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Thursday, November 8, 2012
NCAA can't be trusted with investigations

By Myron Medcalf

To the NCAA: The shot clock has expired. It’s all red now. The buzzer is blasting. Can you see it? Can you hear it?

You’ve taken too much time with this Shabazz Muhammad investigation. We’ve reached the stage where faux words now hold merit. I’ll call the pace of this probe nothing short of nonsensicalocity.

The NCAA began its scrutiny of Muhammad, the No. 2 recruit in RecruitingNation’s rankings of the 2012 class, in August. Possible ties to financial agents prompted the examination.

I won’t waste this space confronting the hypocrisy within the NCAA’s definition of “amateurism.” Per the rules, Muhammad’s situation is a serious one. Legalizing or overlooking connections to money men who’ve preyed on young talent for years -- and I’m not assuming that’s the case with Muhammad -- would create a perception that the NCAA had completely abandoned its commitment to “amateurism,” especially as it pertains to a high-profile recruit.

But if the matter is that significant, what’s with the timing? We’re hours away from the start of the 2012-13 season. No word.

Well, the NCAA cites its workload and limited staffing when pressed with similar queries.

And whenever the NCAA’s logjam is questioned, it responds defensively: “We’re inundated with cases. And we have to treat them with the same care and concern.”

The problem is that philosophy is not reasonable.

The cases that have threatened the NCAA’s ability to protect amateurism with its regal shield usually involve college basketball and college football, the two sports that feature prospects who possess the ability to attract millions of dollars after abbreviated collegiate careers. When was the last time you heard of a runner going after Division I cross country athletes or wrestlers?

College basketball and college football essentially operate as minor leagues for the wealthiest professional organizations in the world. These "amateurs" will play in Germany Friday. These "amateurs" played on a ship with President Obama watching from the front row last year! They have as much TV exposure as the pros. You can't elevate them like that and then say that they're "just one of many" when it comes to investigations.

I'm not buying that. More nonsensicalocity.

The cases in college basketball and college football are different in substance. And they’re different due to potential ramifications for the players and the schools. Therefore, they demand a different level of attention and urgency.

But the NCAA clearly needs more help from outside resources to thoroughly pursue answers. The delays -- with Muhammad and others -- make the NCAA look like an organization that’s drowning in its own limitations.

The governing body of collegiate athletics couldn’t even make it through Wednesday without displaying its faults.

On Tuesday, Indiana announced the nine-game suspensions of two incoming freshmen, Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Their guardian, Mark Adams, provided them with various items throughout their lives, but he also donated $185 to the university 20 years ago. The sum makes him a lifetime booster in the NCAA’s eyes. Violation. Yeah … that makes sense.

On Wednesday, former Xavier standout Dez Wells was cleared to compete for Maryland this season weeks after the NCAA denied his initial waiver request and months after he was expelled from his former school following sexual assault allegations.

Yet, we’re still awaiting new info on Muhammad, whose status for UCLA’s season opener against Indiana State Friday has yet to be determined.

And this is the stuff that frustrates fans and causes the NCAA to lose credibility.

Its investigative tactics, methodology, rules, appeals process and structure confound the general public and insiders alike. The NCAA, however, won’t change overnight.

But college presidents can demand immediate reform by forcing the NCAA to consult more outside sources for high-profile cases. A quicker turnaround, regardless of the outcome, will help all parties.

It’s time to grant the lead role in investigations to a separate group and allow the NCAA to rule on its findings. The bottom line is that the NCAA needs some assistance. I'm not suggesting that an investigation into the eligibility of a 19-year-old surrounded by men and women who might do anything to ensure that he's allowed to play is an easy one. But it's far more difficult with limited resources.

I understand the NCAA’s appeals processes often involve external members who have no connection to the collegiate sports landscape.

But I’m focusing on a more complete investigative process for infractions/violations cases that would help everyone.

The BCS system offers proof that the NCAA’s power is quite limited.

The NCAA is the rapper who’s flossing with cash and girls in a video but transferring 90 percent of his album profits to his record label. Who’s really in control?

College presidents should not only request a more thorough and swift investigative process, they should be willing to offer the financial assistance that the enhancements would necessitate.

Muhammad’s case should be the last one that drags on to this degree. But the NCAA’s challenges with expedited analysis of similar situations will continue unless critical alterations are made.

I’m not asking the NCAA to clear Muhammad. The evidence it uncovers will determine his status.

I’m asking the NCAA to do its job and make a decision. And if it can't do that, let's find someone who can.