If the NCAA ever wants to really get serious about punishing cheaters, it can’t just knock them out of postseason for a year. It has to take them off television. For all the yammering about how USC paid for the Reggie Bush debacle, the Trojans were on TV just about every week the last two seasons, allowing Coach Lane Kiffin to make sure recruits could see just how cool it is when that horse gallops around Los Angeles Coliseum whenever the Trojans score.
But there’s too much money at stake to take a name-brand team off of TV. Imagine the screams coming from Bristol if Ohio State wasn’t part of the Big Ten TV package for a year. Imagine how the folks at Black Rock would have reacted if Auburn had been banished from CBS in the wake of the Cam Newton investigation.
In this April 23, 2011, file photo, Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith, left, chats with then-head football coach Jim Tressel.
The NCAA’s message remains essentially the same: Cheating pays. There is no better example than the meaningless three-game suspension Connecticut basketball Coach Jim Calhoun received last February. Calhoun was allowed to coach his team to the national championship a few weeks later — and then serve his “punishment” this season.
That may explain why Gee and Smith were so convinced they could take the Gator Bowl bid and then hand Meyer the keys to a brand-new program that could march straight to the Rose Bowl next season. Certainly the fact that the NCAA has allowed Ohio State to operate with two coaching staffs this month — one preparing for the bowl; the other out recruiting — would indicate that one of President Mark Emmert’s goals is one day to dot the “I” at halftime inside Ohio Stadium.
Investigations continue at Miami, North Carolina and Oregon. One can only hope the penalties they face will be at least as severe as Ohio State’s penalties. Oregon wasn’t about to skip a chance to play in next month’s Rose Bowl; it will take its chances when the time comes with the infractions committee. North Carolina opted to play in a meaningless bowl game while Miami did not. No doubt the leadership in Chapel Hill was thinking along the same lines as Gee and Smith.
Let’s hope they’re proved wrong too.
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