A friend of mine recently emailed me about the Oklahoma State scandals that are breaking. With his permission, I’m publishing his missive and then my response.
So what are your thoughts on this whole Ok State issue? So far I haven’t read anywhere that the NCAA is even looking into it, which is laughable in my opinion (if these allegations are true). That being said the NCAA’s outdated and draconian practices for meting out punishments is absurd at best. I’m sorry but punishing the current athletes and students for things that people that aren’t even with the university anymore did is just wrong on so many levels. There has to be a better system in place or at the very least, a way to punish those responsible. I just see what has happened at PSU as a wakeup call because the people who were responsible for the horrific actions that took place are either in jail or about to have their day in court, so why then, are the current players and coaches being penalized for things that happened when they weren’t even at the university. I guess what I’m getting at is the currently players/ coaches at Ok State should not have to deal with the possibility of the death penalty when they weren’t even there for when the alleged pay for play was happening. Just curious to hear your thoughts on this.
Here’s my response:
To your question, it may not seem fair that current players at PSU or Okie State would seem to be punished for things they didn’t do. If Okie State is punished in any tangible way, its players should be allowed to transfer immediately without sitting out just as PSU’s players were allowed to do.
However, justice cannot be tempered because of collateral effects. It does matter at the institutional level. We don’t fail to prosecute rule-breaking institutions in the ‘real world’ because of downstream effects. Enron shouldn’t have escaped punishment because its lower level employees and/or its employees’ families, who had no knowledge of its illegal activities, would’ve been adversely affected. Okie State football, as an institution, fostered an environment that led to these transgressions.Yes, they can try to punish the individuals responsible (primarily Les Miles, I guess). But the idea here is also to punish the institution so that it doesn’t get lax about controls in the future. If Okie State (or SMU back in the 1980’s) isn’t punished because it would negatively affect current players and administration, it sends the message that they can do almost anything they want. If Miles was still at Okie State, they could just fire him and disassociate from some boosters and keep on making payments to players. The lesson would be just don’t get caught! I would be ok with punishing Les Miles (via suspension or a show-cause penalty), but that hurts LSU football, which as an institution hasn’t done anything wrong that we know of, and its current players who are even further removed from the Okie State scandal. The Okie State football institution still has to learn a lesson.
Chip Kelly has a show-cause penalty now but what does that matter to him because he’s now with the Eagles. Oregon got hit with some minor sanctions but I’d be willing to bet that the positive effects of their malfeasance have outweighed the sanctions.
Having said that, let’s circle back to the NCAA itself (and by way of that, PSU). The NCAA reeks. It has next to no credibility left with me. It’s a corrupt and inept institution itself. In any of these cases, be it Miami, Oregon, Okie State or PSU. It’s hard to believe the NCAA’s findings in any investigation given what happened in the Miami case. But let’s imagine if the NCAA was what it should be, for a moment. That may not markedly change the outcome in PSU’s case.
Maybe the NCAA has no jur-is-my-diction with regards to PSU because that’s a criminal case. But recall to mind Baylor basketball’s sanctions after the Dave Bliss affair. Bliss arranged tuition payments for players and covered up a murder in order to protect his job and by extension, the institution of Baylor basketball. The school and the program created the environment that led to those actions. Bliss was punished and so was the institution. I don’t recall many folks outside of Waco decrying the sanctions levied against Baylor basketball. [Ed: The severity of the sanctions levied against Baylor basketball are in no small part in response to the Bliss cover-up. Had there only been recruiting and payment violations, I doubt the NCAA would’ve been so harsh].
In PSU’s case, the NCAA jumped the gun on handing down sanctions and probably should have waited till after the trials are done. The individuals involved get punished. And then so too does the institution for creating an atmosphere that led to those actions.
Putting aside issues of justice, from a purely Pennstate-centric viewpoint, PSU might have gotten off easy by being punished early. Many folks believe PSU football should have gotten a multi-year death penalty and that the institution should’ve lost accreditation for a couple years. I’m not one of those folks, btw. If the NCAA (or a properly non-corrupt substitute) waited till after the trials, you might say that PSU would have had time to put new controls into place, cooperate with an extended NCAA investigation and perhaps get lighter sanctions. But then again, the build-up of scrutiny during the trials, might not have lessened the blow to be delivered. Even a non-corrupt NCAA would’ve been under severe pressure to lower the hammer on PSU. It’s likely a heavy lose-lose situation regardless of the NCAA’s credibility or lack thereof.