March 11, 2015

Winners Never Cheat

Am I the only one who was a little confused by the editorial in Sunday's Post-Standard about the NCAA's investigation of and penalties for SU's basketball program (and the football program, if anyone cares)?

The very much rambling column by the editorial board declared that
NCAA standards are so exhaustive, schools maintain whole staffs of people to monitor and enforce them. Some rules are picayune; others are simply inane. But rules are rules, and SU admitted it violated at least some of them. Not all violations are equally severe, however. 
OK -- so, lots of rules are petty, or trivial, or silly, but some are serious and meaningful too. Either way, they are the rules that NCAA members need to meet. SU has a compliance office staffed by people who are supposed to know what the rules are; they have an athletic director who should be familiar with compliance, having worked at one of those schools the editors highlighted as having received similar penalties; and, of course, they also have a basketball coach who has been through this before.

The editorial continued with this:
We question whether the punishment in this case fits the crime. (After all, no state or federal laws were broken).  
So that's our ethical threshold now - no state or federal laws broken, so we're OK?  The rules are petty and ridiculous, so why follow them? And there are too many of them, how can we possibly keep track?

Failing drug tests. Cheating on class work. Accepting 'extra benefits' including, it's alleged, players being paid for or given academic credit for doing very little work at a local YMCA. A school provost and the Athletic Director and others doing everything possible to secure eligibility for a player who clearly was not meant for college absent his ability to play defense. Violations going back to before SU's National Championship in 2003, which against all odds was left standing unscathed.

These are the things in the NCAA's report, many of which the university admits to, had self-reported, and had gone so far as to self-impose a post-season ban in a year that the team would have needed a miracle to secure tourney eligibility, but a ban none-the-less.

In addition to the 'no laws were broken' viewpoint, we have the "everyone's doing it" defense, such as it is.

I can only imagine friends who have kids who participate in athletics in school telling them it would be OK for them to cheat since everyone does it. What's the lesson there?  And why would a parent work hard raising their children to be honest players, honest students, when coaches and athletic directors are going to bend the rules?

Well, you try to hard with your kids, because winners don't cheat and cheaters don't win, or at least they're not supposed to, and if they get caught they get punished. Remember last year's Cinderella Little League team, Jackie Robinson West? Or the Skaneateles football team under Tim Green? Isn't that what's supposed to happen? What about Lance Armstrong, who cheated for years, denied it vigorously, even going so far as to create a special website to debunk the charges, only to finally come clean. Isn't that what's supposed to happen?

SU has indicated they will appeal, and Boeheim is clearly planning on it, based on his comments at the Hardwood Club dinner this past Sunday night. It will be interesting to see play out is the appeal process:

  • Will either SU or Boeheim seek to have the more than 100 vacated wins restored? 
  • Do they focus on the twelve scholarships that were taken away? 
  • Do they try and ditch the probation, which didn't include any tournament bans but require the school to follow the rules, even the picayune ones? 
  • Does SU offer Daryl Gross as a sacrificial lamb?
  • And how long will it take for any decisions to be made?

Earlier this year, Jim Boeheim  famously pointed out that he doesn't give a shit whether people think he runs a clean program. 

I'm not a Boeheim 'hater'. I'm disappointed in him, and I hope that he'll take some time, as he prepares a plan to save his legacy, to rethink that comment he made back in February. To think about how it impacts his kids, all the rest of the kids in our local schools, and all of the parents and fans and alumni and community organizations that rely on the SU basketball team to help get them through the long, cold winter.