The NCAA got so mad at Adidas, it threw a two-game suspension at Kelly Graves.
Paraphrasing Jerry Tarkanian feels appropriate today as Oregon sifts through penalties handed down by the NCAA. Those penalties included a two-game suspension for Graves, coach of the third-ranked Oregon women's basketball team, for failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
Josh Jamieson, director of operations for the men’s team, will have to sit through some rules seminars. The women’s track program will vacate records from 2016 due to an instructor’s misguided attempt to help a track athlete.
And Oregon finds itself on probation, not for anything disclosed in federal court, but for violations it discovered and reported on its own more than two years ago.
These penalties came down Wednesday, almost a year after Oregon received a notice of infractions from the NCAA. The enforcement staff was just doing its job, but with everything else swirling in college basketball, it seems absurd to be punishing coaches for a few dozen impermissible drills while criminals creep around the margins of the NCAA rulebook.
This is what the NCAA does, though. It’s always had an easier time enforcing ticky-tack rules than dealing with systemic corruption in college sports. While we wait to find out what, if any, consequences will emerge for coaches implicated in federal court, we can rest assured knowing that no unauthorized personnel will be shooting baskets inside the practice gyms at Matthew Knight Arena.
I don’t mean to diminish the allegations here, because some of them were significant. Academic misconduct is nothing to be taken lightly. And although the infractions in men’s and women’s basketball seem minor, it’s clear both programs should have done a better job upholding the rules.
If you cheat the IRS by $100 on your taxes, you can’t complain about being audited. When you knowingly break NCAA rules by directing a strength coach to participate in practice drills, you invite whatever punishment the NCAA wants to mete out.
To his credit, Graves hasn’t tried to hide anything. He came clean to the NCAA, took responsibility for his mistakes and vowed to do better.
If Oregon thought that would result in leniency from the NCAA, it was sadly mistaken. Barring a successful appeal, which he has 15 day to file, Graves will be suspended for two games this season.
As far as I can tell, such penalties are rare for a women’s basketball coach. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was suspended nine games in 2015, but infractions rulings going back to 2014 don’t show another instance of a women’s coach being suspended by the NCAA.
I guess we could congratulate the Oregon women on hitting the big time, but that’s not the point. The point is that until the NCAA offers a meaningful response to the dirt unearthed by the FBI’s corruption investigation, it’s hard to take these or any other rulings seriously.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday at a sports business conference, NCAA president Mark Emmert insisted the organization had both the “manpower and the willpower” to investigate schools implicated in the federal corruption probe. That presumably includes Oregon, though no proof has emerged to substantiate claims made in court about an “astronomical” financial offer to recruit Brian Bowen from Oregon coaches.
Emmert said any such investigations are unlikely to conclude before the end of the 2018-19 season. Maybe the NCAA will prove me wrong, but I remain skeptical that an organization with such a spotty enforcement record will be able to wrap its arms around a problem of that magnitude.
It’s not just the college basketball investigation that’s making the NCAA look bad. The NCAA’s failure to reach a conclusion on academic fraud at North Carolina, where athletes allegedly benefited from years of no-show classes, made the organization look toothless and confused.
In hindsight, Oregon has to wonder about the incentive to self-report violations. Oregon handed the NCAA a thorough investigation and, as a reward, got penalties far stiffer than schools that cover up far more egregious infractions.
All signs indicate it could be months or years before the NCAA reaches any kind of resolution on the allegations unearthed by the college basketball investigations. Meanwhile, its enforcement arm will keep throwing its massive rulebook at anyone it can hit, mostly small-time offenders guilty of petty crimes.
Watch out, Cleveland State.