Appearing on a televised sports show this past Sunday morning, I put forth my plan for curtailing cheating in the NCAA ranks. And it’s not a plan you’ll hear many other people espousing.
Sure, hiring more investigators wouldn’t hurt the cause. And using ex-judges on the enforcement committee would be wiser than using people currently associated with NCAA schools. Thinning the rulebook would also be a positive step.
But if the NCAA really wants to cut down on cheating, it needs to get tough on crime. Here’s how:
1. Redefine major violations as anything involving a) extra benefits (money, cars, prostitutes in Miami’s case, etc) and b) cover-ups.
2. Any school found guilty of committing a major violation loses 10% of its scholarships the following season. In football, that would be 8.5 bodies which rounds up easily to nine. One major violation and a football team goes from 85 to 76 scholarships for a season. Two violations and the program loses 17 bodies. Imagine if a school were found guilty of four or five major violations. Here’s the beauty of that plan — the more a school cheats, the closer it comes to applying the death penalty to itself.
3. Any coach found guilty of a major violation is banned from NCAA coaching for life. Provide an extra benefit or lie to NCAA investigators and they’re done. End of story.
4. Any player found guilty of a major violation loses his eligibility. Period. Not for a game or a season, but forever. Don’t take payouts or else.
Sound tough? We thought so, too. In fact, we figured many would scoff at such a get-tough approach.
But then we came across Tony Barnhart’s latest column for CBSSports.com. His Monday headline? “New cause: Give cheating coaches the death penalty.” He writes:
“If you want to cut back on the cheating, make it clear to coaches that if they are intentionally involved in a major rules violation, a la Jim Tressel, and if they lie about or obstruct the investigation — again like Tressel — they will be banned from coaching at any level of the NCAA for life.”
As noted, I would take things even further by bringing serious punishments to the schools and players as well as to the coaches. But we share a basic idea: If the consequences of cheating are beyond horrible, more coaches (and players and programs) will think twice before committing major violations.
With every new scandal, there’s talk of the NCAA system being broken and the amateur athlete model being outdated. I disagree. If the right deterrents were to be put in place, the system would work just fine.
Steps 1 through 4 above are exactly the right deterrents.