NCAA Investigate Navy? It Could Happen...

According to one media report there are at least 10 ongoing NCAA investigations involving Division I football teams. And even though these current cases involve big-time schools, the recent finding against Georgia Tech hit home in Annapolis. Does Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo lose sleep thinking Navy could be next? You bet he does.

The NCAA is currently looking into at least 10 FBS schools for possible violations according to this article. The list of schools that are under the microscope right now include some well known cases like Ohio State, Oregon, North Carolina, and Auburn. It also includes a few lesser publicized cases against other powerhouses Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Boise State. [Boise State did however just fire their AD because of the not yet to be completed investigation.]

 

Recently, the NCAA lowered the boom on Georgia Tech for being "uncooperative and manipulative" in the course of a long investigation regarding whether or not some players received improper gifts. In addition to a $100,000 fine and being placed on four years of probation, former Navy coach Paul Johnson's team had to vacate their 2009 ACC title – a ruling that Georgia Tech is currently appealing.

 

Niumatalolo, who remains close friends with Johnson and other members of his staff, called the investigation "very unfortunate" and said that the ruling "didn't seem fair from an outsider looking in" but that he was not privileged to everything that was involved.

 

"We feel from the guys over there, but I know they will bounce back. I know Paul and I know their program. They will bounce back," said Niumatalolo.

 

The ruling against Georgia Tech as well as the plethora of ongoing investigations has definitely caught the attention of Navy's head coach.

 

"I've been losing a lot of sleep with some of things that have happened," acknowledged Niumatalolo. "You don't see your players 24 hours a day. You don't know what they're doing. I'm a dad…I'm a husband…I've got my own kids. I can't follow (the players) around every day. Hopefully you teach them to do what is right, but not everyone makes the right choice."

 

Niumatalolo said that the NCAA has "so many rules" and "hopefully they can get to a point where things are a little bit clearer." He acknowledged that the big rules are pretty obvious, but the smaller ones, like filling out certain forms can sometimes get good people into trouble.

 

"I feel bad about for the guys who mistakenly had secondary violations (as opposed to) the guys who are legitimately trying to cheat," he said. "That's the hard part - to try and distinguish (between the two). Did you really know that was a rule that you broke or are you doing it on purpose to gain an advantage?"

 

Dr. Chad McEvoy, whose research on all facets of the business side of intercollegiate sports has been featured on ESPN, Fox Sports and in Sports Illustrated, told GoMids.com that "the NCAA rulebook is so complex, and so full of areas that may or may not be violations, that many programs live in the grey area of these rules."

 

An associate professor of sports management at Illinois State University, McEvoy believes that NCAA investigations are very cyclical – with periods of lulls and increased activity. And right now the NCAA is "in a very active cycle."

 

Even though Navy, like most FBS and FCS schools has a compliance director to help Niumatalolo, his staff and players understand the regulations, when it comes to accountability, all fingers point to one man.

 

"I'm ultimately responsible. Hopefully we can educate our staff and our players to choose the right (way) and don't cheat," he said.

 

McEvoy and Niumatalolo both agree that if Navy was found guilty of any NCAA infractions, the affect on the program could be devastating.

 

"If something like that happened here, it would be horrible for our school. And I have to make sure that doesn't happen. First and foremost that is what this school is all about. We are all about integrity. We are about doing things right. And that's who I am as a person," said Niumatalolo.

 

According to McEvoy, although his research shows that schools in general are "adept in recovering from and minimizing the impact of penalties," bigger programs like the Alabama's and USC's of the world would have "an advantage" over a program like Navy, because of their "vast resources…to adapt to penalties incurred."

 

"I also look at this from the standpoint that none of us are perfect – there is no NCAA official, no coach, no player that is perfect. And hopefully if there are guys making bad choices that there is a consequence that they will learn from. And hopefully there are some cases where a guy could get a second chance. We have all done things in our lives that we are not proud of," said Niumatalolo.

 

The Navy head coach continued, "(The bottom line) is we need to do what we are supposed to do - win the games that you can win. If you lose because you are playing fair – so be it and just move onto the next game."


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