Several articles have been written on the realities of NCAA enforcement. Many have pointed out that the NCAA is mostly powerless when it comes to punishing former student athletes. There are thirty-six states which have passed some form of Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA), which raises the level of an NCAA transgression to a criminal matter. It also provides civil remedies to schools that have been damaged by athletes and agents who violate NCAA rules.
Rules are great...especially when they can be followed and enforced
The NCAA has some wonderful, lofty ideals about integrity and fair play. But just in case its members can't figure out right from wrong, it has a phonebook-sized rules manual. And that doesn't stop coaches and others from exploiting loopholes. The NCAA does not have subpoena powers, so it typically has a tough time getting people outside the NCAA (former NCAA athletes, agents, runners, etc.) to cooperate. Meanwhile, an athletic department's best defense when it comes to avoiding the short-arm of NCAA enforcement is plausible deniability. The school explains that the reason it didn't know that some renegade athlete cheated was because that same renegade athlete lied on the affidavit saying the didn't cheat. It is a shop-worn defense, yet works quite effectively.
We didn't start the fire, but Jerry Tarkanian knows who's going to get burned
NCAA enforcement is a system predicated on the wonderful intentions that schools will be diligent when it comes to monitoring athletes, coaches, boosters, etc., that it will self-report violations and, above all, maintain "institutional control" over the athletic department. When the NCAA is hammered by the media for rules that seemingly make no sense, the NCAA does have a fairly decent defense: We're only enforcing the rules agreed on by the membership. That is a fair argument, but the NCAA has long been accused of selective enforcement. USC is on the hot seat for the yet-to-be-resolved Reggie Bush case and now the O.J. Mayo situation. The media has already judged USC guilty, but what will ultimately happen? Jerry Tarkanian made a side career handicapping NCAA penalties for big-time schools accused of violations. When a school like Kentucky was accused violating NCAA rules, he was nonplussed. Said Tark: "The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it's going to give Cleveland State two more years' probation." Tark also substituted UCLA and Cal-State Northridge.
The New NCAA
The NCAA is different today. It is more "student-athlete friendly," as NCAA president Myles Brand likes to say. And there are no sacred cows. If a NCAA member gets caught cheating, it will be punished...at least according to Dr. Brand.
"Saying the NCAA has 'new information,' president Myles Brand promised to investigate former Southern California basketball star O.J. Mayo, who allegedly received thousands of dollars in gifts from money given to an event promoter by a sports agency.
"Brand said he won't be afraid to sanction USC or any other high-profile school caught in violation of NCAA rules."
The O.J. Mayo Case is not just any case
The NCAA's standard policy is not to comment on possible or pending investigations. Doesn't telling the public that his organization has "new information" sound prejudicial? Rarely would "new information" exonerate anyone so this cannot be good news for USC, Mayo and others. Also, saying "he wouldn't be afraid to punish USC or any other high-profile school caught in violation of NCAA rules" is inappropriate. FYI, Myles Brand does not mete out NCAA punishment. The NCAA Committee on Infractions has the honor.
No more NCAA rules, please
Jim Haney, the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, provides the best answer yet: "From my perspective, there is no silver bullet to all this. It’s all about ethics and character. You can’t legislate that." Thank you.