Big flaw in bowl business model; more mail (cont.)
First, I find the whole Ohio State thing as laughable as any situation the NCAA faced this year. Second, I am appalled that Ohio State has the audacity to claim it will appeal the suspensions. Ohio State's only punishment is that it is losing some starters for next year, but it is Ohio State and will replace these guys with more blue chippers. My question is how come Ohio State is not getting punished when it stated that it didn't do a good job educating the kids on the rules?
-- Rick Adler, Allen, Texas
As I wrote last week, the obscure policy the NCAA dug up to keep the players eligible for the bowl game (reportedly at the behest of AD Gene Smith and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany) was a bizarre and hypocritical move that seems contradictory to past decisions rendered by other arms of NCAA enforcement. How can the NCAA come down on some schools (USC, Michigan) for negligent compliance but then give these suspended players a reprieve for their biggest game of the year for essentially the same reason?
Again, we're dealing with two different arms of the organization. The Ohio State decision came from the NCAA's student-athlete reinstatement staff, which is charged with making quick, real-time decisions about a player's eligibility when it appears that a violation occurred. Ohio State was first contacted by the U.S. attorney's office about the suspicious memorabilia at the tattoo parlor on Dec. 7, reported its findings Dec. 18 and received a ruling Dec. 22. Now, If the NCAA's larger enforcement division has reason to believe this wasn't an "isolated incident" (as the school claimed), it can open an full-fledged investigation into whether the school itself is guilty of any infractions like the kind that landed USC and Michigan their sanctions. So far there's been no sign that's on the horizon.
With the NCAA basically saying to Auburn and Ohio State that your players can break the rules and still play as long as they claim ignorance of those rules, do you think that USC might be looking at a favorable result to its upcoming appeal of the sanctions levied against it, too? I don't have any love for Lane Kiffin or USC, but it almost seems like easing their sanctions would be the fair thing to do in light of these other "punishments" which, to be frank, seem completely ridiculous. Do you think USC's appeal chances have improved in light of these other decisions by the NCAA?
-- Doug Whittle, Madison, Wis.
Based on the NCAA's stated protocol for an appeals hearing, USC's chances shouldn't have improved. According to the NCAA's Web site, USC's Jan. 22 appearance before the Infractions Appeals Committee "is NOT a new hearing that provides a second chance to argue the case" and "The Infractions Appeals Committee does not consider evidence that wasn't presented to the Committee on Infractions." In other words, anything that's taken place since the time of the original decision is not considered relevant. The school will presumably be arguing that the original Committee was too harsh based on the evidence of the case, or that it made a procedural error.
Stewart, this may fall slightly outside your purview, but should the NFL actually stage a lockout, what if any ramifications to college football will occur? Will they still draft in April? Will the NCAA extend the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft? I'd hate to see underclassmen miss an entire year of football due to NFL childishness.
-- Brian, Houston
There will still be a draft in April. It is the last organized NFL event that will occur once the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in March. And the Jan. 15 deadline to declare comes from the NFL, not the NCAA, and it's not changing either. Note there will only be four days this year between the national title game and the deadline. If Cam Newton, Nick Fairley or LaMichael James tells us before the game he "hasn't thought about" his decision yet, I'm crying foul.
After that it gets a little bit hazy. While a lockout seems inevitable at this point, we don't know when it would begin or how long it would last. It doesn't automatically start in March. If come May it's still business as usual, teams would be free to not only sign their draft picks, but to spend as much as the market commands. (Last year's top pick, Sam Bradford, got $50 million in guaranteed money.) However, rookie contracts are one of the big sticking points in the current stalemate, and many believe the NFLPA may wind up agreeing to some sort of rookie wage scale. If that's a possibility, teams may let their draft picks go unsigned until the CBA is resolved.
I've seen several different schools of thought on this. Alabama coach Nick Saban, for one, has told his underclass prospects to think twice about leaving this year because they'll risk losing a year of development if no mini-camps, training camps or even the season take place. Agents, of course, are trying to lure even marginal prospects and are using the rookie wage scale as the motivator (i.e., go in now so you can get to your first free-agent contract sooner). In the end, I don't see it making a big difference either way. The issue is far too complex for most 20- and 21-year-olds to comprehend, and many of them probably don't really care. If they're ready to leave school, they'll leave. If they think they're not ready, or enjoy college too much to leave, they'll come back, same as in any year. But those who do go may get stuck in football limbo.
After seeing the success of the Rooney Rule in the NFL, how does college football get away with only 14 black coaches in college football -- none at a marquee program now that Randy Shannon got canned? It's pretty criminal considering the demographics of football.
-- Chen, Pittsburgh
That may sound low, but believe it or not it was only two years ago that we were writing about FOUR black coaches among (then) 119 FBS schools. Two years ago, four schools with openings hired black coaches. Last year there were seven, albeit mostly at non-BCS schools. So far this year we've seen three at BCS-conference schools. (Vanderbilt hired James Franklin, Colorado hired Jon Embreee and Pittsburgh hired Michael Haywood). While there's no excusing the depths that number reached, there's been considerable progress in the past few years. However, the Rooney Rule is first and foremost about ensuring teams at least interview minority candidates, and occasionally we still see colleges that don't provide that opportunity. If there were a Rooney Rule in college, West Virginia would get a fine, seeing as its athletic director hand-picked the new coach (Dana Holgorsen) before the job was even open.
At the end of the process, however, every school must hire the best possible candidate regardless of race. Remember all the flack (including accusations of racism) that Auburn took for hiring Gene Chizik over Turner Gill? It sure seems AD Jay Jacobs got that one right. Meanwhile, Louisville's Charlie Strong, who waited what seemed like an eternity for his first head-coaching gig, is doing exactly what most of us believed he would in quickly leading the Cardinals back to respectability. In fact, a case can be made that the veteran Strong is in a far better position to succeed than Ron Prince, Karl Dorrell and many of the other infamous flameouts before him. Check out this fascinating empirical column from Football Outsiders which shows that on average, black coaches hired by BCS schools tend to be younger and less experienced than their counterparts. With more minority coordinators than ever before, hopefully we'll see a rise of both better-prepared coaches and, in turn, more interview and hiring opportunities.
Speaking of diversity, there was very little of it in my inbox this week (in fact, 80 percent of the e-mails were Ohio State/NCAA-related queries), presumably because of the holiday break. Amazingly, by this time next week teams will have played 30 of the 35 bowl games and I'll be in Arizona. We should have plenty to talk about then.
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