By Jim Weber
If you think President Barack Obama didn’t deliver on the promises for his first term in the White House, just take a look at NCAA president Mark Emmert’s record since he started his job in November 2011.
Emmert entered office making it very clear that his No. 1 priority was cracking down on NCAA violators. He told the Associated Press four months into the job, “We need to make sure our penalty structure and enforcement process imposes a thoughtful level of concern, and that the cost of violating the rules costs more than not violating them.” He went on to wax poetic about making the enforcement process more transparent and adding more personnel to the NCAA’s police force.
But the NCAA hit a new low on Wednesday in admitting it botched the Shapiro investigation by paying his own defense attorney to improperly obtain information for the NCAA’s case by conducting depositions in a federal bankruptcy case. As CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd put it, “That’s not only improper, it’s possibly illegal.”
While Emmert should be credited for being transparent and forthcoming about the mistake, this is the worst moment of his presidency and an indictment of his entire tenure.
For a guy that promised to crack down on crime, Miami (FL) has yet to receive a Notice of Allegations – the equivalent of being charged with a crime by the NCAA – almost a year-and-a-half after the scandal was broken by Yahoo! Sports. Keep in mind, this case was deemed by many as the biggest scandal in college sports history, one that should result in “The U” getting the “Death Penalty.”
Meanwhile, the Willie Lyles scandal at Oregon still hasn’t resulted in a Notice of Allegations either despite the story breaking almost two full years ago. And the man accused of paying the rogue booster, ex-Ducks head coach Chip Kelly, won’t have to face any punishment for his alleged misdeed. After winning two BCS bowls with Oregon, he “pulled a Pete Carroll” and skipped to the NFL for a huge payday with the Philadelphia Eagles after the allegations came out.
The only time Emmert has brought the hammer down was on Penn State with a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine. And that’s only because he controversially skipped over due process and arguably abused his power.
This is the second time in a matter of months the NCAA’s enforcement staff has embarrassed itself publicly. If you recall, the lead investigator of the Shabazz Muhammad case, Abigail Grantstein, was fired by the NCAA last month after her boyfriend blabbed on a plane in August that the NCAA was going to suspend Muhammad for the entire season before key facts had been acquired – implying a verdict had already been unfairly reached.
A day after the story broke, Muhammad was reinstated as the NCAA tucked its tail between its legs and said he had already served the necessary punishment.
Now this. Emmert says he will hold those responsible accountable, but ultimately this – like the Muhammad faux pas – falls on him. As tweeted by ESPN’s Jay Bilas: “Isn’t NCAA making head coaches, those in charge, responsible for assistants’ actions? Uh, Mr. Emmert, about this happening on your watch…”
So what, exactly, has Emmert been accomplishing this whole time? Last weekend, the NCAA simplified and deregulated the organization’s massive rulebook by allowing things like unlimited phone calls between coaches and recruits and allowing schools to provide spreads on bagels for athletes. While Emmert should be commended for eliminating extraneous and ridiculous rules from the rulebook, allowing cream cheese on bagels should hardly be the pinnacle of an NCAA president’s tenure.
Enforcement was supposed to be his legacy as NCAA president. Instead, the enforcement program has become an even bigger mockery under Emmert through the cases of Shapiro, Lyles and Muhammad. Wednesday’s announcement that the NCAA will be investigating its own enforcement staff sounds like an article out of the The Onion and only fueled the perception that the organization is a fraud.
And all this from a guy making $1.6 million per year, four times as much as President Obama.
Unfortunately, the NCAA is not a democracy and members don’t get to vote Emmert out after four years. That leaves schools and fans just shaking their heads as they watch more of the same incompetence.
So if you’re frustrated with the country’s problems, you’d better shield your eyes from those of the NCAA.
Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports