With USC football’s roster depth blasted and new sanctions out for Miami, USC’s sanctions come to the forefront yet again. On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, the NCAA finally handed down the University of Miami’s punishment after many years of investigation. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden responded by reiterating that the penalties received by the Trojans in 2010 were too much.
USC AD Pat Haden on NCAA’s Miami decision: “We have always felt that our penalties were too harsh. This decision only bolsters that view.”
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) October 22, 2013
The numbers on the chart are mostly accurate. The lengths of the NCAA investigation, number of student-athletes involved and years of violation are approximate estimates. Information on the investigation length tends to be unclear because of the way the NCAA operates. The number of student-athletes involved cannot be determined exactly because the NCAA lacks subpoena power.
The chart shows a huge disparity in the punishments received by USC. A combination of any two other schools, at most, adds up to as many scholarships lost by USC. Ohio State, Miami, and Oregon lose less scholarships total than USC does in a single year— all three combined still cannot match the severity of USC’s scholarship sanctions. What exactly did USC do to deserve this?
Ohio State’s case involved players receiving benefits like tattoos, a loan, and a car discount for trading in their memorabilia. The Buckeyes were hit with a “failure to monitor” label. Former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel not only failed to report these violations when he had knowledge of them, but lied to the NCAA about it as well. Tressel has since resigned from the position.
That’s not all— before the investigation was finished, Ohio State found a way to postpone player suspensions until next season, well after participating in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.
Their athletic director Gene Smith, has purported that the student-athletes did not know this was against the rules. Keep this in mind: apparently it is okay to not know. Gene Smith continues his work at his post as athletic director. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor never served his suspension at Ohio State, opting to leave for the NFL.
Oregon probably got off the easiest compared to the rest of the schools. Their most significant punishment was an 18-month show-cause penalty that does not matter for former Ducks head coach, Chip Kelly. He signed a 5-year, $32.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles before the ruling took place. Oregon had paid $25,000 to Willie Lyles’ recruiting service that helped bring in recruits like LaMichael James and Lache Seastrunk.
James helped lead the Ducks to two Rose Bowl games and a BCS National Championship game before leaving for the NFL. Seastrunk transferred to Baylor. The NCAA decided that Kelly had no idea Lyles influenced recruits in this way. Oregon received a meager loss of 3 scholarships total with no bowl ban and no vacating of wins.
UNC’s penalties were among the worst ones in the past three years but still only about half of USC’s penalties. They were also charged with “failure to monitor.”
Penn State started out with the worst sanctions out of all the schools. They lost a total of 80 scholarships over 4 years and had a 4 year bowl ban to go with it— until the NCAA decided to reduce the sanctions following appeals by Penn State. NCAA president Mark Emmert claimed the reduction came about due to Penn State’s reform efforts and not because the original sanctions were too harsh. For Penn State’s supposed show of change, their punishment was dramatically reduced to 15 total scholarship losses: 10 the first year and five the second year. The NCAA is considering reducing the postseason ban as well.
Miami had a decade of violations. They are the only school other than USC on this list to be hit with the “lack of institutional control” label. Before the NCAA finished their investigation and released the ruling, Miami decided to self-impose bowl bans for two years— both times were decided in late November when they were rolling to 6-6 and 7-5 records. Some Miami fans believe that somehow the botched and drawn out investigation privileged the school to lesser penalties.
All the cases have one thing in common: they are rife with the NCAA’s hypocrisy.
Every school’s officials seemed, in some permutation of words, shocked and disappointed in the NCAA’s findings, yet only two schools sought to appeal: USC and Penn State. USC’s official appeal was denied back in 2011. Afterwards, every other ruling came down. In every case, except for Penn State’s, the punishments for seemingly larger crimes were smaller than that of USC’s punishments.
The comparison for Penn State’s case was already absurd to begin with. By comparing the initial sanctions, knowingly harboring a child molester for a decade is only twice as bad as one student-athlete’s family receiving impermissible benefits for a little more than a season by agents trying to lure him away from USC without institutional knowledge. By the good behavior of Penn State, their sanctions were reduced drastically. Athletic director Pat Haden tried to appeal to the NCAA unofficially after this happened. He was rejected in less than a day. Seems like all the changes made by USC were not good enough.
Finally, we get to Miami’s case. Despite “lack of institutional control” being severely worse than “failure to monitor,” their penalties seem very similar to the others and much less than USC’s penalties. The late Paul Dee, a UM athletic director from 1993-2008 (while violations were occurring at UM) and head of the Committee of Infractions during USC’s case, famously and hypocritically said “High-profile players demand high-profile compliance” when handing down USC sanctions. Apparently none of the other almost hundred football players at every other school were as high-profile as one football player at USC. For a single student-athlete, USC was reduced 30 scholarships. When responding to the violations at UM, Dee said “We didn’t have any suspicion that he was doing anything like this. He didn’t do anything to cause concern.” Maybe Dee “should have known” since he told USC the same thing years before.
Any argument Miami has that the NCAA was less fair on their case than USC is invalid. The NCAA took a convict’s testimony? The NCAA took a convict’s words over former USC assistant coach, Todd McNair. He is currently locked in legal battles with the NCAA. The USC investigation was botched by the NCAA, much like the Miami case. Still they will say, the investigation took too long and the ruling deserved softening! USC’s took even longer. Emmert even had the gall to come out and say, “Everyone looks at the Reggie Bush case and says, ‘It took them a long time.’ But they got it right, I think.” Meanwhile, in the case of former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, reinstatement happens in a day. He then goes on to win a Heisman Trophy and a BCS National Championship. Speaking of Newton, why was what his parents did okay, but what Bush’s parents was not?
The moral of the story? The NCAA does what it wants.