Will the NCAA punish North Carolina basketball?

The NCAA was more than happy to deny USC and Ohio State chances to play in football bowl games, but will they take on North Carolina basketball? Remember that the NCAA has a financial interest in March Madness, but not in the BCS or the bowls.

The academic scandal at North Carolina appears to go back decades, but the latest report doesn’t even go into whether specific athletes at North Carolina were involved. The report looks like a joke for trying to avoid the issue of athletes taking fraudulent classes.

Now, will the NCAA even bother taking a look?

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Money talks in college football

With the announcement that Maryland and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten, we have yet another example of how tradition and the needs of student athletes no longer matter at all in big time college sports. It’s all about money. In this case, it was all about the Big Ten Network and gaining exposure to large TV markets on the East Coast.

On one level the entire situation is pathetic. Does a weakened Big Ten football conference really need to add a weak Maryland program or a Rutgers program that will struggle to stay competitive in the Big Ten? Adding Nebraska made sense from a football standpoint. But this is all about money and markets. I guess once we all acknowledge that it’s a little easier to accept. There’s an arms race going on and the Big Ten sees these dollars as adding to their muscle for the long term.

Meanwhile we have more stories of academic fraud at North Carolina. Read this article and it will make you sick, especially when you consider that UNC hoops is the darling of the NCAA and the national media. Will the NCAA be just as hard on this basketball program? Will it dare vacate a National Championship for the NCAA Tournament that the NCAA controls? How much has money corrupted the holier-than-thou NCAA? With a whistle blower coming forward at North Carolina the NCAA may be forced to address one of its sacred cows.

If Ohio State, Penn State and USC can get crushed by the NCAA for football violations, then North Carolina should get punished for basketball violations and academic fraud.

But frankly the whole system of punishment sucks. Ohio State had a minor scandal over players getting tattoos, and now they might be shut out of a national championship game against Notre Dame. Maybe the NCAA doesn’t care as the BCS controls football championships, but a matchup between Ohio State and Notre Dame in the National Championship could have been the most watched college football game ever give the huge followings from both schools.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is strong-arming former Miami football players in their investigation of a rogue booster there. What’s worse – some Miami kids getting free steaks and yacht trips or “student-athletes” at North Carolina taking no-show classes where a student adviser wrote their papers?

Finally, ESPN has won the rights to televise the new college football playoff for 12 years for a reported fee of $470 million per year. Does anyone expect things to get better? At least the BCS will get better as we can have four teams fighting it out instead of only two. Hopefully it will expand to eight teams at some point. But the dollars keep getting bigger for what’s supposed to be amateur sports.

NCAA rears its hypocritical head with Ohio State suspensions

First, the news: Terrelle Pryor and four other Ohio State players, including star receiver Devier Posey and star running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, have been suspended by the NCAA for the first five games of the 2011 season for receiving improper benefits.

There were items sold and money made. There’s also some word about some free tattoos. The NCAA is forcing the players to repay the money to charity. OK, that’s fine. They screwed up, they have to suffer the consequences, we get it. It might seem a little harsh, but rules are rules, right?

Well, in the NCAA that’s a matter of opinion.

First of all, the players have not been suspended for the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas because there was a misunderstanding of the rules. To some, this might seem like a very transparent attempt to have Ohio State’s best players available for the game, which figures to be a huge money maker. If you’re thinking that, you’re right.

The NCAA and the BCS — two separate entities, mind you — are consistent when it comes to one thing, and one thing only: We make money, you don’t. It’s that simple, and until we all just accept it, we’re going to spend a lot of time getting pissed off about things like this. Not that we shouldn’t be pissed off, but I’ve found the games are more fun to watch if I just pretend the NCAA and the BCS don’t exist when it comes to college football.

Then there’s the whole, “Hey, didn’t the NCAA find wrongdoing in the Cam Newton case, but not suspend him at all?” Why yes, that’s also true. Sure, these are two different transgressions, but transgressions nonetheless. The NCAA interpereted its own rules to allow Newton to play for Auburn. The fact that he’s the best player on perhaps the nation’s best team probably had everything nothing to do with it.

Newton — the NCAA, SEC and Auburn decided — didn’t know what was going on behind his back as his father shopped him for $180,000 to Mississippi State. Newton’s ignorance of the situation wasn’t not knowing the rules, his was not knowing his own father was shopping him. Completely different.

There is one thing that’s similar in these two cases, however. The BCS and the NCAA don’t suffer anything when it comes to their bottom lines, as Newton gets to keep playing, and will be in the NFL by the time the NCAA decides to actually make a real punishment in this case. Pryor, Herron and Posey, along with the other two Ohio State players, also get to play on the big BCS stage and keep the game against Arkansas interesting. Without them, who really thinks we have a competitive Sugar Bowl?

So yes, the NCAA does actually enforce its rules — when it realizes it’s not the only one making money, that is. And that enforcement is also subject to whether or not its BCS brothers will have as much of an opportunity to make money as possible.

Glad we’re all clear on that.

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