Next week, March Madness shall be upon us. Life as we know it comes to a complete standstill for The Tournament. It’s something that the NCAA gets absolutely right.
But this week, let’s focus on what the NCAA gets wrong.
Virtually everything else.
The one thing the NCAA used to be reasonably good at was ferreting out miscreants. Now it can’t even do that right.
The NCAA managed to mangle its latest investigation of the University of Miami so badly that it did the unthinkable: it aroused sympathy for Miami. Imagine.
It appears that NCAA investigators paid Maria Elena Perez to obtain testimony from witnesses in he client Nevin Shapiro’s bankruptcy case. Shapiro, the central figure in the investigation, allegedly bankrolled a good portion of the Hurricane’s miscellaneous expenses.
Without the assistance of Perez, a Miami law school graduate, the NCAA would not have obtained what its investigators deemed to be vital information.
Please. This is Miami, a chronic rules abuser. And Shapiro’s already in jail. The NCAA couldn’t find enough overt evidence elsewhere without jeopardizing the entire investigation?
The latest, according to Michael Casagrande of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, is that a state senator is now working on his own investigation. Of the NCAA.
And federal judge Federico A. Moreno, also a Miami law school graduate, is looking into possible ethics violations in Ms. Perez’s behavior.
Meanwhile, Miami is preparing its countersuit, and a response to allegations of the dreaded “lack of institutional control.”
Guess what? The NCAA itself has never defined “lack of institutional control.” Just last week, NCAA president Mark Emmert told Greg Bishop of the New York Times that the NCAA was “working to define phrases like ‘lack of institutional control.’”
Brilliant. We’ll charge you with an offense, and we’ll delineate the offense later.
What makes this doubly baffling? Have you ever seen the NCAA rulebook? It makes the Internal Revenue Code look like a pamphlet.
At least the NCAA is no stranger to lawsuits. It’s currently involved in defending an antitrust suit filed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett.
At issue here is the NCAA’s heavy-handed gallows punishment meted out to Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Never mind that the NCAA ignored its own procedural rules. What Pennsylvania wants is for the $60 million Penn State was fined to remain in the state of Pennsylvania, to combat child sexual abuse.
Jake Corman, the state senator who authored a bill to that effect, has had enough of the NCAA. “They give off the appearance of ‘we’re big and powerful and do what we want,’” he told Bishop. “Like what you see from a bully.
"How long are schools going to stand for this? It’s Penn State yesterday. It’s Miami today. At what point do the schools stand up and say, ‘this is wrong?’”
When hired in April, 2010, Emmert was charged with reforming the NCAA. Last week, NCAA Executive Committee chair Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State, issued a statement emphasizing progress made, and work to be done.
“The analogy would be you’ve hired a coach for rebuilding,” she told Bishop, “and you didn’t give them a chance to work through the beginning stages of the rebuilding process. That was the reason for the statement. It wasn’t to pat Mark on the back.”
Now, that’s a ringing endorsement.
But it’s more than Emmert would elicit from Joel Bauman.
Bauman, a wrestler for second-ranked Minnesota, is currently serving an NCAA suspension.
Bauman performs inspirational songs, and a few have achieved success on YouTube and iTunes. The problem?
Bauman identified himself as a Minnesota wrestler. Student-athletes cannot use their names, images, or status as an athlete to promote the sale of a commercial product.
“I always wanted to do something with my life, make a big impact,” Bauman told Pat Borzi of the New York Times.
“My message is: I will inspire, and I will impact. I have a plan to figure this whole thing out, to be able to do both. But my message is more important that my eligibility, in the long run. So if I can’t, then so be it.”
Anyone else think Bauman has more common sense than the NCAA?
Not that the NCAA ever really looked out for its student-athletes. While the basketball coach at Utah, Rick Majerus ran afoul of the NCAA for buying a player ham and eggs. This after Majerus had been up with him all night, because it fell to Majerus to break the news that the player’s father had died.
Majerus was also reprimanded for serving his players milk and cookies.
Yet the NCAA makes billions of dollars using the likeness of its players, excuse me, student-athletes, in myriad commercial enterprises.
Keep an eye on the lawsuit brought by former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and joined now by many others. This suit demands compensation for the NCAA using their likenesses in perpetuity.
If the plaintiffs win, and obtain an enormous monetary judgment, it just might destroy the NCAA as we know it.
Anyone have a problem with that?
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears each Thursday.