Perhaps you've seen the latest advertising campaign on behalf of University of Maryland basketball. "No Lights, No Cameras, Just Action!" the newspaper ads read. Pretty catchy. It's a slick way of saying, "You'd better come out to Cole Field House and watch us in person because the Terps will be banned from {live} television this year." This, remember, is part of Maryland's NCAA-imposed punishment for transgressions committed during the tenures of Bob Wade and Lefty Driesell.

It's a funny thing, though, you can catch Illinois and Missouri on TV this year. Next year too. Two Missouri assistant coaches resigned Thursday. One of them was involved in a series of recruiting violations, including lending a recruit money. And Illinois? Don't ask. The Illini program could have been hit with the "death penalty," but that ever-lenient NCAA Committee on Infractions dismissed the two most serious charges.

Those of us who read between the lines know the NCAA dismissed those two charges because its investigators couldn't nail down the allegation that an assistant coach offered cars and cash to recruits Deon Thomas and LaPhonso Ellis.

What the NCAA did find at Illinois was improper recruiting that included three players getting car loans from an auto dealership owned by a booster and the sale of NCAA tournament tickets to high school coaches whose players Illinois was recruiting.

If you're Maryland, a first-time offender whose athletic department officials cooperated to the fullest extent -- that according to an NCAA spokesman -- then you get solitary confinement with bread and water. But if you stall and deny and call the NCAA's bluff, the investigators turn into Inspector Clouseau without the power of subpoena and eventually go home whimpering.

Illinois, with three major infractions cases in six years, got a one-year ban from the NCAA basketball tournament.

Missouri, which the NCAA found to have offered a kid a plane ticket and to have a lack of institutional control, got a one-year ban from the NCAA basketball tournament.

Clemson, whose football program has been a repeat offender and put on probation again last summer, was banned from nothing.

Maryland, a school that had never even been implicated in any NCAA wrongdoing, has been banned from the NCAA basketball tournament for two years and from live TV for one.

Only the Oklahoma State football program, another repeat offender, has been hit with tougher sanctions (three years no bowl games, two years no live television) than Maryland.

You look at the NCAA's blatant disregard for establishing consistency, you look at how easy the NCAA can be shoved aside, and it's easy to come away with the following lesson from all this: If the NCAA has got you cold, stonewall, fail to cooperate, lie if you have to and usually they'll back down.

There's a name for a governing body that will impose the harshest sanction possible against someone who cooperates, while whimping out against serious repeat offenders: a bully. The NCAA, if for no other reason than to save plane fare to Champaign, should have shut Illinois down.

Someone privy to the thinking of Committee on Infractions members says Maryland was hit hard because the committee was angry, very angry, over the big money made off the sale of ACC tournament tickets, which were sometimes arranged by staffers.

Also, the committee perceived Bob Wade, a black coach, was being hung out to dry by an unsupportive lily-white university community, even though the ticket scam started during the Driesell years.

And for that Maryland should have been punished, even though both coaches had been forced out by then.

Strangely, Illinois used its NCAA tournament tickets as a recruiting device -- strictly against the rules -- but that wasn't perceived as being as serious as what Maryland did.

Yes, Illinois and Missouri were hit with tougher recruiting sanctions, but nothing hits a school harder (in the wallet, of course) than no live television for a year. Especially when that school plays in the TV-rich Atlantic Coast Conference.

So, will Maryland flex its muscles next time and tell the NCAA to take a hike -- which is exactly what the NCAA deserves?


Andy Geiger, Maryland's new athletic director, will take the highroad even if he too can't understand why his school has been singled out for a television ban. "I don't want to come off as being soft," he said, "but I'm trying not to have this community focus on what's happening at other universities.

"There has been a lot of that in my first few weeks here. I don't want us to feel sorry for ourselves. The presentations of the schools are different, the crimes are different. In some cases, you're comparing apples and oranges. It's not all that different from the judicial system. There just isn't any way to be comparatively accurate, which is why I don't want us dwelling on what's happening at the other universities.

"I've heard this quite a bit, that 'the NCAA is the enemy.' The NCAA didn't break a single rule, the University of Maryland did," he said. "They're not the bad guys. I know the people on the Committee on Infractions, and they don't look forward to this {imposing sanctions}. But their task is to sit in judgment."

Geiger's analogy using the U.S. judicial system is well-taken, though it too should be held accountable for grievous errors. This is a wise approach and course of action Geiger has chosen during this season of no lights, no cameras, just action, to make Maryland the best it can be instead of making excuses.