The sport of college football takes great pride in its heralded tradition. When one thinks of that rich history and “the way its always been”, sports enthusiasts can look no further than the traditional bowl games that are held year in and year out. Sure there has been widespread speculation of a possible playoff system and how it would impact today’s sports culture. Yet the powers that be continue to stick to their guns, and probably always will. By now, most of us have accepted the future of postseason football among the powerhouse football programs of the nation. There probably won’t, and never will be, a playoff system within reach. But this topic is another story for another time.
Instead, a different type of tradition is very close to being witnessed by institutions administering athletic programs all across our country. This extremely powerful tradition I speak of is none other than NCAA discipline.
Published roughly a week ago, Yahoo Sports reported that a convicted Ponzi scheme architect by the name of Nevin Shapiro provided improper benefits to a combined 72 Miami Hurricanes football and basketball players between 2002 to 2010. But the most crushing blow to these athletic programs is the allegation that both parties knew of the wrongdoings and did not take immediate action. And because this would serve as Miami University’s second major rules infraction in a five year span, the NCAA has the authority to drop the axe and impose the “death penalty” on the programs. An article written on ESPN.com this afternoon quotes NCAA President Mark Emmert as saying the death penalty is an option given the circumstances. If Miami were to be taken down, this would mark the first time since the 1980’s that a major college football program has been shut down.
On a different level, this situation seems similar to the Reggie Bush incident at USC several years ago in that players who were not directly involved with the scandal were also punished. Chances are most of them didn’t even know Reggie off the field. It is understandable that the NCAA wants to step in every now and again to flex their muscles and set examples for others to follow. But to punish student athletes who will potentially become a Hurricane is always the immoral thing to do. Instead of dropping the hammer on an athletic program to the point where athletes will not be given the opportunity to lace up their cleats and sneakers, perhaps they should devote their time to a disciplinary process that punishes those who committed the infractions. Perhaps Mark Emmert and his NCAA big wigs can begin that foundation by using the judicial principles our country was founded upon: innocent until proven guilty. Student athletes who have yet to play in their first game as a freshman football or basketball player is innocent of what has transpired regardless of past allegations. And therefore, they should not be punished. It is amazing how the NCAA can use guilty parties from yesteryear as a grounds for disciplinary action of present day. A sport that has already been tarnished with one fat black eye of not having a playoff system to determine its champion doesn’t need another black eye for shutting down one of the most historic football programs there has ever been in “The U”. Keep tradition alive, but keep it the right way.