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Nebraska, which prides itself on its law-abiding image and talks excessively about its righteousness, is furious at being treated like a common crook. The brouhaha involves the stunning NCAA charges last Wednesday that 60 members of the Husker football team violated a provision that forbids athletes from giving their complimentary tickets to anyone except "family members, relatives and fellow students designated by the student-athlete." Apparently, the players were guilty of handing out their ducats to no-goodniks like girlfriends, fianc�es and neighbors. Later in the week similar allegations surfaced at Tennessee, which defeated New Mexico 35-21 without 10 players who were serving one-game suspensions for giving tickets to unauthorized people, and at Texas. The Austin American-Statesman reported that last year, 46 Longhorns had unauthorized people on their ticket list.
The intent of the NCAA rule is to prevent ticket scalping, but in none of the current cases was anyone charged with trying to sell their tickets. Still, year after year, tickets draw the attention of NCAA enforcers, who might better spend their time tracking major rule breakers. The answer is simple: Stop giving players comp tickets. They have demonstrated the responsibility is too much for them.
In the spirit of "openness and honesty," coach Tom Osborne advised all his players to tell NCAA investigators the truth. Osborne later estimated that 80% of his top 40 players had provided passes to unauthorized people. NCAA Eligibility Committee members said they were disturbed by the players' unethical conduct and by the "misinformation" presented by the school. These charges angered Osborne, who said that one investigator, Hale McMenamin, told him, "We've got an unenforceable rule; don't worry about it." So when the bomb dropped, Osborne labeled the episode a "travesty."
Husker fans expressed anger at being "singled out" by a "nit-picking" NCAA. Nebraska Democratic gubernatorial candidate Helen Boosalis dubbed the NCAA the "No-Class Athletic Association" and later said that after the NCAA finished with the Huskers it "planned on investigating Santa Claus for breaking and entering." At Memorial Stadium, where Nebraska—using all its players, pending an appeal to the NCAA—whipped Florida State 34-17 on Saturday night, one fan sported a button showing the letters NCAA and a chicken sitting on a toilet. Others wore NO CLASS AT ALL and NUKE THE NCAA T-shirts.
The controversy is rooted in a four-month-old NCAA investigation centering on Husker car leases, particularly one signed by senior I-back Doug DuBose, who underwent season-ending knee surgery last month. Whatever else Nebraska may or may not be guilty of—it has never been hit with a major sanction—this ticket case isn't worthy of the NCAA. Could it be that, after hundreds of hours of probing, the NCAA got skunked in Lincoln on its car investigation and turned to tickets to save face?
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