Am I a conspiracy theorist? Not really.
Am I a homer for Baylor basketball? Absolutely.
But most importantly, do I think the NCAA should have thought twice before its most recent asinine decision? Yes. And I think Baylor University is just the school to lead the charge to end the insanity coming from the NCAA. It is past time to take this to the courthouse.
On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA decided that after having a piece of information for months, it would suddenly rule Baylor freshman star player Perry Jones ineligible "for a pre-enrollment amateurism violation." In short, the NCAA said Jones couldn't play any more because a few years ago Lawrence Johns, Jones's AAU coach, made 3 loans to his good friend, Jones's mother, to make sure she did not default on her home mortgage.
The relationship between the Johns family and Jones family goes back 7 years, when Perry was in 6th grade. Johns remains a close personal friend of Jones, and often attends Baylor games to watch Jones in action.
Before you go thinking these were some astronimical sums, the New York Times has confirmed the loans together were less than $1,000. Reportedly, Jones knew nothing about the loans, and really, what 15 year old kid is paying attention to his parent's mortgage and a few hundred dollar loan from a family friend. And oh by the way, the loans were repaid in full by Jones's mother.
In addition to the loans, Jones did accompany Johns on a trip to a preseason football game in San Diego. Reportedly, Johns paid for the trip.
Baylor Athletic director Ian McCaw appears agitated with the fact that the NCAA had this information for months and decided to act on it today: "We are profoundly disappointed in the timing and determination in this matter," McCaw said. Baylor was a classic NCAA tournament bubble team going into the Big 12 tournament, likely needing a few wins to make it to the Big Dance. Without Perry in the lineup and with the shock of losing him just hours before tipoff, the Bears were destroyed by the Oklahoma Sooners. Good-bye NCAA tournament chances.
But here's the kicker in this whole mess. The NCAA reportedly would not hear Baylor's appeal on Wednesday, but instead informed the University it would hear it on Thursday. Seems like an interesting timeline for the NCAA to mandate.
The story of the week nationally has surrounded the Ohio State football program and most recently what its head coach knew about possible wrongdoing in the program and when. Despite the NCAA feeling the OSU players, including star quarterback Tyrelle Pryor, had committed an NCAA violation that warranted suspension, the players were allowed to play in their post-season game, the Sugar Bowl. It is worth acknowledging that the players are indeed now suspended for the first 5 games next season.
More relevant to today's actions from the NCAA, was it not just a few months ago that everyone in the sports media, including those that are in the most high profile positions on television and radio, were floored with what happened in a 3 day span with Auburn's star quarterback Cam Newton. Remember how the NCAA worked in the background to rule Cam ineligible, have Auburn appeal it, instantly hear the appeal, and then reinstate him before a single word was leaked? How did that happen exactly? Everyone knows Cam was reinstated, allowed to play in his postseason game, and is now off to the NFL having experienced no punishment.
It seems many people want to compare Cam's situation to Perry's - and think they are very similar. The only similar thing I can find is the "I didn't know about it" defense.
But, there's plenty of differences between Cam's and Perry's situation. Cam's family sought hundreds of thousands of dollars for the rights for Cam to play at a given school. Perry's family sought a few hundred bucks so that their house wouldn't be foreclosed. Cam's family sought the money from an actual NCAA school. Perry's family borrowed the money from a family friend, having no connection to Baylor University. Cam's situation was settled long before Cam had to miss any games, with the NCAA and Auburn working quietly together in the background. Perry and Baylor were blindsided the day of the most important game of the season.
Hypocritical of the NCAA? I think that goes without saying. "This outcome appears to be inconsistent with other recent, widely discussed NCAA decisions," said Baylor AD McCaw in Baylor's press release on the subject.
It seems everyone with a brain that half-way follows sports has come to the same conclusion - the NCAA is completely arbitrary in its rulings and certainly appears to play favorites. But my question is now whether the actions of the NCAA are actionable?
Perhaps the NCAA should have paid more attention to who Baylor hired to fill its Presidency this past year. For those that do not follow it closely - Baylor hired former White House prosecutor, Judge Ken Starr. Starr had moved into the higher education field in recent years and was employed as the Dean of the School of Law at Pepperdine University. Upon arriving at Baylor, he was instantly thrust into a political firestorm and potential legal battle attempting to save Baylor's status in the Big 12 during last summer's conference realignment debacle. Baylor survived.
If Judge Starr has proved one thing in the past, it is that he will do his job and advocate for his client no matter who is on the other side. So whether it is the President of the United States, or the National Collegiate Athletic Association, do not expect Baylor or Judge Starr to be intimidated.
The point is that the actions of the NCAA constantly goes unchecked. The President can be impeached by Congress. Judges can be overturned by Judges above them. Conferences can levy penalties on its member schools. But no one watches over the decisions handed down by the NCAA. And when you are in a situation where a body has control over you, but apparently no checks and balances, your only option is to take that body to the courthouse. That's why we have a justice system in America. A place where the little guy can stand up to the big one. If it is ever going to happen, this appears to be the perfect storm. It is time for Baylor and any other school that wants to complain about the NCAA to hold them accountable.