Scandal at the U: I Have Questions, and so Should Every Trojan Fan

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Scandal at the U:  I Have Questions, and so Should Every Trojan Fan
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Holy smokes, is this Miami thing a mess.  If everything that Yahoo Sports is reporting is true, Miami is in big trouble. 

First of all, let’s give some well earned credit to Yahoo Sports for the reporting they’ve done here. (http://sports.yahoo.com/investigations/news?slug=cr-renegade_miami_booster_details_illicit_benefits_081611)  It appears to be widely sourced, cross checked and backed up with facts. 

I’m operating here on the assumption that most of what they are reporting is true.  Provable in court as criminal?  That’s a different question.  But this booster Nevin Shapiro is singing like a canary. 

Questionable credibility because he’s a felon convicted of a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme?  Sure.  But HE contacted the NCAA.  From prison!  And then turned over pictures, receipts, times, places, names, dates…..you know – evidence… to back up what he was saying. 

Yahoo followed up, and a lot of it looks like he wasn’t lying.  What’s Shapiro got to lose now anyway? 

No, the real issue here isn’t that a booster was violating compliance.  Anybody who follows sports knows that boosters can and do (allegedly) walk it right up to, and sometimes past, the line.  Ask Buddy Garrity if you don’t believe me.  Shady is the name of the game. 

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

But, I have some questions.  At the top of my list is:  where in the world have the local Miami media been on this?  You could make a case that they all have been so enamored of LeBron for the last year that they were distracted. 

But this Miami Hurricanes stuff has been going on since 2001!  (Allegedly.)  And it wasn’t subtle.  According to Yahoo and Shapiro, we are looking at payouts, jewelry, bounties, hookers, drugs, wild parties….and that’s just a partial list. 

Do you mean to tell me nobody in the Miami media knew about this?  Not possible.  Not with the kind of bar tabs that were being run up.  Not with the guests at the parties at the hottest Miami nightspots.  Not with Shapiro getting into a fight with the Miami Head of Compliance in the press box!!!!!!   

Were the local media distracted by the Heat and the Dolphins?  The real estate crisis?

Or maybe nobody cared because, really, when was the last time The U was seriously relevant football-wise on a national level in the last 10 years?  Plus, the air was sucked out of the room by USC and then tOSU investigations. 

It’s kind of funny that this Miami scandal has had the unbelievable consequence of making the Heat’s bravado and excess seem tame by comparison.  What Heat Index?  But I digress.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Anyway, next question – where was Miami’s compliance department?  I think college athletic departments need to take a page out of The Wire’s playbook.  Avon and Stringer weren’t necessarily out on the corners every day, but you best be sure they knew what was happening on their turf. 

Sure, Donna Shalala’s probably not going out on one of Shapiro’s yacht bacchanals, but don’t you think you need some eyes and ears on the ground?  On the other hand, maybe they don’t WANT to know.  Your willful blindness preserves your plausible deniability. 

Here’s what really gets me.  I live in Los Angeles.  I’m a UCLA alum and a Bruin fan forever.  So let that be your context for what I’m going to say next.  I think USC got shafted in the Reggie Bush deal with regard to NCAA punishment. 

The NCAA dragged it out forever and ultimately most of the guilty parties were long gone when the hammer came down.  I don’t see how it has hurt Bush’s career (who, irony of ironies, is now in Miami.  Perfect). 

He’s got a Super Bowl ring, millions of dollars and all the hoochie-mamas he can handle.  I don’t even think he ever returned the Heisman.  Did we ever get final word on that? 

At USC, some people were shown the door, but the brunt of the punishment was and is being born mostly by folks who weren’t even around then.  How is that fair? 

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I guess the NCAA would probably argue that they’re punishing the school as institution.  Lack of institutional control.  But really, the institution is at heart the folks who are there.  Both students and administration. 

So, USC is on probation and had to vacate the 2004 championship. Yes, they’re still on TV.  Yes, they still serve as part of the NFL’s farm team.   But, I think it is just fundamentally unfair the way the punishment was meted out.

I wonder if this is the tipping point for the NCAA?  I cannot fathom that they did not know about any of what was taking place at Miami.  If that proves true, it is an indictment on them on a gigantic scale. 

I’ve thought that the NCAA is nothing more than a fig leaf for college athletics being “amateur” for a long time now. 

I can’t WAIT to see how the LA Times sports writers handle this.  I have a feeling they are going to go ballistic.  In my opinion, the NCAA doesn’t provide real enforcement.  If anything, the way they operate is a disincentive to good behavior. 

Why follow the rules at all if you can skate out scot-free just in the nick of time and not feel any of the consequences of shady behavior and compliance violations? 

Every Trojan alumni should be furious about this.  The Reggie Bush scandal is a misdemeanor compared to what is shaping up in South Florida.  I’ve never thought it was fair that the current crop of kids playing at USC should have to pay the penalty for the previous regime’s wrongdoing. 

You explain to me why Matt Barkley (actually,  someone needs to explain to his parents) hasn’t had the chance to play for a national championship?  He had nothing to do with this. 

And to his eternal good credit, he has manned up and led the Trojans admirably.  He could have transferred.  But he didn’t.  He is a class act all the way and Lane Kiffin, the coaching staff, the team, the fans and Pat Haden are lucky to have him.  Strictly from a character/leadership standpoint, so will be whatever NFL team drafts him.

Speaking of Pat Haden, I think the time is now for him to publicly call out the NCAA.  Remember, that he protested what a lot of folks thought was an extremely heavy handed penalty after an extremely long investigation.  But the NCAA haughtily refused to budge. 

Haden, because he too is a class act, registered his disagreement with this outcome, but took the high road essentially saying:  It’s water under the bridge now, Trojan family.  Let’s move forward and look to the future. Like I said, class guy.  

But now we find out that the guy who handed down the punishment from the NCAA is Paul Dee.  Why don’t you take a guess what Dee was doing prior to joining the NCAA?  He was Athletic Director at Miami.  I am not making that up. 

This smells of rank hypocrisy to me.  Boy, wouldn’t it be great to have USC’s extremely well connected and influential alumni come unglued over this and call for a public accounting by the NCAA of how they can possibly defend their actions. 

They spent a huge chunk of the 2000s investigating USC while compliance violations on a practically unprecedented scale were taking place at Miami.  Something is not right. 

You’re going to hear a lot about the “death penalty” and SMU in the coming weeks and months.  Everybody will wring their hands about student athletes and their “amateur” status. 

Hopefully, we’ll get a good national discussion about what changes can take place moving forward so college athletics are not so prone to this kind of corruption. 

But I’m not too hopeful that any real change will come from the NCAA.  They will probably go the tried and true route of “we’re looking into it, let’s wait for the facts, blah, blah, blah” and hope that time and distance will take the spotlight off this.  I don’t think that is going to be possible. 

The alleged details are too salacious.  There was too much money  and too many big names involved.  There is blood in the water and anybody that has an axe to grind with the NCAA will probably pile on.  Like I said, I think this could be a tipping point for the organization. 

Miami has a gale force hurricane coming their way.  Pun fully intended.

But how does the NCAA survive this?  If they couldn’t even see what was happening in Miami, which was by all accounts hiding in plain sight, then their credibility as an enforcement agency is in tatters. 

Institutional control, indeed. 

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