Friday, June 17, 2011

An Open Letter to the NCAA

To the NCAA Enforcement Committee:

For years, you have been seen by your myriad critics as toothless hypocrites.  You have a history of talking big and acting small.  You are quick to accept self-imposed penalties and show your "power" by adding something minor onto them.  But when it comes to programs that stonewall, lie, or intimidate potential witnesses into silence, such as the Ohio State University, you usually do nothing. 

You had a chance to punish the Ohio State University once, in 2004, when Maurice Clarett was seen on television by millions of viewers.  You may remember it; he told ESPN how he had received free cars, "escorts," "tutors" who not only did his classwork but took his tests for him, and "golden handshakes" from well-heeled boosters. 

You then "investigated" the Ohio State University, but "found nothing."  You scheduled Clarett to testify before the committee, but elements within and around the program who often like to refer to themselves as the "sacred brotherhood" intimidated Clarett into silence.  Actually, they intimidated him so badly that he ended up going to jail when caught driving with the weapons he had purchased for self-protection.  But I digress.

You told the public that Clarett's appearance on television didn't count as evidence, and that you had no evidence to proceed with a case against the Ohio State University.  To those in Columbus, you appeared to be fair and just.  To the other 98 percent of the football world, you appeared to be idiots. 

Anyone who was paying attention to what was happening at the Ohio State University knew that there was both systemic and systematic cheating going on, but you chose to bury your individual and collective heads in the sand.  You chose to allow the Ohio State University to not only get away with cheating, but to continue their actions with no consequences.

Whenever compliance is publicized, you are always sure to mention that self-reporting is the very backbone of your entire code of ethics: that without it, the system doesn't exist.  When the Ohio State Univesity started reporting numerous "minor" violations on a yearly basis, you chose to interpret it as evidence that the Ohio State University was serious about self-reporting.

In truth, though, the Ohio State University's behavior is and has been antithetical to the entire concept of self-reporting.  When two players were interviewed this year about violations and admitted to many, they were silenced by the "sacred brotherhood" within twenty-four hours of speaking.  They tried to recant their stories, but both had been taped, one in a courtroom. 

There are many more examples of the stonewalling, lying, and tampering with potential witnesses that routinely happens in Columbus, but you already know of them.  This does, however, lead me to the real problem here: as long as you continue to reward programs that refuse to fully cooperate with investigations, those programs are going to continue to lie, stonewall, and tamper with potential witnesses.

You cannot insist that self-reporting is the backbone of NCAA ethics when you punish programs that self-report worse than the programs that don't cooperate.  If a school is punished for cooperating and rewarded for dragging its feet, what motivation does that school have to cooperate with any investigation? 

How can you expect a school to display ethics under those circumstances when unethical behavior is the reason they are being investigated in the first place?

The only way you are going to clean up the NCAA is to punish programs that don't cooperate more severely than those that do.  Otherwise, unethical programs, including but not limited to the Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, Oregon, Alabama, and Auburn, will continue to cheat because the reward for cheating and refusing to cooperate with the subsequent investigation is greater than the punishment for getting caught. 

In the case of the Ohio State University, you have a chance to fix all of this.  You have an opportunity to show programs that lie, stonewall, and tamper with your potential witnesses that they will no longer be rewarded for doing so.  The first thing you must do is to utilize recorded interviews by third parties such as the media as evidence in your investigation.  The burden of proof isn't the same as it is in court because your members agree to abide by your rules and accept punishment according to your judgement.

It has been shown in the past, and shown again in the last two months that anyone who threatens to expose the Ohio State University's cheating to the NCAA recieves threats on their own personal well-being, including death threats, and subsequently refuse to testify before the committee.  Therefore, if you want to get to the truth, you will have to accept testimony outside of the committe as evidence.  Taped interviews will have to count as testimony before the committee, because nobody who has been threatened with death is going to physically testify before your committee. 

Then, you need to give the Ohio State University the worst punishment ever given to a school.  If they want to threaten potential witnesses with death, it is very appropriate to give their football program a two-year death penalty.  Also, you should make the Ohio State University forfeit every game they have played since those in which Maurice Clarett admitted he was ineligible. 

I seriously mean forfeit: not vacate.  Vacating games does nothing to reimburse teams who were cheated out of victories in those games by teams who used ineligible personnel.  That is why every team that played against the Ohio State University and their ineligible players should recieve credit for a win in every game they played against them. 

For the last part of their punishment, you should sentence the Ohio State University to ten years of probation and allow them no more than fifteen scholarships a year during that time.  The only way to deter other schools from cheating is to punish the Ohio State University so badly that other schools know you are now serious about enforcement.  Anything less will only empower schools that cheat. 

Your bottom line is this: you can continue to be a major part of the problem or you can decide to be a major part of the solution.  The Ohio State University has reaped huge profits from their cheating for the last ten years.  It is time for them to make restitution. 

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