Sports Commentary 4/4/13
It can’t buy love, but it can buy corruption …
IT CAN’T BUY LOVE BUT IT CAN BUY CORRUPTION
The signals of corruption in the NCAA are disturbing to say the least and it’s no surprise the majority of 48 major infractions cases referenced by NCAA President Mark Emmert in an interview with USA Today are either at the BCS football level or the division I basketball level. The stakes at those levels are so high the lords of those programs at many of the major universities are willing to assume the risks of turning a blind eye. The case of Rutgers men’s basketball coach Mike Rice isn’t the only troubling situation to jump onto the NCAA’s dockett this week, though it did take a particularly bothersome turn yesterday, the day Rice was fired. In an interview with a Philadelphia radio station a former team manager stated that the behavior displayed in the video that led to Rice’s downfall, showing him physically, verbally and psychologically abusing players in practice, was business as usual. As the former manager pointed out, those practices were held at the on campus R-A-C, which houses all of the athletic department offices. For Rice’s conduct to go unmentioned for three years required a lot of turned heads. The other major issue to confront the NCAA surfaced at Auburn where former football players claim that, under Gene Chizik’s tenure as head coach, grades were altered to keep players eligible and players who considered entering the NFL draft after their junior years were offered thousands of dollars to stay in school. Under Chizik Auburn won the national championship in 2011. Altering grades requires cooperation beyond the football program and a slush fund large enough to offer payments to players is an indication of lack of institutional control. Neither situation is a case of one man corrupting the system for the sake of his own record or his own job security. The stakes are so high in the NCAA a lot of jobs beyond a sports program are dependent on the success of that program, and the range of those stakes is quite wide. Money is only part of it, though the money negotiated on an annual basis by the NCAA and member institutions is almost enough to bail out the European Union. In some cases the fiscal future on an entire institution is at stake. The amount of NCAA money an institution takes in, and the size of the conference pie from which it slices it’s own piece, depends greatly on conference affiliation. At least one university has already been denied a conference upgrade, at least in part, over concerns about the ethical conduct of a coach. Evidence of the awareness of Rutgers officials of the actions of Mike Rice, is already documented to last fall, when the university was expecting an invitation to the Big Ten while the Big East was crumbling around it. There would be no way to put a long term figure on the value of such a move, suffice it to say it would be many times more than mob wars have started over. With a suggestive stream of transfers from the basketball program over the coach’s conduct at practices that were held right under the ahtletic director’s nose, there would certainly be some legitimacy to asking how much university officials above the athletic department level knew about Rice’s actions, and for how long. While Emmert talks with USA Today about efforts to clean up the corruption in the NCAA someone should remind him you only get what you pay for, or, in this case, you get what you get paid for. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.