At this point you have to wonder about the competence of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.
Think of a speed trap for a moment and the University of Maryland getting its license taken away and fined $1,000 for driving 65 mph in a 55-mph zone as a first-time offender. Meanwhile, Clemson, deemed guilty by the committee the other day for the second time in 10 years, was given a warning and told to be more careful next time.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions is the worst kind of enforcer, one that doesn't punish fairly or consistently. Before Bob Wade took residence in College Park, the NCAA had never (to our knowledge) visited the campus.
When it came time to punish Maryland, the Committee on Infractions agreed Maryland cooperated in the investigation, but still hit the program with the stiffest non-death penalty imaginable: three years probation, barred for two years from the NCAA tournament, barred one year from television and forced to return $400,000 in NCAA basketball tournament revenues.
In March the NCAA cited Maryland for 27 violations, most of them nickel and dime stuff. A lack of institutional control was the NCAA's major complaint with Maryland. The punishment of Maryland was overly severe, out of line with the crime, affecting all aspects of the school's athletic program and costing millions of dollars, as well as resulting in the loss of dozens of scholarships in non-revenue sports.
Meanwhile, NCAA investigators have been on the Clemson campus so often they can vote there if they wish. Clemson's football team was busted in 1982, the year after Danny Ford's Tigers won the national title. The basketball team was always in trouble during the Tates Locke days. Now, the NCAA finds that one of Danny Ford's coaches, on at least two occasions, gave a player between $50 to $75. And, the NCAA found, a booster gave at least $50 to a player.
So the NCAA catches Clemson paying players. Considering Clemson is a repeat-offender, one would think the Committee on Infractions would pull out the big stick, despite the fact that Ford was shown the door in January.
Since the NCAA claims that all member institutions, beginning with Maryland, should expect stiff, no-nonsense penalties, here is what some of us expected to happen to the Clemson football team:
Three years probation with no bowl games for two years, no live television for one year and a return of bowl-game revenue from the seasons in question. Or . . . The Death Penalty. When you live on the edge as Clemson has done for years, you ought to be slapped down.
Any coach in the ACC or SEC -- they are the ones who recruit against Clemson -- will tell you (once the tape recorder is turned off) that Clemson pushes the limits of the rules as much as any school in the country.
So with all this in mind, the Committee on Infractions gave Clemson the following penalty: a one year probation. Can the Tigers play in a bowl game? Yes. Can they appear on live television? Absolutely. Take that, Tigers.
The committee, in its report, said that Clemson wasn't eligible for the so-called death penalty for repeat offenders because five years had elapsed between the second transgression and the punishment. And the committee rationalized this slap on the paw by saying that Clemson had demonstrated institutional control.
How has Clemson demonstrated that control? By demanding Danny Ford resign? That's the same thing Maryland did with Wade. How is an athletic department demonstrating institutional control when a coach hands a kid 50 bucks? How do you find institutional control at a school whose basketball and football programs are a periodic source of embarrassment because of regular and sundry rules violations? Maryland's penalty should have been no worse than Clemson's.
Is the enforcement division and the Committee on Infractions intimidated by schools with powerful, undaunted boosters? Maybe Maryland's biggest sin is not having clout to keep the NCAA off its back.