Call them the “Five Stages of NCAA Investigation Grief.”
A college sports scandal breaks implicating a star player on the take. Amateur Jack McCoys looking through alma mater-colored specs start trying to punch holes in the incriminating evidence with straw man arguments. Fans move on to (rightfully) bitching about the NCAA’s nonsensical rules. Probation is announced. The last step is always the most pathetic: “The NCAA had it in for us.”
To the surprise of no one, the latest high-profile partisan to act a fool in response to the big, bad NCAA coming down on his squad is bow-tied Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. In a recent interview with The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper, Gee bemoaned what he views as the NCAA’s overly harsh sanctions on Buckeyes football, specifically a one-year bowl ban in addition to self-imposed penalties set by the school:
“First of all, the NCAA — if we would have given up five bowl games, they would have imposed the sixth on us because they were going to impose a bowl ban. This was Ohio State. This was (the NCAA’s) moment in time, and they were going to impose a bowl ban no matter what we did.”
As an Oklahoma Sooners fan, I’m all too familiar with the “NCAA vendetta” crowd, so color me freakin’ stupefied that someone would be complaining about the Association coming down too severely on his favorite team. That’s about as rare as the minute that passes without ESPN mentioning Jeremy Lin.
What isn’t rare these days is Gee committing some public act of jackassery. If you want proof of this Orville Redenbacher wannabe’s dynamite ability to get well-heeled Buckeyes to open their wallets, pay attention every time he opens his mouth when there’s a microphone close by. You don’t keep a goober like that around unless he’s bringing in the big bucks.
Anyway, I’ll explain this in terms Gee wouldn’t need his law degree to understand.
Of course, the NCAA made an example out of Ohio St. Just like the NCAA made an example out of USC. And SMU.
Punishments serve a number of purposes, but one of the biggest is to discourage people from breaking rules. By their very nature, punishments set an example.
While in OSU’s employment, the school’s head football coach, Jim Tressel, committed one of the NCAA’s cardinal sins when he withheld information about his players’ acceptance of impermissible benefits. An investigation by the school failed to uncover Tressel’s malfeasance. Those facts aren’t in dispute.
Self-monitoring and self-reporting lie at the heart of the NCAA’s compliance program. That makes what Tressel did kind of a big deal in its eyes. If the NCAA didn’t come down hard on the Buckeyes – and a bowl ban certainly is one of its tougher sanctions – why should it expect the next coach in Tressel’s shoes blow the whistle? Why would the next school make any effort to monitor its coaches?
And if Gee honestly thinks the NCAA sanctions are too severe based on “precedent,” he clearly isn’t familiar with the the NCAA’s precedent of not giving a shit.
Ironically, OSU’s actions once Tressel’s subterfuge came to light almost certainly minimized the punishment against the school. The fact that OSU eventually did turn Tressel in and that its compliance department is relatively active – although not necessarily effective – likely worked in the school’s favor during the enforcement phase. Compare that to USC, where the Trojans’ lax attitude towards compliance definitely put some extra mustard on the NCAA’s fastball.
Given the various levels of stupidity we’ve heard emanate from Gee’s mouth, it’s entirely possible that he just doesn’t get that. On the other hand, for someone who makes a living convincing people to support their old alma mater, Gee also probably knows the “woe is us” card plays better over rubber chicken dinners with boosters.
If so, good on Gee for not letting a crisis go to waste.