Through the Trifocals: Illinois & the NCAA

The University of Illinois has had a frustrating long-term relationship with the NCAA that may be continuing unabated. Illinisports discusses this relationship, especially how it has affected the Deon Thomas case and the Chief Illiniwek controversy, in this article. This is part VII of XIV parts.

Jack McCallum says in his Sports Illustrated article, "In his 1984 findings in the Tarkanian-NCAA trial, Judge Paul Goldman wrote, "In short, the NCAA now seems to say: 'If you want to play ball, you must join us, obey our rules and surrender any claim you may have under the Bill of Rights.' This Court disagrees with that attitude, as any fair-minded person must.' In another section, concerning the methods of some NCAA enforcement personnel, the judge wrote, 'These NCAA practices might be considered "efficient"," but so was Adolf Eichmann and so is the Ayatollah.' And, in 1978, a 17-member U. S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations was also highly critical of the NCAA's investigative and enforcement tactics, particularly as they pertained to due process."

Despite these and other frequent complaints about NCAA behavior toward its membership, David Berst saw nothing wrong with what they were doing. He was quoted in 1990 as saying they should keep everything the way it was.

The combination of NCAA arrogance and inflexibility, coupled with its ability to sway public opinion by spinning its propaganda in the press, has made a number of people feel isolated from the entire process. Whatever they might have done wrong in the past, they can't seem to gain favor with the NCAA no matter what they do. And the general public believes they are cheats and renegades who don't deserve another chance to redeem themselves. How can they ever hope the NCAA will represent the needs of all its members and not just its most homogenious loyalists?

In order to understand Walter Byers and thus the NCAA he created, it is necessary to understand the nature of two-dimensional thinkers. Everything they find important is what is important to them personally. In their view, the world revolves around them. They have friends and allies, but only those who have agendas identical to their own. What is good for the individual leaders is by definition good for those allies who follow and support them. By this circular logic, any decision made to help themselves helps everyone else who is important to them.

In contrast, no thought is given to the needs of non-allies. With no acceptance of the myriad shades of gray between black and white, there is no need for empathy of the needs of those who will not follow blindly. All others are the enemy and deserve no quarter, even if their differences are minute.

Walter Byers seems paradoxical to others, but not to himself. He was a journalist but distrusted journalism. He insisted that athletes obtain their degrees, but he never received one himself. He insisted that all colleges play fairly and not make exceptions for anyone, but he arranged special loans for himself and his strongest allies that were indeed exceptional. He came down hard on cheaters, unless they made his NCAA a great deal of money.

In all these cases, Walter Byers was true to his agenda: himself. Everything he did was logical TO HIM. He used words to manipulate his organization, so it is no wonder he didn't trust those good with words or those who might expose his secrets. He insisted on the appearance rather than substance of quality higher education because it made the NCAA appear to be education-based rather than just athletics-based. By definition, what was good for Walter Byers was good for the NCAA, so low-cost loans to himself while maintaining limits for others both helped him.

He came down hard on some cheaters because it scared the general membership into submission. But those cheaters who were highly successful and popular made Byers successful, so there was no inpropriety in his mind to let them off the hook. His enemies considered this hypocrisy, but Byers likely considered it the cost of doing business.

Like large corporations and most governments (and some crime families), the NCAA has often operated free from the moral development that would make it feel guilty or empathetic enough to limit its avarice. For instance, bully everyone into compliance if simple rule-making and subtle pressures don't make everyone submit to authority. Use blackmail, extortion and hostile takeovers, for they are normal tools of the trade.

Play your disagreements publicly so the public will be predisposed to your spin on things. If constant repetition of your story and refusal to admit a mistake don't have the desired result, attack the credibility of your opponent, especially if you cannot attack his argument on merit. Destroy your enemies at all costs, before they can gain on you.

Fortunately for the leader who thinks two-dimensionally, most of his followers assume he is considering their needs and maintain their loyalty. They need a leader to provide for them because they have given up their personal power to him. They are tremendously gullible to the obfuscations of the leader because they want desperately to believe him.

Since the beginning of time, the rich and powerful have duped the masses into giving up more wealth and power to them through deceits that sound good but have no basis in fact. They'll give us a big smile and $10.00 but take $200.00 for themselves, all the while ridiculing our stupidity behind the scenes.

Throughout time, people have gladly given up their personal freedoms and followed deceivers blindly rather than thinking for themselves and taking personal responsibility for their own welfare. It is really quite rare to find a leader who truly behaves like one. It is an unusual individual indeed who feels so secure personally that he can care equally for the needs of friends, enemies and himself.

The kind of person who willingly sacrifices his selfish interests to care for the long-term needs of those dependent upon him is rare for at least two big reasons. One, it is so easy to deceive some of the people some of the time that many people develop manipulative skills as children and continue them into adulthood with no thought to another way.

And two, a true leader is an immediate threat to the security of selfish people who wish to become leaders. He sets an example they cannot emulate, and he is so effective as a leader that no one else can supplant him. Whether it is true that "only the good die young", it is often true the best leaders die young. The false leaders sometimes resort to murder to get their way. The NCAA has never resorted to murder, but it still retains its powerful status and has made only moderate improvements over time.

The preceding is not intended as an indictment of Walter Byers or the NCAA. People who think and behave like him are plentiful and can be found as heads of corporations and governments everywhere. After all, they are the most driven to get there because they have the most to gain by it. And the incentive to be vigilant daily to prevent corruption among our leaders is rarely if ever as strong as the need of those leaders to fill their emptiness with successes.

But one cannot understand the Deon Thomas case or many others that have occurred over the years without understanding Walter Byers' and thus the NCAA's perspective, their personal version of truth. For those who feel wronged by their relationship with the NCAA, it is essential to understand why the general public continues to believe the NCAA's spin on the subject regardless how illogical or minimal it really is. For in cases like Deon Thomas, perception is far more important than reality.

Parts VIII through XIV will appear on in the upcoming days.

Part I of this series is available here.
Part II of this series is available here.
Part III of this series is available here.
Part IV for this series is available here.
Part V for this series is available here.
Part VI for this series is available here.

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