USC, UNC and the good old NCAA

A tale of two programs and the way the NCAA went after them . . . or not.

The issue that many in the USC family will never be able to get out of their minds is back on the national radar.

But just as USC folks probably won't ever put the NCAA's outrageous conduct in its onesided and agenda-driven pursuit of the Trojans program over the last decade out of mind -- or sight, they may not be alone.

Congress, or at least a number of congressmen, are asking what USC fans have been asking: Why isn't the NCAA "accountable" to anyone -- and shouldn't it be?

Obviously, the two questions answer themselves. Of course the NCAA should and it shouldn't take a Todd McNair lawsuit over years and years to make that happen.

Which is why it was encouraging to hear late this week that five congressmen are reintroducing The National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act that would prohibit universities from receiving Title IV funds -- without which they'd essentially have to shut down -- if they are members of athletic associations that do not have specific rules which they actually implement and enforce to protect the health, education, safety and -- here's the kicker -- the due process of student-athletes.

They're talking about you, NCAA. You're in the crosshairs here.

One of those talking is coming from Penn State territory where the folks there didn't meekly bow to the NCAA's harsh, unlawful penalties. Here's what Charlie Dent (R, Allentown) had to say in the Centre Daily Times story about what may be coming for this organization of 1,000 colleges and universities, its 430,000 student-athletes, its 95 conferences and its $900 million in annual revenue.

“This is not a small nonprofit organization,” Dent said in a press conference reintroducing the bill. “Bluntly, the NCAA has failed in my view. Failed miserably.”

Amen, brother. You'll get no argument from here. Just a wish. That when they have the hearings on this bill, they sit Josephine Potuto, in a repeat of her "the NCAA offers more due process than the Constitution guarantees" congressional testimony from more than a decade ago next to a witness who can explain in exact detail what she and her Committee on Infractions colleagues did in ruining the career of the former USC assistant. Do that right and there will be no need to make that case.

But there is a need here which is why you'd like to see more than just these five congressmen from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania step up. One is from Syracuse, where the NCAA put a hit out on basketball coach Jim Boeheim and another is a former senior vice-president at none other than The Ohio State University, which you would think would make her favorable to the NCAA's soft touch for the Buckeyes.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said, “For me, its all about health and safety and that we are being very transparent with due process. This has nothing to do with the university. We have a responsibility.”

And they have questions, or had them for the NCAA about all sorts of things like concussions and four-year scholarships. Dent says he was “told to stand in line” by the NCAA when he asked about these. “To get that kind of an arrogant, unsatisfactory response was just unacceptable," he says.

One concrete outcome of this legislation would be a presidential commission on intercollegiate athletics and a requirement for “greater accountability and transparency in the NCAA’s adjudication of infractions for both students and schools.”

For those of us who have followed the McNair case, we know only too well the NCAA bureaucracy simply does not have the words "accountability" and "transparency" anywhere in its lexicon of the way it does business.


And now for this week's "lack of institutional control" portion of the news. Not sure if you saw it because it didn't make all that many headlines but the the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the commission that accredits the University of North Carolina, according to this story in the News and Observer, has "placed UNC on 12 months probation after seven violations including academic integrity and a failure to monitor sports, the board announced Thursday."

And yet it's obvious from nearly every utterance of NCAA Pres. Mark Emmert about the UNC case, they'd really rather not deal with this one. Academic integrity isn't really the NCAA's thing, he says. Who are they to second-guess the academic decisions that each campus makes? You want fake no-show classes for thousands of athletes over nearly two decades, maybe that's just a Tar Heel thing.

Which is why the Southern Association's call here is a big deal. Because if UNC doesn't get its academic house in order after five years of denial, it could lose its accreditation for good, meaning it would lose all federal funds, see its enrollment drop off precipitously and essentially have to close its doors.

The News and Observer quotes the Southern Association's Pres. Belle Wheelan that "it's the most serious sanction we have." You know, like the one the NCAA gave to USC.

It's an almost unheard-of sanction for a major research university to receive, especially one that considers itself a Top 25 academic destination in American higher education. But there it is.

And that's the case despite the departure of 10 staff and faculty and introduction of 70 reform measures. Said Southern Association Board Chairman Andrew Westmoreland: “The board affirms the recent efforts of the institution to address problems that had been in existence for quite some time, while urging, in some of the strongest terms we have, that the damage must be repaired and repaired quickly."

The "failure to meet the institutional integrity standard is the most serious violation," according to Wheelan, who said it's the result of UNC "not providing full information on the bogus classes the first time the commission visited." As if it were the NCAA and would just go away. Only they didn't. And now it's on UNC -- and maybe even the NCAA -- to get this right.

Calling for UNC to be “forthcoming and honest and forthright in all of their dealings with us,” Wheelan said, “the first time we went in, there was information to which we had no access. So it’s like, why not?”

We think we know why: football, basketball, baseball, you know, the really important things that occur in Carolina Blue.

They have 12 months. Wonder how long the NCAA will take?

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