing field for college athletics, in my humble opinion, failed miserably this year in regulating the sport.

When looking at the past, the NCAA has been almost brutal in enforcing the rules regarding the issues that surfaced this year.  Examples are the 2000 Wisconsin Badgers who had 26 players suspended immediately for taking unadvertised discounts on athletic shoes (interchange tattoos), the 2003 OSU Buckeye's Clarett was suspended immediately by the NCAA for 3 games and by the university for additional 3 games for lying to police and the most famous of all is the SMU death penalty case.  Everyone from the university administration to coaches to players to alumni were involved in pay for play.

So, what makes this year different from many of the past years?  It must be the year of the "I didn't realize or didn't know I (or someone in my stead, Cam Newton) was doing something in violation of NCAA rules" defense.  The NCAA, which for years has been held up as the ultimate rules enforcer, is beginning to look like the O.J.Simpson jury.  They have basically turned a blind eye to the facts and their own rules regarding these facts. 

In the past the NCAA had taken great pride in quickly and efficiently doling out punishments equally to all those who abuse the rules.  Now, they have become the protectors of their Sacred Cow conferences and will do what it takes to insure that the impact is kept to a minimum. 

It has become a fact of life that the BCS conferences have come to control college football and possibly define how the NCAA should enforce it's rules.  The power being wielded over the NCAA has become apparent this year, by how the rules were enforced.  This is too bad, as the NCAA used to be the "Big Dog", but now appears to be a "lap dog" to the BCS conferences and the money being generated. The NCAA needs to take back its role as the "Big Dog", if the integrity of college football is to be maintained.

The NCAA wants and needs us to believe in their ability to control the off field abuses by athletes and alumni. To do this, they must go back to a hard nose stance of the past years.  If that means Auburn forfeits the entire season, so be it (that would not be as worse as SMU).  If that means that key OSU players are out for a big bowl, so be it. 

If that was Toledo, Tulsa or even TCU, the NCAA would not have been so differential to those schools.  The penalties would have been immediate and severe.  The NCAA rules committee's job is to insure the integrity of the game and the student-athletes who play it.  One can rationalize away the sins of players when violating the rules and maybe that's a reflection of what our American culture has evolved into. 

In college athletics, the days of being held accountable for ones' actions and accepting the consequences that occur are being eroded.  The NCAA rules committee can change this by returning to its original goal of protecting the integrity of the sports it oversees and insuring that all rules are equally enforced both fairly and in a quick and thorough manner.