When it comes to the NCAA, there’s never a holiday from hypocrisy.
And of course for those of us with a USC perspective, it becomes absolutely impossible to not notice – and not be frustrated – by the huffery and puffery coming out of Houston the last couple of days justifying the presence of longtime academic fraudsters North Carolina and Syracuse.
Just wait until this week’s War Room, we thought. Get ‘em then. There’s plenty of time.
But the more we read and hear, and the more frustrated USC fans respond to us, why not just get it out of our system today.
Because UNC, after avoiding the short arm of the NCAA law and its own state’s laws against fraud for two decades while thousands of athletes took hundreds of phony courses and got puffed-up grades designed to keep them eligible in a program begun during the regime of St. Dean Smith, and then once again evaded justice by extending the NCAA Committee of Infractions Notice of Allegations from this past fall to next month by “discovering” new “information” that had to be checked out in women’s soccer and tiddlywinks, they get to play for the big trophy today.
That notice "will be done in the coming weeks or a month or so,'' NCAA Pres. Mark Emmert said. “How convenient,” we say.
Now who knows, maybe if there’s a whole new regime of honest NCAA infractions people in some future time and place – not that there’s much of a chance of that – they can give it back the day after tomorrow.
Reminds us how the Pac-12 almost had the vapors at the thought of the 2011 USC team playing for a Pac-12 football title it had earned the right to do on the field. No, no, no, can’t do that, the Pac-12 said. You’re sanctioned. Couldn’t win it all even if you won the Pac-12, USC couldn’t go on. Stay home, Trojans. And everybody nodded how right that was.
And yet here they are, the fraudsters from Chapel Hill, who should be watching someone else tonight on TV. Sure, we’ll be rooting for Villanova, with its 100 percent graduation rate – in real courses – for the basketball team. And maybe the Philly guys make it happen.
But if there’s been some good out of this weekend, like there was last weekend when the phony façade of a self-righteous Coach K was exposed to a media that had promoted his two-faced image for years, the light bulb may have clicked on for the media once again in Houston.
How could it not as they hear Emmert tap dance and doublespeak his way through a fine mess for which he clearly has no answers. None that he – or anyone else – believes.
"Academically sketchy program defeats academically sketchy program, 83-66" is how the Huffington Post headlined its semifinal game story.
“I understand why optically people have a lot of questions around all that,” Emmert said, trying to sound reasonable about the presence of two academically corrupt programs – UNC and Syracuse -- in the Final Four. “It makes perfect sense that they might.”
What USC fans find hard to make sense of is how Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, coming off a nine-game suspension the first half of the season, can be where he is this weekend and saying this of his program's conduct: "Cheating? That's not true. Rules being broken, that's a lot different."
A lot different from what happened to USC. After all, Syracuse had violations that included, according to the NCAA's eight-year probe: "academic misconduct, extra benefits, the failure to follow its drug testing policy and impermissible booster activity" to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately for Emmert, he kept talking and rationalizing why it’s OK for the NCAA to protect its – and CBS’ -- $10.8 billion cash cow.
“The university dealt with those sanctions, and this group of young men that are playing right now had nothing to do with any of those violations," an all-of-a-sudden sympathetic Emmert said, going to a place he never found himself when it came to USC student-athletes. “It shouldn't impact these young men. That's what the judgment of the membership was. I support it.”
Never heard that when those USC football players who were still in grade school when the phony charges against Todd McNair were supposed to have happened weren’t allowed to compete for a Pac-12 title or a Rose Bowl/BCS berth and to do so with 30 fewer scholarships awarded.
Nope, back then, when asked about that, all Emmert could say about the COI’s disgraceful conduct in the USC case was that: “I think they got it right.”
Of course, he also noted he hadn’t bothered to read the case – just in case. Kind of like those athletes in the fake courses at UNC. No reading required – for student-athletes and NCAA presidents.
And then he said to us that any comparison with the treatment USC received and the leniency the likes of Auburn, Ohio State, Miami, Oregon and now UNC were getting was comparing “apples and oranges.”
Now maybe if USC had been one of those basketball TV favorites, or an SEC team, helping bring in the big dollars for CBS, it would have been a different story. We know, of course, that it wasn’t.
What a shame that UNC coach Roy Williams has had to answer questions about all of this. "We have talked about it so much,” he said at his NCAA press conference. “It's been such a big story that I'm tired of it.”
He’s tired of it. He’s gotten a free ride to the NCAA championship game and he’s tired of having to answer questions about how the Tar Heels have managed to do it off the floor, a far more amazing feat than the on-court wins.
After all, Williams said, it had "nothing to do with these players. These players were not involved. It affected us as a distraction, as the way people looked at us personally.''
Hey Roy, tell that to the USC football players for the decade from 2006 through 2016. They not only had to listen to it, they had to suffer for it -- on and off the field. They now know most of what they were hearing was a pack of lies. You want to feel sorry for someone, try USC not UNC.
But if there was even the slightest moment for a USC fan to smile this weekend, it was Emmert’s confession as to how the NCAA got it wrong on Selection Sunday when a staffer incorrectly texted an uninvited University of South Carolina about travel plans for the first round. Maybe that will teach those East Coast impostors for appropriating a “USC” moniker that doesn’t belong to an SEC school with all of two NCAA titles to its name.
"It was the wrong USC,'' Emmert said, a version of which he should have been saying in the six years since the NCAA’s corrupt 2010 decision on USC. "It was a simple clerical error, and everybody understands it has to be fixed and won't happen again.''
That last part is also something Emmert should be saying about the real USC’s dealings with the NCAA as we head to a trial this next year in the McNair lawsuit: “. . . it has to be fixed and won’t happen again.”
If only CBS or the SEC were there to make it happen. Guess it’s up to the California courts now. If last weekend is any example, we wonder what Emmert will sound like when McNair’s attorneys depose him?
Do they let you tap dance your answers in a deposition?
Here’s the take of USA TODAY columnist Nancy Armour, who got it just right with her column NCAA Still Tap Dancing Around Important Issues.
You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.