The NCAA opened its mouth again this past week and, in the opinion of many coaches and athletic directors, once again got a foot caught in its teeth.
The NCAA handed a two-game suspension to Memphis State center William Bedford, who twice was involved in accidents while driving luxury automobiles "loaned" to him by school boosters. In so doing, the organization opened itself up to criticism from those in collegiate sports who feel the NCAA showed once again that it still hasn't figured out how to mete out punishments that fit crimes.
Bedford was caught twice breaking what hardly can be called a minor rule. And the list of other allegations surrounding the Memphis State basketball program is almost as long as Bedford's 6-foot-10 body.
Yet the suspension given Bedford is only one game longer than that given to Indiana's Steve Alford, whose violation was posing for a charity sorority calendar.
Bedford's violation stems from an NCAA rule that holds that athletes should not receive benefits unavailable to other students.
Of course they often do receive many benefits -- not counting their scholarships -- such as summer jobs, the best housing, training table meals and others. But what Bedford received this time was the use of boosters' luxury cars.
One more note: CBS commentator Billy Packer, who is forthright and often right, didn't do anyone any favors by commenting during the CBS telecast of Memphis State-Nevada-Las Vegas Saturday that, "If the NCAA suspended every player who was loaned a car by a coach or a booster we might not have college basketball."
It really was not a good day Saturday for CBS. In addition to Packer's remark, Gary Bender got off a bad line near the end of the Syracuse-Notre Dame game. When partner Doug Collins decried the throwing of a cigarette lighter onto the floor, Bender quipped, "I guess he gave up smoking."
Bender probably wanted that one back as soon as he said it. Objects thrown on the court, especially at Syracuse, where the fans have been a problem in the past, are not regarded by anyone as jokes.
Notre Dame's 85-81 upset of Syracuse in that game was more than just a good win for the Irish. It represented the first time since 1981, when Orlando Woolridge, Kelly Tripucka and Tracy Jackson were seniors, that the Irish have beaten a top 10 team this late in the season. It was easily Coach Digger Phelps' best victory since that team.
Phelps, whose team is 16-4, has scheduled seven of his last 10 games on the road. He has been careful to space the tough games, a fact that North Carolina Coach Dean Smith complained about two weeks ago.
After his Tar Heels, who had played No. 2 Georgia Tech Saturday, struggled by Notre Dame on Sunday, Smith said it really wasn't fair for the Irish to have three days' rest while his team played twice in 24 hours.
Sometimes, such scheduling reflects simply an attempt to pick up TV dollars. This week, while Notre Dame is off after a Tuesday game against Fordham, Duke must play at N.C. State on Saturday night, then come back 15 hours later to play the Irish at home on Sunday.
The feeling among many here in Durham is that Duke's players deserve better from their athletic department, no matter how much extra money it might bring in.
There could be as many as four coaching jobs open in the Big Ten by year's end. Minnesota and Ohio State have already lost their coaches and Rich Falk (almost certain) at Northwestern and Steve Yoder (might survive) at Wisconsin could also be on the way out.
Quote of the week: Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins, asked why in the world he would schedule a game with weakling UNC-Charlotte at this time of the season: "Well, an extra win might help us with the NCAA bid." Tech has as much chance of missing the NCAAs as Langley High School has of making them.
Stat of the week: Michigan Coach Bill Frieder has won at least one game in every Big Ten building except for Illinois. He is 0-6 there. The last three games have all been decided in overtime.
The Upset Pick last week was Nevada-Las Vegas over Memphis State. Detractors (and they are legion) will claim UNLV's 67-66 victory Saturday was not an upset because Bedford was suspended. Bosh. Smith, who invented the game, has always maintained that "a team will play one great game when it loses a key player." That was the game. The record is 5-7. This week: Virginia, whose players walk to class, will march into Atlanta and shock Georgia Tech.