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|NCAA putting out fires|
Not that I feel sorry for the NCAA, but those folks have to wait up each morning cautiously opening their newspaper, clicking on their computer or turning on their television sets.
Who's hand is in the cookie jar today?
Or, better yet, who is saying who's hand is in what cookie jar and when does all this craziness stop?
I can just picture a Barney Fife-type guy up there getting his latest memo and saying, "It's a jungle out there. And I got to hunt them down."
Of course, he can probably get that same corner room at the YMCA in Auburn.
And you know the NCAA had to love crowning Connecticut as its national champion.
Connecticut placed its men's basketball program on probation for two years and cut out one scholarship for the next two seasons by self-imposed sanctions for what it admits were major NCAA recruiting violations.
However, UConn disagreed with one of the NCAA's most notable findings, saying that the evidence doesn't support its allegations that coach Jim Calhoun failed to promote a atmosphere of compliance.
The university did acknowledge that basketball staff members made impermissible phone calls and sent text messages, as cited by the NCAA in a May report after a 15-month investigation. UConn also admitted that it improperly provided free game tickets to high school coaches and others.
A hearing before the NCAA is set for Oct. 15.
I find it rather amusing that the NCAA has to tiptoe around another controversy regarding football players receiving money from boosters.
Let's face it, if these folks want you to go down, they will take you down.
They didn't like Jerry Tarkanian and they found a way to penalize UNLV.
They didn't like Dale Brown, so they found a way to drop the hammer on LSU.
I am not saying Tarkanian or Brown were innocent. But I don't believe they were doing anything that dozens of coaches across the nation were doing at the same time.
I became even more incensed after former LSU basketball player Lester Earl issued an apology in September of 2007 to Brown and then-assistant head coach Johnny Jones, and LSU in general for his role in the NCAA investigation.
Earl claimed that the NCAA pressured him into making false claims against Brown or else he would lose years of NCAA eligibility.
"I was pressured into telling them something," Earl stated. "I was 19 years old at that time. The NCAA intimidated me, manipulated me into making up things, and basically encouraged me to lie, in order to be able to finish my playing career at Kansas. They told me if we don't find any dirt on Coach Brown you won't be allowed to play but one more year at Kansas. I caused great harm, heartache and difficulties for so many people. I feel sorriest for hurting Coach Brown. Coach Brown, I apologize to you for tarnishing your magnificent career at LSU."
Sounds like a John Grisham novel where the small-town law officers force a confession after hours of interrogation.
Earl certainly had his faults, but somehow that story just got swept under the rug and never made it to Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel like the latest Collegesportsgate.
We've spent more time the past two years talking about Cam Newton and Terrell Pryor's activities off the field than we have on the field.
Then there's Fiesta Bowl representatives misappropriating fundsall that mess with Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel, the ongoing investigation into former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and his family, the fact that Oregon paid $25,000 to the trainer (Willie Lyles) who allegedly shopped Peterson, the recent firing of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl for lying to the NCAA, North Carolina football players being suspended last season for receiving improper benefits last offseason and probably 10 or 15 more cases that haven't been mentioned here, and you'd understand if Emmert has begun to wonder why he even wanted the job.
And now, Auburn will investigate claims by four former football players, who told HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" they received thousands of dollars while being recruited by or playing for the Tigers.
Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray told HBO for an episode that aired last week that they received cash payments — in book bags, envelopes and even handshakes.
Ramsey played at Auburn most recently, in the 2007 season.
Coach Gene Chizik dismissed the report as "pure garbage."
Chizik, Auburn's defensive coordinator from 2002-04 during the careers of McClover and Reddick, said he had no knowledge of the alleged payments, "and I don't have my head in the sand."
"What's disturbing to me is that they interviewed other former Auburn football players who had exactly the opposite to say but somehow or another that failed to make the air, unless I missed that section," Chizik said. "So I've got other former players that are calling me who are still playing and who are great players who had absolutely no knowledge of any of that stuff.
"So it saddens me that somebody is going to air a show with basically one side being known. I think that's pathetic. And I think it's pure garbage."
Gotta go along with you there, Coach.
Personally, until someone starts mentioning names, I'm taking any kind of allegations with a grain of salt.
Anyone can get air time saying "so-and-so did this."
But when you start naming names, then your accusation has some substance.
Sure, where there's smoke, there's usually fire. But when it comes to boosters giving athletes money, you are talking a nationwide wildfire there.
The NCAA is about making and protecting its money. They don't want to tear down programs that make money for them unless those programs have the gall to stand up to them or ignore them.
So they have to be going crazy having to spend that money on investigations that usually prove fruitless.
The NCAA also has to be careful because if they hammer one school for a certain violation then you better believe they better make sure another school is not violating the same rule.
And that's where the rub comes in.
If you are not bending the rules, you are not competing. It's just the way it is. And when you have teen-agers performing for almost nothing, it's hard to keep the scum from knocking on their doors.
Until the NCAA starts punishing the agents breaking the rules, reprimanding coaches who move on to other schools, or keeping boosters out of the picture, the news each day is going to be about something other than what's going on at stadiums around the country.
There's an old saying about picking your fights. Right now the NCAA has plenty to pick from.
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