So the problem isn't really "rules" but people, right? Dem yahoos in the sticks have a different definition of "morality", I guess. Makes me laugh when storefront preachers yelp about values. Then again, this kind of double-standard apply to every football factory. Boosters are always a few steps ahead of the rule-makers. Meanwhile, all this talk about collegiality is empty.
The NCAA rule book is too thick.
To quote Dan Aykroyd as Bob Dole: “You know it, I know it, and the American people know it.” NCAA president Mark Emmert knows it, too.
At yesterday’s NCAA convention in Grapevine, Texas, Emmert admitted the following:
“It turns out we know how to write rules. One of the problems is sometimes we write lots and lots and lost of rules…
Just as the shiny side of the competition has the side that can also bring dysfunction to it, so too can the regulatory side. And we have to recognize that as we try to balance that coin on its edge.”
Emmert’s comments come as the NCAA is re-working its rule book and trying to make things simpler. Coaches and fans have been yelping for such action for years.
But there’s a problem that comes with ripping pages from the NCAA manual — less rules will mean more loopholes. Less black-and-white will mean more gray.
Let’s look back at the Cam Newton situation as an example. As Auburn was roaring toward the BCS title in 2010, all eyes focused on Newton as it became clear that his father had asked some Mississippi State boosters for cash in exchange for his son’s signature. But Newton was not punished. First, he supposedly had no idea of his father’s actions. Second, Newton signed with Auburn, not MSU. Third, no smoking gun was ever found tying Auburn to alleged payments. So Newton played. Auburn won. And everything — especially on The Plains — was hunky-dory.
But should a parent be able to ask for cash in exchange for his son’s services on a football field or basketball court? Obviously the answer is no. So the NCAA closed the so-called Newton loophole at last year’s convention. The rule-makers decided to expand the definition of an agent to include third-party influences including parents. Meaning that if a player’s parent — acting as an agent — has his or her hand out asking for loot, the player will be ruled ineligible just as quickly as if an agent had tried to broker a deal for him. No cash has to even change hands. Ask for money, your kid is ineligible.
“It was important for us to shore that up and make sure we were encompassing all individuals, probably as we all had intended (in the past). It also speaks not only to who’s covered but also the scope. Trying to do it is a violation, not just actually receiving money.”
Wise move. And if Newton had played at Alabama, even Auburn fans would applaud the new rule. But to close the loophole a new rule had to be added to the book. The book got thicker.
Thinning out the rule book sounds good. But in reality, it might not be.
I think we can all agree that a booster should be able to buy an athlete a hot dog. But should a booster be able to provide a hot dog per day throughout the player’s career? Should he be allowed to buy a kid a steak dinner? Twenty steak dinners? A car?
Somewhere between a hot dog and a car a line must be drawn. Where do you draw it? And if the rule book is to be edited, what’s covered and what’s not.
Additionally, a common complaint among fans and media is that NCAA judgements and punishments often differ from case to case. Just as two murder cases will be different in a court of law, no two NCAA cases are identical, either. But if you want more uniform judgements, you’ll need more rules to spell everything out in advance. “Do X, receive X penalty. Do Y, receive Y penalty.”
We agree that the NCAA rule book is a convoluted mess. It’s online, we suggest you try to get through three pages without scratching your head. But simply blacking out passage after passage won’t clean up the cheating that does go on everywhere in big time college athletics. In fact, it tossing rules out might actually make some problems worse.
Our warning: Be careful what you wish for.