MIAMI - NOVEMBER 20: A general view of the Miami Hurricanes during a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Sun Life Stadium on November 20 2010 in Miami Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
I like you spent most of last night going knee deep in the reporting of Nevin Shapiro and his involvement with the University of Miami Hurricanes. The story is staggering and sprawling in nature. But the whole time I was reading the accounts the same thoughts kept cropping up. Odds are that the way the vast majority of the public is going to read this as just another example of how Miami ruined the sport, are thugs, ect. For Miami this looks horrible, and there is not getting around the fact. The Death Penalty has to be in play for what took place. The general meme that is taking shape is that all of this is the culmination of a long and sordid past for the Hurricanes that was always going to be ending in tears. All of that may very well be true, but I think that misses the larger point, which is, to me, that the NCAA as an institution has just overtaken the IOC and is closing fast on Sepp Blatter and FIFA in the league table of "supposedly august sporting bodies that in truth are corrupt to the core."
The simple realization is that the NCAA is so far out of their depth in this new era of intercollegiate athletics as to be essentially meaningless. The analogy of the boys from Indianapolis being heads of the most inept fire department on the planet running around trying to put out fires that were already extinguished years ago couldn't be more true. In the last year the NCAA has handed down the harshest sanctions in a decade to one of it's most preeminent teams, handed down a boatload of suspensions to one of last years pre season darlings, investigated the signature star of last years season, they also investigated one of last years breakout programs, on top of that they are also likely to reign down sanctions on another of their preeminent institutions. Again simply put the NCAA is completely and incontrovertibly out of their collective depths.
The crux of the issue is that the NCAA never has had, and likely never will have any sort of binding subpena power of the actions of programs and individual players purportedly under their purview. The only way that the NCAA can move on rule breakers is if they can piggy back on the investigation of another entity, usually law enforcement of some variety, or if someone involved is willing to blow the whistle on the whole thing. Take a closer look at all of the scandles of that enveloped college sports in the last 12 months. With the exception of the North Carolina story, which basically involved Marvin Austin blowing the whistle on himself via twitter all of them broke when someone talked or got investigated by an actual law enforcement agency.
The USC story broke when Lloyd Lake and Michael Michael's were willing to talk to get money back from Reggie Bush. The Cam Newton scandal broke when John Bond decided that he would like to talk to the press. The story for Oregon is the same, there was no story until Willie Lyles talked to someone else. The Ohio State and Miami scandals only broke when the principal participants got in trouble with the law.
If a school really wants to commit a willful violation of NCAA rules all they really have to do is keep their head down and their mouth shut. Given the fact and the stakes and money that are involved in college football are so unbelievably high it should be no surprise to anyone that there are so many flagrant and repeated violations of NCAA bilaws.
At this point as a fan of the sport you have to make a bargain. You either accept that college sports as a whole are as corrupt as a Russian Oligarch and give up the moralizing sanctimony that is such a staple of fandom of any kind. Or you can stick your head in the sand and pretend that is the glory days of the 20's when star players didn't actually attend the colleges they played for and spent most every night in poll halls and speakeasies. As long as there have been rules governing the amateurism of college sports there have been frequent and flagrant violations of them. it is truly a story as old as time. As someone who has long since adopted the stance that the NCAA is doomed to collapse in on itself like a dying star. And that anyone who wants to break NCAA rules does, and that they get away with it more often than not I will just say that sitting in the cynical place I sit doesn't effect my love of the sport in the least. But you have to be a realist about these things. The fact of the matter is that the NCAA is in so far over their head that I can't see a way for the organization to emerge with it's credibility intact. Let's all pour one out for our dearly departed homies from Indianapolis. Nice knowing you fella's