The NCAA got its decision on Oregon wrong in a critical aspect. No, this isn’t a call for more harsh penalties against the program, which will not be banned from postseason play and loses just three scholarships.
USC Trojans faithful who watched their team suffer through two years of postseason-less play and are still paying the penance of massive scholarship reductions may be livid. Understandably so, as program after program since the monumental sanctions levied against USC have escaped relatively unscathed; the lone exception being the Miami Hurricanes, which continue to grind against a painfully long investigation.
That the program that benefited the most directly from USC’s sanctions and a conference rival is the latest to receive lenient sentencing has to exacerbate Trojan fans’ sentiment.
The USC decision set a precedent — not for how programs should be punished, but rather how they shouldn’t. It’s not fair to USC, certainly. However, injustice for all isn’t the same as justice, to put it bluntly. Moreover, I cannot cheerlead decisions that take away scholarship opportunities from young athletes.
No, where the NCAA truly missed was with its handling of Chip Kelly.
Kelly received an 18-month show-cause penalty in what was the most harsh aspect of the NCAA’s announced sanctions against the Oregon Ducks football program. That year-and-a-half ban from college football might carry some weight…if Kelly was still a college coach.
Kelly left Oregon for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles this winter, signing a contract worth a reported $32.5 million. The offensive mastermind and winner of three straight Pac-10/12 Conference championships from 2009 to 2011 will be just fine.
The hope of pulling a Bobby Petrino and slipping out of the NFL after less than a season is gone for Kelly. Otherwise, he is, to borrow a line from Bart Simpson, Cucumber Boy: as in cool as a.
Barring an especially disastrous first season as Eagles’ head coach, Kelly is going to spend at least 18 months in Philadelphia. And, even if he doesn’t, that massive contract ensures he won’t need work in those 18 months even if he does leave the franchise.
Furthermore, Kelly’s penalty is much lighter than that given to former Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel. After reportedly misleading investigators, Tressel was slapped with a five-year show-cause.
Tressel’s barring was especially harsh, and yet another example of the NCAA penalizing defiance more severely than actual violations; much like at USC. Still, he landed an for the Indianapolis Colts’ head coaching position less than a year later.
The concept of penalizing coaches is logical. The actual follow-through is flimsy.
College football operates on a business on so many levels, why not borrow a tactic from the SEC (and that’s Securities and Exchange Commission, not Southeastern Conference)? Hit penalized institutions, including coaches, monetarily.
The NCAA has precedent it set with last year’s sanctions against Penn State. Granted Penn State’s was a unique and hopefully once-in-a-lifetime situation, but the basic concept has universal merit.
If coaches are found largely responsible for violations — and that’s the message the NCAA sent with its decision — a financial penalty ensures a coach cannot find refuge in the NFL without college football having some tangible recourse.