MACHINE. Wood. Lag. Set.
Pick a screw, any screw.
That's what the NCAA used on Marshall University's football program late last week.
It could have hammered the Herd. It even could have nailed Marshall.
But, instead, the NCAA chose to screw MU.
No report yet on whether the handymen from Indianapolis used a regular screw driver or Phillips head. It really doesn't matter, I suppose.
The bottom line is the NCAA acted like most fly-by-night contractors. It showed up late and left early.
First, the NCAA waited until 48 hours before Marshall opened the football season against No. 1 ranked Florida and, then, revealed the sanctions from its 3-year investigation.
Twelve -- count 'em, 12 -- Marshall players would be suspended for receiving too much money from summer jobs. Ten would be suspended for three games and two more players would have to sitout one contest. And the suspensions were to begin immediately.
The NCAA gave Marshall 48 hours to adjust.
Not even Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte could have done that.
Neither could Marshall Coach Bobby Pruett. The overwhelming distraction was the last thing Pruett and his staff needed as the Gators loomed on the horizon.
Did that contribute to Marshall's lopsided 49-14 loss to Florida? Of course. Would the outcome have been different if not for the NCAA's late plot twist? Of course not.
The Gators would have beaten Marshall convincingly whether the NCAA pulled its ill-timed stunt or not.
But there's a principle involved. There's a right way to treat people and a wrong way. The NCAA, as usual, chose the wrong way.
The NCAA allowed Marshall to hold preseason practices for a month. A month. At any point, the NCAA could have handed down those punishments. But, no, it waited until 48 hours before the opener at Florida. It waited until the focus couldn't be on anything but the punishment.
The NCAA stole the Herd's thunder.
It screwed Marshall out of its day in the collegiate football sun.
The only thing worse was the NCAA's stance on Marshall's appeal. It said it couldn't consider MU's appeal until the following week. Why? Because this was Labor Day weekend. This was a holiday weekend. So, of course, the NCAA poobahs couldn't be bothered with dispensing a little thing called justice.
Justice took a holiday.
That is my gripe with the NCAA. I have no problem with the punishment, per se. I am a big believer in "if you do the crime, you do the time." So, if the NCAA determined that 12 Marshall football players received too much money and have to serve suspensions, then so be it.
I totally support the NCAA's punishment of Marshall.
It's the timing I take issue with.
It wasn't civilized. It was cruel. It makes me think that N-C-A-A stands for "No Compassion At All."
If the sanctions had to be handed down before Marshall's opener, then the NCAA should have scheduled it with plenty of time to spare. Time for Marshall to adjust. And time for Marshall to appeal.
As it turned out, the time factor should be considered part of Marshall's punishment, because it certainly did punish the Herd.
That wasn't fair.
It makes me remember the old cheer.
"Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts, we got ... NCAA-ed."
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