Sometimes, NCAA rules can look incredibly cruel and arbitrary. This is one of those times. Jeremy Jarmon being ruled ineligible for unknowingly taking a substance banned by the NCAA comes as a shock to the Big Blue Nation, and is a serious blow to Kentucky's football team for the 2009 season.
By now, you have all heard the story, but if you haven't here it is again. Jarmon began taking a new nutritional supplement in February in an effort to drop some weight, and didn't clear it with the UK Athletics office. Jarmon says he just forgot to tell the staff about the new supplement until it was too late. Just four days after they advised him to stop taking it, he was selected for a random drug test and the test came back positive.
Kentucky went through the appeals process with the NCAA, but the appeal was denied. In the final analysis, the NCAA's stance on this issue is that Jarmon had ample education about the dangers of taking products without first clearing them with the school's nutritional staff, and Jeremy disregarded or forgot the training he had repeatedly received from the school on the problems with taking unapproved, over-the-counter substances. The appeals process is anonymous, which means that the NCAA body passing judgment does not know who the student athlete in question is in an attempt to remove any possibility of subjectivity.
My opinion on this affair is as follows:
I really feel for Jeremy Jarmon, and I know all of us have done similar things before -- we started doing something that we should have known better than to do, but for some reason, we forgot about the rules. It happens to all of us, so it is impossible for anyone to rationally condemn Jarmon for what he did. Yes, he should have known better, but somehow he didn't, at least not in time to forestall the consequences. Kudos to Jeremy for standing up and taking the blame, because the blame clearly belongs with him, even if the error seems like one we make every day.
Many will think that getting banned from NCAA participation for a year is unduly harsh punishment, and I agree. In an effort to remove the subjectivity from the process, the NCAA has essentially decided that college sports has no room for the fallibility of human memory when it comes to amateur athletics, and will brook no excuses or mitigating circumstances. Eric Crawford has a very good editorial on just that subject this morning.
Mitch Barnhart points out that this decision was based on NCAA precedent, and he does not disagree with the decision when constrained in that way. The question is not if the punishment was fairly and objectively decided -- it clearly was. The question is why, in an area of reality where the imperfection of youthful decisions are acknowledged and often the basis for leniency, have we removed instances like this to an impersonal, anonymous process?
Can you imagine if our judicial system were that way, and every person had to testify via a transcript in an anonymous proceeding? We may as well let a computer, or even a monkey, make these kind of decisions. The only problem is that they affect, often dramatically, the lives of young men and women who have been guilty only of a careless error. Careless errors are very serious when people's lives are at stake, but I think nobody would argue that the fairness of college football would have been compromised if Jarmon's punishment would have been less harsh. But the NCAA has taken the position, when it comes to drugs, to "ban 'em all and let God sort them out."
Neither Jarmon nor Barnhart nor anyone in the UK Athletics Department has gone on record as saying this is all unfair. From an objective standpoint, it isn't unfair at all. Nobody would dispute that performance-enhancing drugs are a problem when it comes to intercollegiate athletics, or that the NCAA should take the laissez faire approach that professional athletics has taken up until recently. Nobody is arguing that there shouldn't be punishment, especially for repeat offenders.
But from a subjective standpoint, it seems like a major dehumanization of NCAA sports, of converting people to a number or letter. Sorry, player X, you are banned, buddy. We don't care about your pathetic sob story. Don't waste our time explaining your mistake, you are guilty, guilty, guilty because precedent says so, and nothing else is going to be considered. You deserve to be lumped into the same category as Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds. Enjoy your new fame as a performance-enhancing drug abuser. And for the rest of you, let this be a lesson.
Oh, yeah -- don't drink the water.
And now, for the news:
UK Basketball News
- Morehead will be the first game for the Wildcats next year. This team was a lot of fun to watch in the NCAA's, and Coach Tyndall's daughter reminded me so much of Coach Bill Yoast's daughter in Remember the Titans. I can't wait.
- John Wall may be the insurance policy UK needed to keep North Carolina at bay on the way to 2000 wins. The irony that he comes from the Carolina Triangle is not lost on me.
- Great, short video. Recommended.
- Has John Calipari actually made himself bigger than the UK coaching job? As much press as he has received, I think you could argue that he has, at least for the moment. It took Rick Pitino years to achieve this level of attention.
- Jay Bilias thinks the Kansas Jayhawks' advantage in experience give them the edge over UK next year. I think he is exactly right.
- Bluegrass State Basketball evaluates the likely roster next year, and how they will fit in.
- Storming the Floor interviews Dana O'Neil of ESPN. She is not completely on the UK bandwagon, either, for primarily the same reason as Jay Bilas.
- Ge'Lawn Guyn has not heard from UK. My bet is that he won't.
- Coach Cal to speak at the Pike County Chamber of Commerce. I'm betting Billy Gillispie wasn't interested.
- WKYT reports that A.J. Stewart is headed elsewhere. This story is unconfirmed by UK.
- The New York Daily News says that Calipari is trying to manage expectations, but "this has all the makings of a runaway train."
- It's unusual for the North Carolina schools to lose one to Kentucky. But not unprecedented.
UK Football News
- Craig Yeast and Tim Couch will be giving back to Kentucky by holding football camps in the Bluegrass. That's great news for two of Kentucky's most memorable players ever.
Other UK Sports News
- Bruno Agostinelli bows out of the NCAA Singles Tennis Tournament in the quarterfinals to an Ohio State player.
NCAA Sports News
- Some pros and cons of early commitments to colleges. I find it very interesting that Michael Avery's dad argues it as a benefit, and gives some compelling reasons why.
- The Memphis Commercial-Appeal says that Memphis basketball is still selling tickets in spite of Calipari leaving town.
- Zagsblog is reporting that even though Nick Calathes has left Florida for Greece, the Gators are now in hot pursuit of Lance Stephenson. I wonder if the media will begin cruicfying Donovan for recruiting an athlete with a shady reputation. I'm betting no, Billy D. is still the "do no wrong" fair-haired boy, but he's now the second best coach in the SEC. That has to sting a little.