South Carolina is next up on the NCAA docket, and today the first shoe dropped in the form of a Notice of Allegations. The notice alleges that South Carolina allowed a hotel, serving as a representative of its athletics interest, and two boosters with providing an array of extra benefits mostly to football and track athletes, both current and prospective.
The Washington Post reports thus:
The NCAA letter received Monday says 12 athletes in football and women’s track received an extra benefit of $47,000 for staying at a local hotel for a reduced rate. The NCAA also says officials with the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation provided $8,000 worth of impermissible benefits and inducements for South Carolina athletes and prospects.
The dollar amounts are very high in this case, primarily due to the hotel charging a ridiculously low daily rate to football and women's track athletes for fairly substantial suites. There is also major booster involvement in recruiting, and even though the monetary amounts are minuscule by comparison, they look very bad on the compliance department. So bad, in fact, that the Committee on Infractions has trotted out the Failure to Monitor allegation, a pretty serious charge. But there is much worse, and we'll get to that later.
For some reaction from Gamecock land, we turn to the SB Nation South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack:
-I still think the NCAA's numbers on the Whitney discounts are skewed by the fact that low extended stay rates are very common. Regardless, note that one thing the NCAA is investigating is whether or not the owner of the Whitney has a relationship with USC. My understanding is that that's not the case. That should help us. It should also help that we acted appropriately when we found out about this and that our players paid back the money they owed.
The NCAA is alleging that Whitney Hotel is a "representative of the school's athletic interests," so it seems to me that the NCAA has established that relationship to its satisfaction. My understanding of the NCAA bylaws is that if a business like that is providing an impermissible benefit, they automatically become a "booster" for the purposes of the allegation whether or not a relationship previously existed. I'm not sure I agree with my colleague that the lack of a prior relationship helps much, unless USC can prove that this was a normal business practice of the hotel, in which case I would say that the NCAA's case is likely to be found wanting.
-Perhaps the worst news here, IMO, is that we're being hit with "repeat violator" status due to the 2005 mess. That could make what might have been minor penalties more serious in nature.
For those of you unfamiliar with the "repeat violator" enhancement, here is the rule:
126.96.36.199.1 Time Period. An institution shall be considered a "repeat" violator if the Committee on Infractions finds that a major violation has occurred within five years of the starting date of a major penalty. For this provision to apply, at least one major violation must have occurred within five years after the starting date of the penalties in the previous case. It shall not be necessary that the Committee on Infractions’ hearing be conducted or its report issued within the five-year period. (Revised: 1/14/97 effective 8/1/97)
188.8.131.52.2 Repeat-Violator Penalties. In addition to the penalties identified for a major violation, the minimum penalty for a repeat violator, subject to exceptions authorized by the Committee on Infractions on the basis of specifically stated reasons, may include any or all of the following: (Revised: 1/11/94)
(a) The prohibition of some or all outside competition in the sport involved in the latest major violation for one or two sports seasons and the prohibition of all coaching staff members in that sport from involvement directly or indirectly in any coaching activities at the institution during that period; [DEATH PENALTY]
(b) The elimination of all initial grants-in-aid and all recruiting activities in the sport involved in the latest major violation in question for a two-year period; [PLUS!]
(c) The requirement that all institutional staff members serving on the Board of Directors, Leadership Council, Legislative Council or other cabinets or committees of the Association resign those positions, it being understood that all institutional representatives shall be ineligible to serve on any NCAA committee for a period of four years; and (Revised: 11/1/07 effective 8/1/08) [Whatever]
(d) The requirement that the institution relinquish its voting privilege in the Association for a four-year period. [DEATH STAR!] [Emphasis and brackets comments mine]
Yes, I would say that this is "more serious."
Let's just read that for what it is: The DEATH STAR, and program obliteration. I capitalized that more for humor than anything else, as the Gamecocks are not likely to suffer anything like that. But the fact that they are at least theoretically in play makes this potentially a more significant case than Miami. Note the use of the adjective, "potentially." The reality is, but for the 2005 violations, there would be no chance, even theoretically, of such a penalty. But the "repeat violator" punishment can potentially be uglier than anything we have ever seen, even if we know it is 1000-1 it will be applied like that. But it isn't likely to be ignored, either.
The Gamecocks, make no mistake, are in very serious trouble. The Committee will not overlook the repeat violator thing, and an otherwise rather pedestrian out-of-control booster case has become more than a little scary.
What do you think about all this?