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NCAA Enforcement Experience - UNC Edition

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Back in May, the NCAA invited two dozen sports media-types to Indianapolis to participate in something called the "NCAA Enforcement Experience", which was designed to show how the NCAA conducts investigations and reached decisions on enforcement cases and infractions. The media members played the roles of the committee on infractions, and according to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, the ersatz committee "sentenced a make-believe school to made-up penalties after a mock infractions hearing based largely, it seemed, on hearsay."

But dozens of schools face the real NCAA enforcement experience every year, with careers and livelihoods on the line. The recent lawsuit against the NCAA and UNC filed by Michael McAdoo has among its complaints the inconsistent application of penalties by the NCAA in response to what he believes is an inappropriately harsh sanction in his case.

With that in mind, I created a little quiz to illustrate the point that, with the NCAA, you just never know. See if you can match the player with the penalty:

NCAA Enforcement Experience Quiz

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Here are the answers:

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A key to the players:

  • Player 1 is Kansas basketball player Josh Selby. He sat out 9 games in the 2010-11 season for receiving nearly $6,000 in impermissible benefits before he signed with the Jayhawks.
  • Player 2 is UNC's Kendric Burney. He sat six games (50%) for his benefits, then missed a 7th game while his honor court issues, which would have caused him to be ineligible, were worked out with the NCAA.
  • Player 3 is an East Carolina baseball player, one of four who paid a university tutor (who was also a women's tennis player) to write papers for them. Two of the players copped to the offenses and were declared ineligible for the remainder of the season. Two others continued to deny their level of involvement and were declared permanently ineligible, along with the tennis player/tutor herself.
  • Player 4 is UNC's Robert Quinn.
  • Player 5 is Ohio State's DeVier Posey, who along with Terelle Pryor and three other teammates, was found to have sold memorabilia and received discounted services. The key fact in this case is that the Buckeye Five were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl and serve their suspensions during the 2011 season. Of course, since then Pryor and coach Jim Tressel have landed in deeper issues and neither is no longer associated with OSU football. Last Friday OSU announced they would vacate all wins from the 2010 season including the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas.
  • Player 6 is UNC's Michael McAdoo.
  • Player 7 is Alabama's Marcell Dareus, who was "lured" to South Beach by Marvin Austin, which apparently got his penalty cut in half. If only he had been lured by Chris Hawkins, the NCAA might not have suspended him at all!
  • Player 8 is UNC's Charles Brown. This is sort of a trick question because Brown sat out the 2010 season as a result of his honor court sanction and not an NCAA action. The one-game suspension is his actual NCAA penalty.
  • Player 9 is a Florida State basketball player who was one of the 60+ athletes in 10 sports caught up in the granddaddy of NCAA academic scandals. No FSU athletes were found permanently ineligible; in fact, 30% was the maximum penalty handed out by the NCAA. Some players received less based on their level of involvement.
  • Player 10 is former Kentucky basketball player John Wall, whose AAU coach, Brian Clifton, was also a registered sports agent. The NCAA conveniently allowed Wall's two-game suspension to be served in the preseason, as opposed to Raymond Felton, who had to sit out a regular season game (which UNC infamously lost) for playing in a single game in a non-certified summer league.

The NCAA argues that every case is different, and I am glad they take that stance because every case should be weighed on its own merits. But it's hard to see how Michael McAdoo's case stacks up with the ECU baseball player, yet the penalties are the same, much less the FSU athletes who got a far less severe penalty. Marcell Dareus takes nearly $1800 and gets only two games, while A. J. Green sells a jersey for $1000 and gets four games. And we won't even get into the NCAA assigning a value to Deunta Williams crashing on Omar Brown's couch and getting rides to the airport.

Ultimately, Bob Orr made the most salient point about the true NCAA enforcement experience in that there is nothing in the NCAA mechanism that protects the rights of the individual student-athlete. Any organization, especially the size of the NCAA, that is going to deny the right or privilege of participation should have a procedure of due process or they are going to open themselves up for a world of trouble. In the past, schools and players just took what the NCAA handed out. But this is a brave new world and as litigation becomes more common as a way for individuals to fight the NCAA, the NCAA may have to reevaluate its own investigative and enforcement processes.