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OU's damage control may not be enough

7/28/2011

A few hours ago, Oklahoma and the NCAA released the summary disposition report on the investigation into the OU men's basketball program, specifically into alleged violations committed by former assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro. If you're particularly bored at work -- or you're the kind of person that likes sifting through heavily redacted files filled with NCAA jargon and quasi-legalese -- you can read the report itself in PDF form here. But the most important takeaways can be found in the Associated Press's story here:

Oklahoma has asked the NCAA to place its men's basketball program on two more years of probation and vacate all wins from the 2009-10 season for two major rules violations by former assistant coach Oronde Taliaferro. [...] The Sooners also proposed taking away one scholarship, two official visits and 10 in-person recruiting days during the upcoming academic year as penalties for the violations committed while the program was already on probation.

In other words, Oklahoma is in full-on damage-control mode, one of the major steppingstones schools must complete to show the NCAA they mean business before appearing in front of the Committee on Infractions. And these self-penalties are serious. It's not often that you see schools actively espouse the vacation of wins.

But will the NCAA be impressed? Part of me tends to doubt it. The rest of the Sooners' self-penalties are arguably nothing more than half-measures: a scholarship here, a few visits there, some recruiting days here, a few more years of probation there. Had Oklahoma not already been on probation for violations committed under coach Jeff Capel's predecessor, Kelvin Sampson, these might get the job done.

But the probation point seems far more serious than that. The NCAA has a record of being far less lenient with programs that commit violations while already on probation. If Taliaferro indeed helped land former recruit Tiny Gallon a loan from a Florida financial adviser, that's bad enough. If he did so while OU was still on probation, the NCAA could be inclined to argue that the school didn't take its atmosphere of compliance seriously. If you're probation, you have to be squeaky clean.

Now more than ever, the NCAA is interested in sending a message to violators (and to those who criticize its enforcement as inconsistent): We take this stuff seriously. You should too. Given the circumstances, such a message seems appropriate here. Will a postseason ban be the medium?