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NCAA rules: Ohio State Coming Into Focus, Tennessee's Not So Much

There is good news for the Ohio St. Buckeyes, and good news, I think, for all NCAA institutions.  In what I believe to be a clear example of finally "getting it," the NCAA has apparently decided that the Lack of Institution Control and Failure to Monitor charges against OSU are not forthcoming:

Investigators said they found no evidence that Ohio State failed to properly monitor its football program or any evidence of a lack of institutional control, according to a letter sent to the university and released Friday.

In an earlier examination of OSU's response to the NCAA's charging letter, we noted that that it seemed unlikely that OSU's compliance efforts could have stopped Tressel's behavior:

With that said, I think the NCAA should avoid a "Failure to Monitor" or "Lack of Institutional Control" finding.  The facts do not seem to support either one, and for the NCAA to create one or both out of thin air in order to enhance its penalty against OSU would only damage its credibility.

Absent Minority Report-like technology, it's hard to imagine how OSU could have prevented Tressel's deliberate failure to follow the rules.  There simply never was evidence of a failure on the part of the University in compliance efforts, and that's where those two charges should always have their root.

Unfortunately, their actions subsequent to the discovery did not live up to the example set by their compliance department, which I think will inspire the NCAA to enhance penalties against them.  OSU did not show in their actions after the discovery of the violations that such egregious failures really meant anything to them.  They seemed willing to continue to employ Tressel despite his unethical behavior, and I think that's where the NCAA is likely to send a message.

Regarding the Tennessee Volunteers, I feel compelled to make a couple of brief comments about Will Shelton's outstanding article at Rocky Top Talk partially in response to my piece yesterday on the Vols, specifically this paragraph:

Still, the university can show tangible steps on monitoring and controlling Lane Kiffin, removed the other responsible parties from the equation, punished itself, placed itself on probation, and handed out minor penalties to the new coaching staffs.  I'm all for Tennessee defending itself based on what it believes to be a true and fair representation of the facts; I support the university doing what it believes to be right over what it believes will appease the NCAA.  And I don't think the way we've done it is baiting the NCAA into dropping an even bigger hammer on us.  There is clearly guilt here - the Vols are simply asking that it be rightfully assigned.

I could not agree more with Will's commentary about supporting the University doing what it believes to be right, and not worrying about whether or not the NCAA will be appeased.  Real justice can only be had by standing up for the truth, and if UT believes what it says is the truth, that should be their position.

For my part, at least in Pearl's case, I am bothered by the lack of recruiting self-sanctions.  That seems and obvious needs to go along with the rest, because despite the fact that the most flagrant violation Pearl caused were his own unethical conduct for which Tennessee should pay a very small price per se, there are two other issues which argue for the self-imposition of more severe penalties:

  • The fact that the underlying violation was a clear and lawless attempt to gain a recruiting advantage, and;
  • The fact that the university tried very hard to keep a coach that was likely to be rendered unemployable and anyone could see that.

There has got to be a price to pay for trying to hold on to coaches who deliberately break the rules and get schools in trouble.  That's on the University of Tennessee, not on Pearl.  They should have fired him right away, and when they failed to do that, they demonstrated their commitment to compliance, at least in Pearl's case, was less important than retaining what they saw to be a once-in-a-lifetime basketball coach.

This is exactly the same failure of the leadership of the University that I berated Ohio State for.  I think UT should suffer at least one scholarship in basketball for two years or two scholarships for one year, and any truly honest response should have included something like that, in my opinion.

UT comes in line for a failure to monitor penalty primarily because it had so many things go wrong in such a short time.  I don't see how that can be avoided.  They are not like Ohio State, who had an isolated incident cause by an unethical coach that should have known better, and a clear case of what I consider to be documented satisfactory compliance efforts by the school compliance staff.

In sum, I applaud the NCAA's decision regarding OSU, but I do expect enhanced penalties.  For Tennessee, I consider their response to be contrived and inadequate.  That's my opinion on the matter, for what it's worth, and it truly pains me to say it.