Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Not Cheat? It'll Only Cost a Banner

Why Not Cheat? It'll Only Cost a Banner

"With the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls select Derrick Rose from the University of Memphis.'' 

That's what NBA commissioner David Stern said 11 months ago. Now, the NCAA apparently thinks that someone else took Rose's SAT college entrance exam for him, helping him to be eligible at Memphis.

"With the second pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Miami Heat select Michael Beasleyfrom Kansas State University.'' 

When Beasley went to K-State, his AAU coach was hired as an assistant there. At $420,000 a year, that coach makes more than the entire assistant staffs at most schools. Consider it payment for delivery.

"With the third pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select OJ Mayo from the University of Southern California.'' 

The feds and the NCAA are looking into Mayo's relationship with USC and a street agent. An insider accused USC coach Tim Floyd of giving money earmarked for Mayo to the agent.

The news today about Memphis and Rose is seen as another knock on former Memphis coach John Calipari, who always seems to be suspected, but never convicted. He left Memphis this spring for one of the elite coaching jobs, Kentucky, and a huge payout.

How does Kentucky feel now about what it got itself into? What makes you think anything has changed? Kentucky knew what it was getting when it landed Calipari. He had a dirty rep, and he got the job. He is not, reportedly, accused of wrong-doing in this allegation, just like he wasn't when his program as UMass was busted years ago.

Now, Memphis, if found guilty, will likely have some smattering of minor penalties, fines and sanctions. And the talk is that it might even have to vacate its record 38-win 2007-08 season. Vacate its trip to the Final Four.

Vacate the Final Four? What does that mean?

The team went to the Final Four. It happened. Calipari got a better job, and more money. Memphis got its money, the NCAA got the money, CBS got the money. Rose certainly got his money. He was rookie of the year in the NBA, which got a Final Four-marketed player. And money.

But take down that banner.

Big deal.

I mean, Calipari had a Final Four vacated at UMass, too, over player Marcus Camby's connection to an agent. It never hurt him.

Kentucky knew all of that.

Here's the problem: The NCAA doesn't catch most rule-breakers. When it does, it doesn't give a meaningful punishments. So here's the dirty culture of college recruiting -- and that's not just about Calipari -- and a coach can go clean and miss out on stud recruits, or he can get dirty and feel confident he 1) won't get caught, 2) will get caught only after the stud recruit had played and his gone, or 3) will get weak sanctions.

Not to mention, the coach will already have slid to a better job off his dirty success.

Frankly, the NCAA makes things worth it to cheat.

That's exactly what Chad McEvoy has studied. He's an associate professor and coordinator of the Sport Management Program at Illinois State. He studied the major football programs that had received major NCAA penalties from 1987-2002, and found that teams in general didn't play any worse after the penalties than they did before them.

"So that begs the question,'' he said, "are the penalties penal?

"Having discussed this with the NCAA and the committee on infractions, they bring up counterpoints that to a certain degree the purpose on the penalties is not to impact negatively performance.

"But then what are they about? You can form a cost-benefit analysis, and in that way there's some incentives to cheat.''

Maybe the NCAA doesn't want to give too harsh of penalties, doesn't want risk hurting its best revenue earners.
But the NCAA needs to be serious about penalties, and not just have the rulebook for PR reasons.

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