Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why NCAA Violations Keep Happening

The big piece of news coming out of the NCAA today (you know, other than that whole "conference shake-up that will change the face of college sports") is that "the University of Southern California has received a two-year bowl ban and a sharp loss of football scholarships in a report on the NCAA's four-year investigation of the school. The NCAA cited USC for a lack of institutional control Thursday in its long-awaited report, which detailed numerous violations primarily involving Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Reggie Bush and men's basketball player O.J. Mayo. The violations, which span almost four years, primarily involved 'agent and amateurism issues for a former football student-athlete and a former men's basketball student-athlete,' the NCAA wrote in its report."

The NCAA also sanctioned USC's women's tennis team for violations. This came as no surprise to anyone though. Like myself, I know many of you have been saying for years that NCAA women's tennis is COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL.

But back to the top story -- basically, OJ Mayo and Reggie Bush were receiving money from agents while playing for the Trojans, and USC either knew or "should have known" that it was going on. So for the next two years, USC is basically playing for nothing but pride. This is something that's going to take years, at the very least, for the USC program to recover from. But what about the athletes in question? What happens to them?

Well, Bush's Heisman Trophy might get taken away. I don't think he'll care too much though, what with that shiny new Super Bowl ring he just got a few months ago and his 52-million-dollar NFL contract. And Mayo? I would think that his 30-million-dollar NBA contract will help ease the blow.

Step back for a minute and consider this: let's say someone came up to you and offered you tens of thousands of dollars with the only stipulation being that you couldn't tell anyone about the money for two years. If you did, you'd lose it and have to go up to your room for a big time-out. But if you could make it those two years without letting anyone else know, you'd be in the clear. I think most people would take that deal.

The truth is, once these players leave college, they basically receive amnesty from whatever illegal NCAA activities they engaged in. Just as long as they get out before sanctions come down, they're in the clear. As long as they can be discreet about it while they're in school, there's no reason not to take agents' money. Other than the loss of a bronze statue or two, they're not going to be the ones dealing with the repercussions. At the very most, their image will suffer, and that's it.

This is why I'd like to see the major sports leagues -- namely the NFL and NBA -- come together to institute some sort of punishment for professional athletes who violated rules while in college. It could be either a suspension or a fine, depending on the severity of the violation. And it needs to be more than just paying the money back -- something like $50,000 may be a lot to a student-athlete, but once they sign a contract (see: the numbers above for Bush and Mayo), that becomes chump change.

What it comes down to is that athletes need to be held accountable for their actions, even after they've left school. At the very least, it would make a college athlete think twice if he knew that he could be punished for something like this even after he went pro. But without a punishment like this in place, high-profile student-athletes are bound to keep taking money they know they shouldn't, leaving their schools to clean up the mess.

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