The final punctuation of a long chapter for North Carolina may finally be written. The NCAA levied sanctions on the program, far removed from the Death Penalty grumblings some Chicken Littles espoused roughly a year ago. If anything, the one-year bowl ban and 15 lost scholarships over three years might seem light to some — mostly those affiliated with USC, who saw their program hit with a two-year bowl ban and 30 lost scholarships for violations not as far reaching as Carolina’s.
Former assistant coach John Blake was hit the hardest, handed a three-year show cause penalty for his association with agent Gary Wichard.
Both penalties, when compared to precedent, prove the greatest crime an athletic program can committee is crossing the NCAA.
Carolina played ball as much as possible, firing Butch Davis and suspending numerous players without prompting. The latter was a contentious move, spurning a since-dismissed lawsuit from Michael McAdoo, a target of the academic integrity investigation.
UNC was arguably overreacting in it suspension of McAdoo, who became an unfortunate sacrifice to the university’s malevolent gods on Mount Indianapolis.
The sacrifice seemingly worked. UNC is facing infractions more comparable to those of Ohio State, who similarly appeased the NCAA by firing Jim Tressel. Compare that to USC, whose bowl ban ends this season, but still must face the harshest scholarship restriction handed down since Auburn in the 1990s.
Miami appears to be working its hardest to compensate for the litany of allegations against it, stemming from Ponzi scheme conspirator Nevin Shapiro. The Hurricanes enforced a self-imposed bowl ban this past season, and the athletic department has emphasized full cooperation with the NCAA.
USC gave future violators a road map for how not to handle an NCAA investigation. The Trojans were penalized less for Reggie Bush’s actions than they were for athletic director Mike Garrett’s defiance. The lack of cooperation on USC’s end dragged out the investigative process four years. Time is money, and the NCAA is a billion-dollar entity.
Likewise, Blake faces a less harsh punishment than basketball coach Kelvin Sampson. Sampson was handed down a five-year show-cause penalty for contacting recruits too many times. Sampson’s infraction seems much less severe than Blake’s associating with an agent, but Sampson committed the same sin as Tressel by withholding information.
An argument supporting the severity of UNC’s penalties is that the program has already suffered significantly. The suspensions handed out before the 2010 season derailed the Tar Heels’ realistic ACC title hopes, and in 2011
Furthermore, the players responsible for the violations are gone. Penalties rendered now are endured by a coaching staff and roster that broke no NCAA rules. Of course, the same is true at USC, which had an entire recruiting class come in as freshmen and graduate before penalties were doled out.
So is the NCAA more concerned with the actual rules in place, or its own authority over athletic programs?