With the unprecedented punishment levied against Penn State yesterday, Stewart Mandel says that NCAA “displinary czar” Mark Emmert “overstepped” and then touches on a question many of us are asking about the ever-inconsistent NCAA (SI.com):
“While there’s been much speculation about whether this fits this specific bylaw or that specific bylaw,” said Emmert, “it certainly hits the fundamental values of what athletics are supposed to be doing in the context of higher education.”
No argument there. Perhaps this truly is a turning point in the history of the NCAA. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era where Batman Emmert flies in and saves the day every time the forces of athletic evil make a mockery of academic virtues.
He’d better. Otherwise, this will instead prove to be a crowning moment in NCAA hypocrisy.
Remember when most college football fans assumed Auburn and/or Cam Newton would endure some sort of penalty when the quarterback’s father openly solicited six figures from Mississippi State? The NCAA couldn’t do anything, Emmert insisted, because there was no rule on the books addressing that specific scenario. We’d best not hear that excuse again.
Remember the 2003 murder of Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy by a former player, and head coach Dave Bliss’ subsequent attempt to falsely portray Dennehy as a drug dealer to cover up for illegal tuition payments he’d made? Would Emmert (who was not yet with the NCAA at the time) step in if that indisputably heinous case arose today? If not, why? What’s the threshold in determining whether something is special-jurisdiction-caliber repulsive or leave-it-to-the-enforcement-department-level disturbing?
And have you read about the ongoing academic fraud scandal at North Carolina? Since at least 1999, athletes have repeatedly been steered toward a specific professor’s African and Afro-American Studies course that no one actually taught or attended. Last year’s NCAA investigation only scratched the surface. Considering how highly the NCAA portends to value academics, shouldn’t Emmert step in here, too?
“We don’t see this opening a Pandora’s box at all,” said Emmert. “This was a very distinct and very unique set of circumstances.”
That’s easy to say now. Nothing in the history of NCAA scandals has come close to the level of allowing a serial pedophile free reign to a school’s football facility, and basic faith in humanity make us inclined to believe that it will never happen again.