First of all on this Memorial Day, I would like to express my appreciation to all those throughout the centuries, who have bravely served our country and given their lives for the cause of freedom throughout the world.
In times like this with all the violence and conflicts in the Middle East and the natural disasters in Japan and here in the United States, the squabbles among college football fans over infractions, sanctions and suspensions seem petty at least compared to the very real problems faced by the victims of these tragedies.
Nevertheless, the Ohio State and Jim Tressell situation aside, many USC fans have voiced an opinion this past week on Pat Haden’s handling of USC’s NCAA appeal.
Many have praised Haden, and just as many have called for his firing. Some have said that his response was ideal. Others have claimed that he was too weak.
I tend to side with the former rather than the latter, however, not whole-heartedly.
Haden, I feel, was correct in not threatening the NCAA with a lawsuit or any follow-up to their decision on the university’s appeal. There was little to gain from a lawsuit, which could not be won.
Any public relations benefit that could be gained by dragging the NCAA through court would be offset by the media and college football fans across the nation labeling USC as a bunch of spoiled crybabies who cannot take the hand that they have been dealt.
Where I disagree with Haden is with his apparent effort to go overboard in his appeasement of the NCAA and placing the onus entirely on USC to be in compliance.
By not pointing out the responsibility that the NCAA, itself, has to the universities that it supposedly serves, Haden has committed an affront not only to the program at USC but to college football in general.
The NCAA provides only lip-service to the student/athlete. In fact, they have literally removed the student from the equation altogether and replaced the term with amateur athlete, the emphasis being on amateur rather than student.
What do I mean by that?
Well, certainly Pat Haden, a former Rhodes Scholar, should be intelligent enough to know exactly what I mean.
Instead of putting all the responsibility on USC to be compliant from now on, Haden should have pointed out that the 100 percent compliance that the NCAA demands is completely irrational.
In order to appease the NCAA, Haden had to hire a new head of compliance along with four other compliance officers and staff. Fortunately, USC’s Athletic Depart is in the black due to the tradition of its football program. Not all, in fact most schools, cannot say that.
Nevertheless, those five additional salaries along with accompanying benefits meant that there were five less professors and/or graduate assistants that could be hired throughout the university’s other departments.
Student athletes makes up a very minor portion of the overall undergraduate population, many of whom are only interested in getting an education and could care less about the success of the university’s athletic teams.
These students are being deprived of professors and/or graduate assistants and the like on account of the NCAA’s demand that the university’s amateur athletes be in full compliance.
Has Haden pointed out that, since the rules and the ensuing punishments for infractions are so strict, it is the NCAA’s responsibility to provide funds to all its Division I programs for this sole purpose?
No Haden has not.
Yes, by all means, accept responsibility for the previous infractions and accept the sanctions but demand that the NCAA support all future compliance endeavors.
How is that to be done?
The head of compliance at all of the 119 Division I programs must be an employee hired and paid for by the NCAA not the school. Depending on the extent of each school’s athletic program, the NCAA should determine how many additional compliance officers are necessary and subsidize the school for a part of those officers salaries and benefits.
Where is the NCAA to get the additional funds?
Start by reducing the salaries and benefits of its executives and send them out to do fundraisers. As far as I am concerned, they can stand on corners and hold up car wash signs.
Actually, if the powers that be were at all creative, they could get the federal government to kick in. Now, before all you Republicans out there blow a gasket over the growing deficit, let me just say that the money is already there.
Fittingly, today is Memorial Day, and the NCAA like our nation at large could turn its eyes on our returning veterans. There is no need to hire compliance professionals, if indeed there is such a thing. Returning disabled veterans could be trained on federal funds that have already been allocated to function as compliance officers and staff. Federal subsidies would even cover part of their salaries.
Whatever it takes the NCAA just has to do it. If the NCAA in this modern age of professional sports salaries and high-powered agents with aggressive staffers is to keep a tight rein on college athletes, then it is their responsibility to at least partially fund and oversee compliance at each school.
But by being overly appeasing to the NCAA in stating that USC will be at the forefront of compliance, Haden has set himself up for ridicule the moment there is any infraction. And, believe me, there will be infractions just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow.
The golf cart incident with running back Dillon Baxter could have been damaging had it not been caught at the time and then later uncovered by the media.
If Haden wants to keep his “squeaky clean” image and not come become known as a hypocrite further down the line, then he needs to speak out on how difficult a task it is for any university to be totally in compliance.
He must insist that the NCAA take a more active role in strengthening compliance rather than disassociating from it by merely issuing excessive sanctions.
End of rant. God bless America, and fight on!