Summer is almost over, bringing with it a mixture of disappointment from schoolkids and excitement for college football fans. This guy, however, is probably going to have the same experience, summer or fall.
Footage from someone we know? Hard to tell for sure…
What we do know, though, is that it has been a pretty good several months to work for the NCAA. So far, their crack squad of investigators and compliance officers has charted a ton of frequent flier miles, many to locations that most of us would dream of going for a vacation:
They even are taking an end of summer trip to Seattle, and invited friends. As someone who’s lived there, August is the best time to visit the Pacific Northwest… although, I’m not sure there will be much time to visit The Troll.
As someone who’s been historically critical of the No Clue At All (summary: seem to turn a blind eye when D-1 programs are involved in shenanigans, will crucify smaller programs for the slightest offenses), it’s been interesting to watch all of the guns come out a ‘blazin. And, to be honest, I’ve been a bit curious about what might have led to this apparent change of attitude from the folks in Indianapolis.
And, as you can imagine, I’ve got several crackpot theories.
Mass hysteria- Could very well be that we’re in the midst of some serious stuff here.
It’s quite possible that this is either indicative of the larger cancer that is impacting college sports, or that the “big dogs” just don’t think that there are any ramifications for their actions. Given that “everyone is doing it”, why not play along- rules be hanged. If you listen to the fringes of the sports world, you’ll hear the weeping and gnashing of teeth from those who would say that the University Athletic model has become a huge, uncontrollable monstrosity that’s indicative of the worst of American excess.
I am not one of those voices. Yup, there are things that are at time out of kilter with role of college sports in institutions of higher education, but I’m not one of the cliff jumpers that think we should gut the whole thing. And, given that you’re reading this, you’re probably not one either. What other options are there?
A new sheriff in town- While Bobby Knight may certainly disagree, one of the criticisms of the late Dr. Myles Brand’s tenure as head of the NCAA was that his focus was not always on jurisdiction and supervision of the larger, more financially relevant institutions. During his tenure, NCAA athletics grew in amazing ways, and his vision and leadership led to important growth in women’s sports and in possible support for “non-revenue” sports through wise creating an environment for the growth of television revenues (although, do we really need more than 50% of teams to be bowl eligible?). It seemed to many, your humble correspondent included, that there was a reticence to kill the golden calf given the important work of expansion that was happening.
While this perspective of Dr. Brand’s administration may be one sided, it certainly would be supported by the level of investigation that we’re currently seeing on the national landscape; particularly at major programs. Look at the list above… all the schools indicated are “prestige” programs in their conferences and across the country. One explanation could be that that the new administration has decided to take a more proactive stance with the bigger programs. Can you remember the last time that “practice time” or “text messages” made headlines the way they are today?
Nothing better to do- The investigation into the situation at Southern Cal took over six years from the alleged violations until the NCAA finally levied sanctions. One can only imagine the care and thoroughness that the organization took in their process (as you can imagine, there are those who have a different perspective), and the lessons learned throughout the inquiry and interviews. As such, it’s quite possible that the investigative arm of the NCAA have honed their abilities and are more capable now than they used to be. It’s also not difficult to imagine that, at the end of a process as involved as the USC investigation surely was, there would be a number of well trained staff persons who are now available to look into other concerns. Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing so many of these stories on Sportscenter.
Statistical anomaly- It could also be possible that we’re looking at a huge set of coincidences that happened to hit during a slow period in the sports cycle. If you’ve got a 24 hour network, there’s only so much baseball, golf, and WNBA that you can talk about. Oh, and NASCAR. There’s that.
Remember that while the number of universities and programs involved in these circumstances, there are only three events/persons involved in eight of the nine investigations: One agent gathering (four institutions) and two coaches who may have impacted two programs each. So, it’s quite possible that there’s not a huge problem, but several small issues that are having an unimaginably widespread impact. The sky isn’t falling, it’s just that the right people have been hit by the acorns and there’s nothing else to talk about. It’s not like there’s any history of media created panic or hysteria due in part to similar situations. This is one situation where the prestige of an institution works against them- big names make big news.
Trying to maintain relevancy- This is my personal favorite rationale for all the excitement du jour- the NCAA is trying to ensure that they don’t get pushed out of the picture. This summer, the news was all about conference realignment and the money that was involved with television contracts and the like. There was even discussion of finally being able to have a year ending playoff leading to a national championship; an endeavor that the NCAA has been either unwilling or unable to make happen.
With all of this, all of the power (and money) was shifting away from the NCAA, an organization that many casual sports fans cannot see the use for. As such, conference shifts could have signaled the end of Division 1 Bowl Subdivision (the very thing the NCAA was created to monitor)- again, it’s not that big of a leap to picture the major conference forming their own alliance (like the BCS) and telling the national organization to take a hike.
With this in mind, it’s perfectly logical to think that the NCAA might want to stay in the news, to show that it’s still an important part of the sports and educational landscape, and that it still had a role in ensuring that the playing fields are fair across the country. If ever there was a time for the NCAA to make news, this summer was it.
The truth of the matter is probably some combination of all of the above… but it will certainly be interesting to watch the events unfold. Particularly given the magnitude of what may be at stake (at least one coach with his career on the line, other programs trying to avoid additional violations, the potential distraction for title contenders), the coming months will let us know if this is the dawn of a new day in the world of college sports.
Although, personally, I’m ready for summer to be over and for news that happens between the sidelines.