Cheating Student-athletes, Agents and Coaches Need to Face Tougher Sanctions 

Say what you will about the sometimes heavy hand of the NCAA, but communicating the rules to student-athletes is not one of its faults.   Reminders on any number of wide-ranging topics are frequently distributed to student-athletes in all three divisions.   

Mayo walked onto the USC campus knowing the rules.

So, when news surfaces about former high school recruits like, say, basketball’s  O.J. Mayo from USC, who was found to have received extraordinary benefits from then quasi-agent, Rodney Guillory, while still enrolled at the PAC-10 school, you can be sure that Mayo had full knowledge that his actions were wrong and would eventually cause the Trojan basketball program to suffer penalties.  He, of course, would be long gone when the hammer fell.  He knew that, too.  If he felt any pain, Mayo’s four million dollar rookie contract with the Memphis Grizzlies surely put the agony to ease.       

As you might expect, eligibility has been a major focal point of late in NCAA memos to member school student-athletes, particularly following the Mayo fiasco and revelations that former USC football player and Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush had also benefitted from gifts by another wanna-be agent, Lloyd Lake.  A room full of overseers at the NCAA central office in Indianapolis must be wondering when youngsters and parents, not to mention college athletic programs and coaches, will ever learn.     

Behind any NCAA brouhaha, there is this reliable fact: the organization does an excellent job in educating and protecting those student-athletes who want to listen and be protected.  Still, those who apparently believe circumventing the rules for short-term gain is an inconvenience for them, like Mayo and Bush, also know that they are not the ones who will ultimately face the consequences.  All that will fall on the team and athletic department.    

That said, Bush is the rare exception.  While the full extent of the fallout to the now New Orleans Saints running back pertaining to the status of his Heisman Trophy Award (the Trojans have marked his name from their list of all-time Heisman winners in their press guide and returned their replica of the trophy to him) or USC’s 2005 BCS National Championship, Bush’s character has taken a severe hit in the public eye.  On the other hand, Mayo will most likely skate through the melee virtually unscathed, save his reputation which didn’t have far to slip in any case. 

Even though Mayo and Bush are easy objects to ridicule because of their high-profile recruitments, any number of other loose cannons who have ignored the NCAA for personal gain would be appropriate targets.  The list is long.  But, here’s the irony – few players or coaches avoid detection.  They are inevitably found out because someone seems to always spill the beans.  And yet, it goes on, year after year.  Undaunted, the NCAA continues to ring the bell hoping that current and future student-athletes will heed their warnings and the rules.  

USC has returned Bush's Heisman.

Changes are coming, though.  At this writing the NCAA is getting input from coaches, administrators and student-athletes in an attempt to discover then determine how their rules and consequences can be made clearer and the penalties have longer reach.  The discontent brewing within the NCAA membership ranks is well-founded and we can expect some in-your-face adjustments to the present guidelines which many agents, some student-athletes, and the occasional coach, have seen fit to thumb their noses at. 

From here, we can only wish that the NCAA will take extraordinary measures by signing long lasting agreements with all the professional sports leagues in America to revamp the rules, make them consistent and fair, and hold everyone involved, including agents, accountable.  It’s about time.

 

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