Notice lately how many NCAA investigations are either the result of investigative journalists working in concert with civil lawsuits (real or threatened)? I am all for NCAA cheaters getting punished, but let's be clear: these are not all the cheaters in the NCAA-cheating universe...just the ones who irritate someone enough to talk to the media and/or threaten or file lawsuit.
Lately, there's been an increase in armchair NCAA investigators. Yahoo! Sports seemingly has become a third arm of NCAA enforcement, especially with its extensive coverage of Reggie Bush. Now Yahoo! examines the sleazier side of college coaches...using their oratory skills to help high schools with fundraisers.
Yahoo! lays down the law:
"The practice of coaches speaking at high school events has been going on for decades. But it's fundraising in association with those events that has prompted scrutiny. And should the NCAA find Notre Dame and Weis to be in violation of its rules, coaches across the nation could expect similar sanctions."
Steve Morgan, who once worked for the NCAA and now represents schools accused of NCAA wrongdoing, said:
"I think the issue is that if you didn't have regulations in this area, you'd have the possibility that coaches would exploit the opportunity to curry favor with certain high schools, and their hope would be to get a leg up in recruiting in that high school."
Leveling the playing field is an impossible thing to legislate. Big recruiting budgets and celebrity coaches will always enjoy a "leg up in recruiting." What makes the system basically fair is that schools all offer exactly the same number of scholarships and amount of playing time.
While the media and fans foster a culture of distrust, coaches also bear responsibility.
Consider this, courtesy of sportswriter Ray Melick:
"Alabama coach Nick Saban says he has 35 documented cases of secondary violations by other coaches that he has not reported, although he has used them as a 'What about them?' defense when confronted by compliance people questioning Saban about allegations made against him."
So this is how The Nasty Game is played? Coaches acting like vigilantes by taking compliance matters into their own hands in order to protect their own butts down the line. This "observe, document, but don't report" system is far different from the Honor Code, the bedrock of every university that holds integrity and fair play central to its mission.
In the end, all this creates a pretty bleak public view that supports former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian thesis that, "In major college basketball, nine out of 10 teams break the rules. The other one is in last place."