When it comes to dollars, the NCAA makes no sense

By Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 4, 2010; 12:32 AM

According to NCAA bylaw $,000, I have violated the rules of amateurism. I am therefore ineligible to continue writing this sentence. Fortunately, however, I have just been fully reinstated! An exhaustive NCAA inquiry of several seconds has found that while rules were clearly violated, none was broken. Hence, my ineligibility has resulted in the following punishment: I am eligible again. But I wish to make clear that these actions are unacceptable. There is no place for them in intercollegiate athletics, except at Auburn.

After an examination of the facts of the case, in close consultation with the guilty parties, the NCAA has concluded that no one is guilty. Therefore, in accordance with NCAA bylaw $$,930, it has declared that while violations occurred, none did. Furthermore, The Committee has met.

The NCAA understands that there is an appearance of certain unsavory contradiction and inconsistency in this, particularly in regard to Bylaw $$$, which would appear to sanction pimping and child-selling. Therefore, the NCAA is committed to making sure that in the future, all amateurism rules will be unreadable, so as to render them nullified. It will also seek to amend these rules, so that everyone will know that nothing shall be considered enforceable, unless it is not.

Furthermore, The Committee will meet again.

The NCAA has spoken plainly: Although I was declared ineligible, I have been, and continue to be, eligible. Just as I have been from the start. A violation occurred, which no one denies. Fortunately, these actions will not be tolerated. They will merely continue.

NCAA President Mark Emmert says he realizes that "many people are outraged at the notion that a parent or anyone else could 'shop around' a student-athlete and there would possibly not be repercussions on the student-athlete's eligibility." But the NCAA has made its determination about cases like mine, in words that ring with moral clarity: "If a student-athlete does not receive tangible benefits, that is a different situation from a student-athlete or family member who receives cash, housing or other benefits or knowingly competes and is compensated as a professional athlete."

Now, that should be perfectly clear to one and all.

If it's your father who demands the cash to compete, that's not a violation, because he's not a competitor. He's just the cash guy. You're the competitor. You do the competing, and he gets the cash. See? Everybody's innocent! For instance, when Cam Newton's father asks for $180,000 from Mississippi State for his son's services, it's only an intangible benefit.

Granted, NCAA bylaw 12.3.3 states that "any individual, agency or organization that represents a prospective student-athlete for compensation in placing the prospect in a collegiate institution . . . shall be considered an agent or organization marketing the individual's athletics ability or reputation." And the rules say that being shopped by an agent should make you ineligible.

Got that? But apparently it doesn't really mean what it says, as long as you plead personal ignorance.

The people close to you can do whatever they want; your mother, brothers, sisters, common-law spouses, step-children, long-lost red-headed Scottish nephews, and fourth-cousin black-market orphan sellers, can explore a price tag on your behalf.

With its firm handling of cases such as mine and Cam Newton's, the NCAA has set a bold precedent. You can sleep tonight knowing that our amateur standards are unassailable, and the guardianship of our young is in the safe hands of the NCAA, an organization that rakes off $710 million in annual revenue in marketing and deals with television networks, all of which are heavily invested in the appearance that the competitors are blameless virgins, like me and Cam Newton. Newton, the pride of the Bowl Championship Series and the quarterback of its top-ranked team, had no idea what his father was up to. He just went to the schools his dad told him to - all three of them.

Most of all, you should know that the NCAA's principle of self-policing works. If you don't want to take it from me, just take it from Auburn officials, those noted personal-accountability ethicists. Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs defended Newton steadfastly in public before declaring him secretly ineligible for 48 hours.

Auburn President Jay Gogue, who ranks ninth nationally among public college administrators with a salary of $727,761, tends to use phrases like, "our little policy," when he talks about his athletic department. No one can question his oversight after he told the Birmingham News a couple of weeks ago, "I think the little quarterback has probably truly made the team better than anybody would have thought before the season."

Then there is Coach Gene Chizik, who earns $2.1 million a year to turn boys into men and who has his priorities exactly right. With his team in the Southeastern Conference championship game, he's just glad to get "all that behind us because we're focusing on one thing and that's winning the game in Atlanta."

So the NCAA can thus say with conviction it has no evidence Cam Newton received any tangible benefit for going to Auburn. He wound up there for free.

Sure, his father asked for $180,000 from Mississippi State in exchange for his son's services, but that doesn't mean he charged Auburn anything. Presumably, Newton went there out of sheer love for the red soil.

Given these precedents, I'm just certain of my amateur status. Though the direct deposit of my weekly paycheck should be arriving in my account any moment, I think we can all agree that there is no clear evidence I accepted any tangible cash benefits. Should there be any doubt, NCAA President Emmert wishes you to know that he's committed to "further clarifying and strengthening our recruiting and amateurism rules so they promote appropriate behavior by students, parents, coaches and third parties."

The Committee is meeting.

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