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The NCAA Watchers Council

Are you ready for this? I’ve got a terrific opportunity for you. A chance to get in on the ground floor of a whole new way to look at things.

You’ve heard the expression, “let’s get busy.”Well, we’re going to get “biz-zay,” consistently and thoroughly. We’re going to be proactive. We’re talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.

But before we start with this exciting new innovation, we need to agree on a premise.

And it it this: The way the NCAA deals with violations and penalties doesn’t make any sense. Penalties seem to be given out arbitrarily. The penalties don’t punish the right people and they do nothing to prevent a further occurrence of the initial violation.

Agreed?

Great! So, how do we fix it? I’ve talked to a lot of teachers and administrators to gather this data, but mostly I’ve used the same source Dakich used in the run up to the Cody Zeller decision. Myself. And this is what all the experts (read: I) know to be true. If the purpose of discipline is to provide a consequence for the offender and to insure that the same thing doesn’t occur again a few conditions must be met:

First. Discipline must be timely.

Second. The consequence should relate to the infraction.

Third. The consequences must be consistently applied.

Fourth. The consequence should be focused on the person who committed the offense without punishing people who had nothing to do with it.

Fifth. The punishment must be worse for the offender than anything gained by the crime.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions rarely hits the first, occasionally hits the second, almost never hits the third, turns its head to the side the way your dog does when it’s trying to understand what you are saying with the fourth, and has no idea how to  do the fifth without salting the earth so nothing will ever grow again, so mostly they just swing wildly with the broadsword of justice, hacking off whatever limb happens to be flailing about in its path.

So, here we come to the totally outrageous, proactive new paradigm. The NCAA needs help in this area, and we’re going to be the ones to help them. It’s going to require a massive shift in the way the NCAA thinks about rule enforcement, but if one person, just one person walks into the NCAA offices and reads this list of rules, well, they’ll think he’s crazy and lock him up. But if two people, just two people walk in to the NCAA offices and read these rules, well they’ll think we’re a couple and just hope they don’t start making out with each other. But if three people, just three people walk in to the NCAA offices and read these rules, they might think it’s a movement. And that’s what it is, folks. It’s the NCAA-doesn’t-know-how-to-police-its-own-members-so-we’re-here-to-help-anti-massacree movement.

Here are the new rules for NCAA Penalties

1.) No self-imposed sanctions

2.) No game suspensions for players unless the player is ruled ineligible.

3.) No fines of coaches strictly for the sake of fining them.

4.) No game suspensions for coaches.

5.) No punishing the school and current team for a violation committed by a completely different group of people in a previous year.

6.) No penalties that have nothing at all to do with the offense committed.

As this basically throws out all of the current punishments the NCAA uses, this deserves some more explanation.

1.) No self-imposed sanctions.

These are ridiculous. They have nothing to do with the rule that was broken. They don’t meet any of the five conditions. They are a shot in the dark by the universities with one hope in mind, “Please let this be enough. If the NCAA thinks we’re sorry enough, maybe they’ll leave us alone.” That’s like walking into a court room on a traffic citation and saying, “No need for that fine or those points, judge. I just punched myself in the balls in the hallway. And just for good measure I punched my kids in the balls too.”

2.) No game suspensions for players unless the player is ruled ineligible.

Sitting a player out hurts the rest of the team, and doesn’t really teach that player a lesson. This is not to say that a university can’t decide to discipline a player for a team rule by sitting them out. If Ohio State wants to sit five of their players out next year for selling their jerseys and award to get tattoos because they were incredibly stupid, that’s their business (but if they’re doing it to avoid further punishment it’s wrong-headed and accomplishes nothing), but when the NCAA suspends a kid for a game for something like posing for a charity calendar, it’s an arbitrary punishment that could cost the team a win, the player a chance to become the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer, and the fans a loss to a rival. So many people hurt in collateral punishment.

3.) No fines of coaches strictly for the sake of fining them.

Coaches have been getting fined for things for decades and there are still coaches breaking the rules. It provides no deterrent and never addresses the actual violation. Especially when the coach can just pick up a local endorsement to cover the income they just lost. This may temporarily satisfy condition number five, but when he gets the money right back it doesn’t even do that. “You broke the rules! Give me money!”

4.) No game suspensions for coaches

Did the violation occur during the game? No? Then a game suspension has nothing to do with anything. Booted for throwing a chair or getting too many technicals? You should probably sit a game or two. You allowed your players to trade their awards and jerseys for tattoos and then hid that from the NCAA? Sitting yourself two games is meaningless.

5.) No punishing the school and current team for a violation committed by a completely different group of people in a previous year.

You’re not punishing the people who broke the rules, you’re punishing the people who are there now. This makes as much sense as arresting me or raising my rent because the people who lived in my house in 1999 ran an illegal sports book. This means no post-season bans or restrictions on scholarships.

6.) No penalties that have nothing to do with the offense committed.

This one covers all of the above. No fines, unless the offense was stealing money or resulted directly in a big payday for the school, then that money can be returned. No post season bans, unless the offense had to do with cheating your way into that year’s tournament. No coaching suspensions for violations that occurred off the court.

Now that I’ve taken away every single useless and arbitrary tool the NCAA uses to punish school, coaches, players and fans. It’s time to tell you what they should be doing.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions needs to be split into two separate but equal entities that work together. The first, they pretty much have in place already, though it’s woefully understaffed: The Investigators. Right now, the schools are responsible for the first leg of the investigation, which frequently takes 6-12 months, then the NCAA investigates. Timeliness is gone right there. Under the new rules, when an infraction occurs, the investigative branch is dispatched right away to begin finding out what really happened, but they don’t go alone. The second branch goes with them: The Watchers.

The Watchers are the penalty. They stay for a different duration depending on the severity of the offense. For minor infractions, they may only stay a few days. For major rules violations: Boosters with hundred dollar handshakes, packages mailed to recruits with money in them, improper phone calls to recruits, contact with recruits at your house during a no-contact period, lying to the investigators, they may stay for years.

The purpose of The Watchers is to stay there, monitor the program, spend every possible minute with the coaches, players and compliance staff with special attention paid to the person who actually broke the rules and to the specific rules broken. If the coach broke the rules and then leaves for another job, one of the Watchers goes with him to make sure he behaves at the next school. The Watcher insures that there are proper systems in place to prevent a further violation, and they stay until they’re sure it will never happen again. And for those of you keen on fining people, the coach pays the cost for all of this.

Kelvin Sampson wouldn’t have been able to ruin Indiana if there had been a Watcher assigned to his every move. Eddie Sutton wouldn’t have been able to drive Kentucky to the brink of disaster if a Watcher had been there after Joe B. Hall paid players for 15 years.

And no one would complain that Jim Calhoun got off too light, which he did, or that Jim Tressel and his two game self-suspension and five game player suspension was the joke that it is.

The Watcher will also have the ability to apply restrictions on coaching behavior if applicable. If the coach made impermissible phone calls, the Watcher can put himself in charge of the coaches phone and forbid him from making recruiting phone calls. If the coach had recruits to his house, the Watcher can forbid recruiting trips off campus. If the coach allowed his players to sell their jerseys and awards to get tattoos, the Watcher could make him trade his awards for the same tattoos his players got. As long as it’s related to the offense and helps prevent it from happening again, it’s an option for the Watcher.

Welcome to the ground floor of the new paradigm.

 

Jeff Taylor