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Miami, Frank Haith, Clint Hurtt And The NCAA: Fun For All, All For Fun

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Yeah, Miami and Louisville fans are all happy now. Missouri fans, too. And why not?

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Poor Tom.  Such a tough call.
Poor Tom. Such a tough call.
Andy Lyons

It seems that all we do these days is talk about the Louisville Cardinals, which I suppose is both good and bad. The good of it, at least lately, has been reveling in a bit of schadenfreude as suspensions and big losses have taken their toll on Cardinals fans. Today is similar, although in this tale, Louisville would normally be more coincidental than anything else. Normally.

All across the Interwebs today, we have outrage at the NCAA's decision vis-a-vis the Miami Hurricanes. As you all know, the decision was essentially a wrist-slap compared to similar situations (which, as you all know, we are forbidden from considering). To be fair, Miami has had to suffer through three years of limbo and self-imposed sanctions. There is no doubt whatever, though, that using similar NCAA investigations as a guide, Miami got off with a very light punishment. The NCAA may not take notice of precedent, but the rest of the civilized world does, and we have and will continue hold the NCAA to that rational standard. Obviously, the NCAA will come out looking, umm... what's an appropriate word ... arbitrary. Just totally random, really, as well as incompetent.

Here's ESPN's Dana O'Neil on the decision. I'll cut right to the pithy part:

A two-year postseason ban, no televised appearances for one season, scholarship reductions, records expunged and NCAA tournament money returned or, as then-Kentucky president David Roselle explained, "about 4 feet" from the death penalty.

That was in 1989. ...

Cheating and attempting to mitigate the damages after the fact is as old as sport, as old as humanity, really. "Yes, teacher, I copied off my neighbor's paper, but I'll stay in for recess as reprimand."

Back in 1989 Kentucky tried to fall on its sword, too, forcing out its entire coaching staff, shifting control of the Wildcat Lodge to the university from the athletic department and disassociating from a booster; Indiana fired Kelvin Sampson, docked its new staff off-campus visits and a scholarship and added other recruiting restrictions; and Bruce Pearl lost $2 million in salary plus off-campus recruiting opportunities.

Each time, the NCAA still came in and scorched the earth behind them.

What's changed isn't the schools or the cheating or the apologies. What's changed is the NCAA.

Indeed. What has really changed is the leadership of the NCAA, Mark Emmert He Who Need Not Be Named, who has been at the helm of the NCAA ship as it has run upon the shoals of incredibility. We all know that the NCAA tells us over and over that each case is unique, but none of us are buying it. Like it or not, NCAA, the ghosts of your prior decisions are rattling around like zombies in the court of public opinion, which at this precise moment, could not possibly hold you in lower esteem.

Okay, that's about all I'm going to say about the Miami decision. Let's move on to Frank Haith, and that one's going to be simple. For doing essentially the same thing as Bruce Pearl did, Frank Haith doesn't get a 3-year show-cause penalty — he gets a five game suspension.

Oops, did I just violate that whole "precedents don't count" rule again? I did, didn't I? Shame on me. Well, to get a more fulsome treatment, read Gary Parrish's article, which pretty much makes all the same points I would.

Okay, moving right along to Clint Hurrt's Louisville's assistant football coach who was convicted by the NCAA (we call it a "finding" in NCAA parlance, but "conviction" works for me as well) of unethical conduct. Now, if Bruce Pearl had only had a "finding" of unethical conduct against him ... oh, wait!

Well, anyway, then Louisville's Athletics Director Tom "Turtleneck" Jurich, the AD of the Decade don'tcha know, up and decides that he's fine with retaining Hurtt. Why? Well, because the NCAA basically begged him to do so! From the NCAA Infractions Committee Public Report (Just so you know, "Coach B" == Clint Hurtt):

Show-Cause Penalty. The actions taken by Institution C are separate from the penalties prescribed by the committee. The committee prescribes a two-year show cause order (October 22, 2013, through October 21, 2015) for former assistant football coach B, adopting the terms identified by Institution C in subparagraphs 9(a) through (g) above. The committee prescribes the following penalties in accordance with NCAA bylaws.

Former assistant football coach B knowingly engaged in unethical conduct, including the offer of impermissible inducements and benefits and providing false and misleading information to the enforcement staff in the investigation of this case. Therefore, former assistant football coach B will be informed in writing by the NCAA that, due to his involvement in the violations set forth in this report, if he leaves Institution C and seeks employment at an another NCAA member institution during the two-year period, then the former assistant football coach B and the employing institution shall appear before the Committee on Infractions to consider whether the member institution should be subject to the show-cause procedures of Bylaw (Division I Manual 2011-12), which could limit this athletically related duties as identified in subparagraphs 9(a) through (g)above, at the new institution for the designated period. [my emphasis]

What's Tommy T to do? It would just be wrong to throw poor Hurtt out of a job, and the NCAA knew this perfectly well when they set forth this "punishment." If Turtle Tom had kicked Hurtt to the curb, he'd look like an ogre, and the NCAA was well aware that the easy decision would be for Jurich to keep him, and they are totally fine with that.

Yeah, we know that Hurtt is contrite, and we know he's really a good dude deep down, but Pat Forde thinks he should be in an unemployment line somewhere:

I didn't think I'd live long enough to see Forde criticize the school of his man-crush, Rick Pitino. But it isn't about Pitino, so he gets to look all fair and unbiased.  As if.

Next, Dan Wolken takes a shot:

And that's reinforced by Louisville fans themselves:

I really hate 2013 p.c. pussification bullshit. If Cal can stay at uk with all the cheating he does, Hurtt can stay here as long as he wants. It is about winning. Thats why he’s still around and thats why I dont really give a damn what he does in his spare time. Btw, I never wanted Pitino fired because he got some strange, either!

by asfanlouky on Oct 22, 2013 | 5:09 PM reply [My emphasis]

I wonder what Louisville fans would say if that was our rationale for keeping Calipari if he were to be handed a similar penalty, or "got some strange?" You think this would be their take? I really have my doubts.

Then, of course, come the claims that if Kentucky can hire Calipari, a little unethical conduct by a Louisville assistant coach is just fine by him:

The guys of the Afternoon Underdogs made the point today that Jurich is essentially saving Hurtt's career with this move. D-Line coaches facing show-cause penalties don’t often secure great jobs on the tail end of that.

What people aren’t saying, though, is that Clint Hurtt saved his own career by participating in the culture of non-compliance proliferated at Miami under super-booster Shapiro. You don’t want to do these things, well, you’re an easily replaceable D-Line coach… SEE YA! Assistants at that level don’t move forward when let go by top-tier programs for no apparent reason, either; they move way backwards. So if Hurtt wanted to continue coaching at any high level, his only choice was to play their game. Otherwise, he’s a D-Line coach at Grambling State or Western Michigan right now. Nevin Shapiro carried much more weight at Miami than Clint Hurtt. The guy did what he had to do, operating within the system provided and having essentially no power of his own.

Then, the first caller compared the situation to John Calipari’s nonsense and proclaimed that Louisville fans now have no excuse to take shots at Slick Cal. The major difference there is essentially what I’ve stated above: Clint Hurtt, like all assistants involved here, were victims of a culture of ‘wrongdoing’; John Calipari created one (two).

National Championship.

by OnceYouGoStrong on Oct 22, 2013 | 3:36 PM reply [My emphasis]

I wonder if the writer thinks that an actual NCAA finding of unethical conduct is morally equivalent to his own wishful thinking about Calipari? It goes without saying, of course, that Coach Cal got no blame at all from the NCAA in either case, and certainly no findings of unethical conduct. But to the Louisville fan bent on his own risible version of moral equivalence, well, that just doesn't matter.

Rick Bozich offered a more substantive, and stinging argument:

No more nonsense.

That was Jurich's message as he moved the program forward from those uncertain days in 1997 to the unmatched glory of the 2012-13 season. And U of L has been nonsense free.

Except for this king-sized contradiction – on Tuesday the NCAA confirmed what Yahoo! Sports first reported several years ago: Clint Hurtt, the most important assistant coach on Charlie Strong's staff, was shoulder-pads deep in nonsense while working at the University of Miami before he joined Strong at Louisville. ...

You don't arrange for a booster to pick up the restaurant tab for recruits. You don't become buddy-buddy with a booster who is entertaining your players at strip clubs. You don't ask for $2,500 loans from a booster, even if you pay him back.

Pretty much Recruiting 101.

And absolutely the kind of stuff that Tom Jurich has always said he would not be part of the athletic culture at the University of Louisville.

Not anymore, though.

Look, in Louisville's defense, and I said earlier, the NCAA practically begged Jurich and Louisville not to fire Hurtt. Why? Maybe they just want this Miami thing forgotten as soon as possible, considering their vast mistakes during the investigation that had many people wanting the NCAA to charge themselves with unethical conduct. Doing as little damage as possible to those involved while still technically "punishing" them seems to be their way of hoping this whole thing just blows over, never to be heard from again.

They will be disappointed, though, because as I said earlier, precedents mean something to virtually every American not on the NCAA payroll. Trying to convince us that this was a fair judgment, fairly arrived at and consistent with the NCAA bylaws is simply not going to work, especially at places like Kentucky, Southern Cal, Penn St., Indiana, and Tennessee among many, many others.

I suppose we could just jump right in to Gregg Doyel's merry version of "the times are a changin' let's all just get along and get on board." But we won't.

Sorry, Gregg. Sorry, Kentucky. Sorry Penn St. Sorry, Alabama. NCAA Justice just changes like the weather, and we were just unlucky enough to be in hurricane season when our turn came. For Miami, it's all blue skies and rainbows.

Good for them. Don't hate Miami. You know who to blame.