Football is fast approaching, and there is, as always, plenty of NCAA administrative nonsense to gripe about. This season, USC will reprise its role as the governing body’s redheaded stepchild, sheltered from postseason play and short a handful of scholarships. Meanwhile, the NCAA continues to sniff out problems at North Carolina, Ohio State and Oregon, causing fans to wonder whether they await USC-esque sanctions as well.
Amidst the controversy, it seems there should be a more fitting way to handle these nagging issues beyond the standard procedure of enforcement, coincided with dolling out myriad penalties lacking in consistency. In many ways, it’s getting a little tiresome.
The way violations are reported now lacks transparency. On most occasions, someone with knowledge leaks key information to the media, causing the NCAA to act on the information in turn. There has to be something more practical, and accordingly, it is now an appropriate time to try a system of amnesty for the nation’s college athletic programs.
In brief, amnesty would be a pardon for offenses, allowing schools to come forward to the NCAA with known violations at the cost of only a reprimand — basically serving as a get-out-of-jail-free card.
There is already some sense of amnesty, as when programs openly report secondary violations, they face virtually no repercussions from the NCAA, but the goal for instituting amnesty would be for major missteps: things like a lack of institutional control or a failure to monitor.
Such a provision would promote transparency between the NCAA and its member schools and dissuade the underhanded tactic of selling out violators.
For USC, a lack of transparency remains an issue that hits particularly close to home. While the NCAA hardly hesitated to slap the Trojans with the infamous lack of institutional control penalty, seemingly less “controlled” predicaments at North Carolina and Ohio State have managed to evade a similar daunting fate — at least for now. A sufficient explanation to anyone has yet to be issued.
The NCAA has often been quick to point out that enforcement is not a criminal proceeding; it has failed, however, to explain exactly how penalties are doled out. Is it based on past precedent, certain guidelines or is the Committee on Infractions given carte-blanche to sanction institutions on a whim?
We’ve yet to be given clarification in this regard, even 14 months removed from the actual rendered decision, so to some degree, at least amnesty would remove the ever-so-thick curtain that stands between the NCAA and the general public.
Though it would promote openness (heck, call it the NCAA’s own version glasnost), it’d serve as only a temporary fix. Once the provision was enacted, it’d be reasonable to assume schools that have historically sidestepped NCAA bylaws would quickly use the safety net to take advantage of the system. After a few years, wouldn’t we be facing this current predicament yet again?
Yet, the concept of transparency might be sufficient enough to at least warrant some consideration from the NCAA. It isn’t perfect, but what exactly is?
USC has experienced firsthand the damage the NCAA hammer can impose. Because of sanctions, USC will not be able to maximize scholarship offerings until the 2015 season. The program, at least according to some experts, won’t be at full strength until 2017 or maybe even 2018. You could say it’s been dealt an unfavorable hand.
So why not give a school that’s so great for the sport a chance to come clean and avoid ruin?
Amnesty could, as a result, be a good-faith gesture on the part of the NCAA to smooth over relations with its member schools and shed the perception that it is a ruthless dictator.
It might not be effective enforcement, but it could at least provide some clarity and uniformity to an already muddied process.
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