NCAA drags in delivering punishment

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Just over 13 months ago, a bombshell went off over the University of Miami athletic program.

That was when, with just weeks to go before the 2011 collegiate football season began, it was announced that the school had 13 players suspended for up to six games, or half of the season.

The NCAA was looking into allegations made by former booster Nevin Shapiro regarding illicit benefits provided to dozens of current and former players from 2002 through 2010, nearly a decade.

Thirteen months, two postseason bans and a plethora of speculation later, the school is still waiting for an answer.

Like any investigation, looking into old allegations against a university takes time. It’s not a process that is going to be solved overnight. But when two college football seasons have come and gone, and Miami still has not heard anything definitive from the NCAA, there are apparently some flaws in the system.

The NCAA should proceed through its fact-finding mission to ensure that the allegations that came to light are accurate.

But to hold an entire program hostage as the association figures out what to do isn’t necessarily fair either, especially considering that the alleged recipients of Shapiro’s money and gifts are – for the most part – no longer attending or working for the university.

The individuals named allegedly broke the rules, and it’s understandable for there to be some form of punishment, but how do you go about forcing an innocent man to pay for someone else’s crimes?

On that note, in these NCAA cases against different programs, there never seems to be any set guidelines as to how a school should face the consequences.

The University of Southern California football team faced a two-year bowl ban and 30 scholarship reductions for the 2010 and 2011 seasons when the NCAA determined the school had a “lack of institutional control” because former running back Reggie Bush had accepted improper financial benefits and housing.

This was four years after Bush had left the USC football program and went on to the NFL.

The manner in which the NCAA is able to dole out punishments is a system that is ineffective and, at its core, broken.

Coaches can up and leave to another university or to the pros without facing any consequences. Athletic directors can switch schools and avoid any punishments as well.

And, athletes can choose to go to the pros and completely forget about their past, including any mistakes they made while playing for their college team.

Yet it’s always the school, free of any guilty parties, that is forced to suffer the consequences for the crimes that it may no longer be associated with.

Former Hurricanes basketball coach Frank Haith was one of those named in the allegations by Shapiro. Rather than face any sanctions himself, Haith left Miami to coach at University of Missouri, where he enjoyed a 30-win season and won National Coach of the Year in his first campaign.

He also took his team to the NCAA Tournament, but was ousted in the first round.

Meanwhile, the Canes were forced to deal with suspensions of Reggie Johnson and DeQuan Jones, among others throughout the season.

But while it might not be fair to punish those who were never involved in the crimes, if the NCAA goes on without showing it is willing to drop the hammer on a program that has done wrong, then what does that make the NCAA?

What, then, would prevent any coach or any athlete from taking advantage of their situation knowing that there will be no real repercussions?

And then what of the manner in which the NCAA is attempting to find evidence against the University of Miami?

According to a report by The Miami Herald, the NCAA sent out letters of ultimatum to former Hurricane football players no longer with the university. The message in the letters was short, yet imposing.

“Talk to us, or we will believe everything Nevin Shapiro told us.”

When did it become okay to assume guilty until proven innocent? The laws this country operates under are not good enough for the NCAA to follow?

In the end, the ball is in the NCAA’s court.

The university will just continue to wait for the final buzzer.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

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