Lay Off the NCAA

Dom Cosentino has a piece up on Deadspin that gives us the rundown on another piece, a Sports Illustrated expose on the bureaucratic shambles of the NCAA and how they are no longer able to enforce compliance on the athletic programs they govern.

The SI piece is only available in print for now, hence the usefulness of Cosentino's article. The SI piece apparently makes the case that the state of the NCAA's disarray is as such that, "the time is ripe to cheat; there is no policing going on," according to a former NCAA bureaucrat.

Such a Somalian state of affairs is probably news to Kolton Houston. Whoever wrote up Houston's saga in Wikipedia describes it like this:

"In 2013, the NCAA was criticized for denying Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston his eligibility for violating the drug policy. Houston tested positive for the anabolic steroid norandrolone that was given without his knowledge to recover from shoulder surgery during high school, but the banned substance remain trapped in the fatty tissues in his body. Despite a huge decline in the substance level to the point where Houston does not gain a significant advantage for using the drug and proof that he had not been reusing it, he remained ineligible. Houston would then undergo dangerous operational procedures to get under the threshold to regain his eligibility, which goes against the mission for the NCAA to help out students. The NCAA is being heavily criticized for maintaining their rigid standards and not making an exception for Houston."

In fact, the Wikipedia article, in its "Criticisms" section, only contain cases of the NCAA being too heavy-handed — not asleep at the switch. Not listed among the criticisms listed is the case of a golfer who washed her car on campus, using ... some sort of hose and source not available to other students. The school self-reported the incident to the NCAA and fined the student $20.

You probably heard about this, but what you might not have seen are certain uneditorialized details of the case. The school fined the student, not the NCAA, and more to the point, the NCAA opined (due to the backlash) the no violation had occurred.

The (once again) Deadspin piece on the golfer, by Barry Petchesky, does take care to note that this wasn't an example of the NCAA being "stupid or evil," but still finds a way to partially find the NCAA at fault: "The fact that the WCC school wasn't sure what was a violation or not, and self-reported it anyway, says plenty about the NCAA's byzantine rulebook."

The piece goes on predictably to excoriate the NCAA, in a style reminiscent of Yahoo commenters who will blame everything from tornadoes to "Breaking Bad" ending on Obama. Both the Petchesky piece and the Cosentino piece end on the same note: the NCAA oversees a "unsustainable, unpoliceable behemoth" (Petchesky) and "the NCAA's rules only exist to perpetuate the lie of student-athlete 'amateurism.'"

Cosentino, in fact, goes a step further and heralds the NCAA's enforcement difficulties because college amateur athletics is a lie and so on and on.

Cosentino must really be a big fan of dynasties, because without the NCAA, may the school with the most money win. There are no more Appalachian States beating Michigan in football, no more Butlers and George Masons in basketball. It's the NCAA's rules, however ineptly enforced, that allows this level of parity.

But let's go back to Kolton Houston and the myth of the NCAA's involvement with the golfer. These cases are spotlighted to show the NCAA's problematic "one-size-fits-all" approach (Petchesky). But what is the alternative? That is, what is the alternative if you're not on the Deadspin staff and united in solidarity over the need to abolish the NCAA? You'd have the NCAA making judgment calls. I'm sure everyone would love that. No way would we see reams of blogs condemning the NCAA's decisions and their "right" to even make such decisions.

In summation, the NCAA does too much, does too little, presses down too hard, doesn't press down hard enough, is unwilling to make case-by-case decisions, and (I am certain) would make terrible case-by-case decisions and shouldn't be making case-by-case decisions.

The punditocracy has spoken, and the NCAA can do no right. When Mark Emmert goes to Starbucks and spills some coffee, Deadspin and the rest will be there to explain why it foretells the ruination of college athletics. I'd rather have Appalachian State.

Comments and Conversation

June 18, 2013

Brad Oremland:

I think most sports fans would admit that the NCAA does some good things, but surely you acknowledge that the NCAA does a lot to merit criticism? The organization gets so many things wrong that it’s tempting to over-blame.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site