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The NCAA Division I Board of Directors is meeting this week. That’s 54 university presidents and chancellors and 13 school and athletics conference professionals representing big-time athletics. On tap is an agenda fueled by what for a better way of describing it was a year of collegiate sports characterized as much by cheating and non-compliance as by championships.

Some 13 major violations cases were identified involving multiple sports: Last year, University of Southern California received numerous penalties for violations in its football, men's basketball and women's tennis programs. Football accounted for more cases (55%) than any other sport, followed by men's basketball (45%).

Top of the heap: Ohio State University’s scandal that didn’t have to happen. “If only,” if only last spring Coach Jim Tressel would have reported his players’ rules violations, put them on suspension, and let them and the program take their medicine. Had he done this, rather than covering up for them and for his own behavior, had he done this rather than coaching his team to a bowl championship, OSU wouldn’t be at risk today of losing more than its self-vacated 12-1 season including the bowl win, along with a two-year probation.

The question is, will the NCAA Committee on Infractions, also meeting this week, have the backbone to level more sanctions? If I had to guess, I’d say “No.” It has the authority to do this for the integrity of sport, but it hasn’t up to now at least demonstrated it has the grit to do what’s needed. The Board of Directors could demand sanctions, but this isn’t likely either.

I’m not anti-OSU. I’ve watched OSU football for years, and I was grieved along with a lot of others by Jim Tressel’s outing as a cheater. He’s the one primarily responsible, but OSU Athletics knew more than it is letting on and is too easily tossing Coach Tressel under the bus as its sacrificial lamb. In my book the Athletics Department leadership, which unfortunately is to say the university, must also be held accountable—not for retribution but for responsibility and to try to help set a new standard of expectation and integrity in NCAA Division I nationally. It's not a pretty picture, but in the long run, reform and restored integrity will benefit all of sports.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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