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The NCAA: where failure is almost always an option

When the news broke that the University of Miami was in the cross-hairs of the NCAA, college football fans from every other fan base waited for the hammer to fall. After yesterday, might it ever? If history is any indicator...who knows?

The Impenetrable Fortress
The Impenetrable Fortress
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

We are Buckeye fans here at Land-Grant Holy Land; this is an Ohio State community. As such, when news broke that the University of Miami was next up on the NCAA's house-cleaning to do list, I think it is fair to say that many of us Buckeye Nation-ers were ready for the spotlight to finally get the hell out of Columbus and down to South Beach (or Oregon, if the tea leaves are any indication of who is next). Surely the piles of evidence that Yahoo! dropped in 2011 were going to spell the end of "The U" for the next few years.

Or not.

How in the name of everything holy does the NCAA continue to exist in its current, dictator-like state, presiding over big business like college football and basketball? Moreover, how does this entity still have the deciding say in whether college football teams will be competitive or not, based on sanctions levied with little or no precedent dictating which offenses are punishable by which sentences? We now know that this is an organization that can't police itself, let alone its denizens.

There are no real answers to these questions, not so far as I can find, because the NCAA rules over their kingdom like Kim Jong-il, restricting any kind of access to their decision making, and maintaining that their way is the only way. Their way is absolute, their decisions are all but final, and their sacrificial lambs can do nothing but cower at their overlords.

That last paragraph is a bit dramatic, true though most of those statements may be. But over the last three years, the NCAA has come after three very high profile programs for three two very high profile issues. And in all cases, there's a case to be made that the governing body did little to govern and more to throw punishment shit at the wall, and whatever stuck was to be handed down to the schools in question.

Ohio State went 12-0 last year. The Buckeyes didn't have a shot at going 13-0. Jim Tressel lied (about lying, and otherwise), players received improper benefits (by selling their own possessions), and one of the most beloved and successful figures in Buckeye history was shown the door, with an NCAA Show Cause Penalty stapled to his back for the next half decade. Ohio State then hired a new coach, giving him their honest opinion that the sins of the past would not lead to any type of bowl ban. And we all know how that ended up.

The biggest scandal the NCAA saw (and by NCAA, I pretty much mean anyone) by far was at Penn State. There's not much need to go into detail here: Jerry Sandusky, child rape, life sentence, "all-but" the death penalty. We know the song and dance of that particular scandal.

When the NCAA handed down discipline for Penn State, it was one of those sports moments where you remember exactly where you were (I was in a moving van going down Olentangy River Road in Columbus). The punishment was swift and severe: $60MM fine, four year post-season ban, vacate 112 wins, huge scholarship reductions and five years' probation. The NCAA even said they "considered giving Penn State the Death Penalty", but instead opted to kill the football team for ten years (IMO), given the punishments handed out.

But did they have the right to do that? As overseers of college football, of course they had that right. At least with regards to anything involving football, and those sanctions are richly deserved. As for that $60MM fine? Pennsylvania's Governor doesn't think so. And he has a point: why should Penn State fund other people outside the state when the money could just come out of the football budget? Why not keep it in the school? The fine won't just hurt Penn State football (and it obviously will), but it could hurt other sports as well. Want to see what happens when you can't fund other sports? Ask new Big Ten member Maryland.

But in the end, Penn State agreed to the sanctions back in July, and Governor Corbett's suit will likely fall on deaf judicial ears.

The case against Miami is also damning, but for much different reasons. This wasn't the wanton abuse of children by a complete and total nut-job in Jerry Sandusky. Instead, this was a rogue booster providing money, cars, real estate and abortions (all allegedly) to players on Miami's football and basketball teams. Nevin Shapiro, one of the greatest hangers-on in the history of sport, did for The U everything that happened at Ohio State, multiplied by about 10,000. The original Yahoo! report was extensive and must have had the NCAA Committee on Infractions licking their chops.

But we're left with the NCAA not continuing to investigate Miami (or Penn State, or Ohio State) but investigating themselves instead. And surprisingly, this is the first time I can remember when the NCAA actually came out and issued a "uh, we kind of screwed up...maybe" missive to the masses.

Will this change anything? Not bloody likely. The NCAA, as Spencer Hall eloquently put it, is the "parasite clamped to the cerebrum of college athletics, impairing thought and turning smart people into gibbering zombies intoxicated by false virtue and real dollars." There is no better analogy than that. They are a money-driven entity, and right now, the getting is good.

The NCAA will continue to exist in our time and in the next, because they are so powerful in their current form. What happened with the Miami investigation will end up being little more than a minor chink in their armor. Yes, the NCAA will continue to control our favorite sports, punish the athletes and the programs, and will do so unchecked and unmatched. They will take away the possibility of success for other sports, the possibility of competing for national championships, and the possibility of actually running crazy boosters from college athletes.

Their screw ups are our past, present and future. And there is, sadly, nothing we can do about it.