A Couple of Things Wrong With the NCAA

At some point there has to be some changes. Too many crazy things are going on this world, and in the big business of college football, things should be a little more on the straight and narrow. Instead we find loopholes everywhere that allow players and coaches to circumvent rules, or we allow certain institutions or conferences to bully their way into pretty packages unfair to others.

The Bowl System Isn't Right

Like most people I am in favor of a playoff to end the college football season. But, as an SEC fan, we are better off without one. In this day of the BCS championships the elite conferences are the ones that get the bids into the big game. So far, over the last few years, they have come from the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big-12, and the Pac 10.

In large part I think the right champions have been crowned, but there are some exceptions. I do believe it is better than the old bowl system that might see numbers one and two play on opposite sides of the continent on January 1, only to have a real controversy brew over the true national champion.

But, I think there is a drastic flaw (or 12) in the current system. First off, how can conferences compete evenly when they all don't have championship games? Some say that a conference that has a championship game gets an advantage in that they get to showcase their teams later than everyone else. That isn't true, because conferences like the Big Ten choose not to play on the first weekend in December and they don't have to choose to do that.

The fact is, for the last two years, the SEC has been penalized as far as the national championship because they would have had two representatives in the big game if not for the SEC title game. Actually, I am all for this, because now we get two huge games like this national title, and more is better.

The problem I have is with conferences that don't have a conference championship; they shouldn't get an automatic qualifier into the BCS. Certainly there are going to be teams that are good enough to qualify...the Big Ten has two this year and they don't have a championship game. But a conference like the Big East has none in some years, why should other conferences with better teams be penalized? Better yet, why should the "revered" bowl games have to be punished by having to host a mediocre weak conference school? Doesn't this fly in the face of what this whole system is about?

These conferences need to get with the program, move to 12 teams, and have a playoff game. That means you Pac 10, Big Ten, and Big East. Heck, the Big East shouldn't even be considered with only nine teams. They were only included anyway when Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College were a part of the fray. One could argue very easily those were the three best teams in the conference when they were included in the BCS groupings to begin with. I would rather add the Mountain West or another 12-team conference, which annually puts out better overall teams.

Again, I understand that Cincinnati is a good team and deserving of a BCS bid, but they earned that in spite of their conference affiliation.

Maybe the biggest issue I have with tie-ins is Notre Dame. The holier than thou school that can't find a coach has its own clause in the BCS scenario allowing it to participate and automatically be in if ranked high enough. I personally believe they should be banned from the BCS and any bowl for two years for not accepting a bowl bid this season. Again, the NCAA wants to protect these bowls, and a school like Notre Dame would draw really good television money for the likes of the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, a city that really needs the monetary help or the New Mexico Bowl another place that could use the draw.

Instead, Notre Dame has to stick their nose in the air and say these bowls aren't worthy. So, why should the rest of the college world have to put up with this? I say give them two years off from any bowl and the next time they will think about the entire picture and not just their own little world.

When Does Minor Become Major?

I understand with all the recruiting rules out there that some are inherently going to be broken. With 10 coaches on the road at different times and position coaches calling and recruiting area coaches calling, sometimes their paths are going to get crossed and a minor rule is accidentally broken. However, when does it become obvious to the NCAA that a program doesn't worry about minor rules and decides to break them anyway. I certainly am not on staff at Tennessee, but their seemingly blatant abuse of recruiting rules, however minor in detail, should be major if they are deemed to be broken on purpose.

There have been many well documented cases of rules broken early on since Lane Kiffin became the new head coach at Tennessee a year ago. Smoke on the field and introducing players on visits in the stadium, most of it silly stuff. I also know that Kiffin was in the pros a year ago and may not know or "remember" some rules. But, he has a staff filled with "all-star" college recruiters that have been all over the collegiate map and they have no reason not to know these rules.

Now, the NCAA is flying guys around in coat and ties and questioning high school players about how far Tennessee MAY be breaking these rules. We have heard there are seven but can only confirm six and their names will be withheld because this isn't about the student athletes.

My question for the NCAA is at what point do they consider the breaking of so many rules, albeit minor in nature, a major infraction?

The distinction between minor and major is mainly because there are so many minor rules and they can accidentally be broken. If someone is not showing malicious intent to break the rule, then they should be given the benefit of the doubt. Especially if they turn themselves in.

In Tennessee's case, they have turned themselves in a few times, the way it should be done. Until now, there has been nothing on them reporting or self reporting since June. However, the NCAA is going to have a hard time trying to distinguish between what was done on purpose or not, especially with so many rules being broken and evidently with frequency enough to fly investigators to see seven different prospects in at least three different states all outside of Tennessee.

Wednesday's story in the NY Times about the investigation talked about a wide spread questioning of the recruiting tactics used by Tennessee. Investigators flying to Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina from Kansas to talk to prospects about Tennessee using hostesses to travel and possibly help recruit these prospects to Tennessee.

To think that the NCAA is going to shell out this kind of money to fly around these men in suits to ask if girls were holding up signs at high school football games would be very naive in my opinion. The story does say it is a "significant part" of the questioning.

We shall see if the NCAA does make more of it as they just might this time. According to the story "Rick Evrard, a former N.C.A.A. investigator said he could not comment specifically on the Tennessee case...but it was not common for the N.C.A.A. to interview recruits interested in a particular university or to ask them about a particular program."

"Kiffin's numerous secondary N.C.A.A. violations could be a factor or might have prompted the investigation," the NY Times article continued.

"Secondaries mean something to the N.C.A.A.," Evrard said. "It's very telling if an institution continues to report secondaries particularly if they're in the same category. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and keep reporting it, that would trigger the N.C.A.A.'s enforcement staff to possibly go in and look at some of that activity."

Of great concern to parents, should be the fact that guys in suits and ties are in their living rooms and schools asking questions to their children. Although this is still undetermined everything that is going on, it appears that Tennessee and it's recruiting practices have put these kids in front of lawyer type questioning for something the kids had absolutely no control over.

In Thursday's NY Times follow up article, it says the NCAA will be in Georgia to question another prospect. The coach of that prospect seemed quite incensed about the fact that the scrutiny is somehow associated with the kid.

"This is a Tennessee issue," said the coach. "This is about whatever the N.C.A.A. is concerned about in terms of anything that Tennessee may be doing in their practices. Everybody needs to understand that this is not about these kids in Florida or here in Georgia or South Carolina. Whatever the issues are between the N.C.A.A. and Tennessee's practices, that needs to be Tennessee's concern."

You have to wonder if the NCAA realizes if they had stepped up earlier and penalized for past discretions this may not have ever happened. They could have saved themselves a lot of time and travel money in the process. Something that the Vols don't have a problem spending.

This isn't about Tennessee really as much as it is following through with the intent of rules. The rules are there. We understand that there are levels of rules and that an accidental extra phone call does not equal paying a prospect to come to school. But, at what point do multiple infractions, minor or not, on a large scale, equal a major infraction? Just like the bowl situation and post season play, everyone is not on even ground here and some seem to do fit as they please despite the rules.

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