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NCAA investigations border on hypocrisy

The Unusual Suspects
The NCAA is going after the big boys, but ...
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Mark Kriegel

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

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The inaugural game of the 2010 season is still weeks away, but already college football seems ready to implode with the weight of its own hypocrisy.

In case you’re keeping score at home:

Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are being investigated for players having allegedly improper contact with agents at a party in Miami Beach. NCAA and police investigators are trying to determine whether former Florida center Maurkice Pouncey accepted $100,000 from an agent or runner before last year’s Sugar Bowl.

POLL

  • Is there anything wrong with Jeremiah Masoli playing for Ole Miss this year?
    • No, the transfer follows the rules
    • Yes, he got kicked off another team

Then, last week, the University of Miami issued a statement saying the football program was under investigation for “improper text messages and telephone calls to prospective student-athletes.” The NCAA also accused West Virginia of five major violations, most having to do with illicit practice and training sessions between 2005 and 2009, three of those seasons under Rich Rodriguez, who left his alma mater and started a messy legal battle when he skipped town for Michigan.

Earlier this year, Michigan put itself on two years’ probation for remarkably similar infractions. It marked the program’s first major football violations since 1879, when they started playing football in Ann Arbor.

When the story broke in the Detroit Free Press a year ago, Rodriguez dismissed it as much ado about nothing. That’s pretty much what Pete Carroll told people for the better part of a decade as the NCAA investigated payments made to Reggie Bush while at USC.

Now, USC is looking at a two-year bowl ban, four years of probation and the loss of 30 scholarships. Meanwhile, new Trojans coach Lane Kiffin was asked about the NCAA’s investigation into possible recruiting violations while he was at Tennessee.

“All the reports I’ve heard is that there’s nothing wrong,” he said. “ … I have great confidence in what we did there.”

Sound familiar?

Still, for my money, the most cynical development of all was Ole Miss signing a grad student named Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli, a multi-threat quarterback, led Oregon to the Rose Bowl last year. Then he pleaded guilty in a dorm-room robbery, an episode in which he lied to the cops and that eventually earned him a suspension for the 2010 season. In June, Masoli — who did some time as a juvenile — was pulled over and charged with marijuana possession at a traffic stop. That got him kicked off the team, which is saying something considering that Oregon coach Chip Kelly didn’t get where he is by kicking Heisman candidates off his teams.

Jeremiah Masoli, Oregon Ducks (Getty Images)

Jeremiah Masoli quarterbacked Oregon against Ohio State at this year's Rose Bowl.

Stephen Dunn

Now, Masoli, whose image rehab was aided by a PR firm, has his own website that includes a link to a long SI.com piece that depicts him as habitually being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have no problem with the piece, which is extensively reported. I’m all for redemption, and Masoli seems a good candidate for it.

But I don’t understand why a guy gets kicked off one team for two criminal offenses in June and signs with another as a grad student in July. Quite suddenly, Masoli — who earned a sociology degree from Oregon — wants a master's in parks and recreation at Ole Miss.

Where’s the lesson in this? Where's the justice? How does it happen?

Because the NCAA — which is supposed to stand first for the sanctity of competition — allows it.

“I don’t want to be hypocritical,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was quoted on OMSpirit.com. “I approached Jeremiah because of our team’s needs.”

In other words, it wasn’t about a young man’s dream of advanced study in parks and recreation. It was about a redshirt freshman quarterback suddenly transferring from Ole Miss.

“We needed help,” said Nutt, adding that Masoli is “a special young man” from a “special family.”

Isn’t that great? Coach Nutt, who’ll have a zero-tolerance policy here, is giving a good guy another chance. Of course, there are about six other coaches who would’ve given Masoli the same chance. Problem is, his redemption likely comes at the expense of an innocent player’s opportunity.

Nathan Stanley is the redshirt sophomore slated to start. He came out of Oklahoma’s Sequoyah-Tahlequah High School, a predominantly Native American school.

So I called his mother, Gina, who also happened to be the school district’s superintendent. As a mother and an educator, I began, is this right, having your son compete with a soon-to-be 22-year-old who just got kicked off another team?

“I don’t have a problem with it,” she said of Masoli. “He completed his course work, as per the NCAA guidelines.”

Yes, but Masoli’s grad school career might well come at your son’s expense, I noted.

“This is Nathan’s job,” she said. “It’s his job to lose.”

She said coach Nutt had explained himself to her son, that Nathan told him to do what was best for the team, that he did not mind competing for the job with a Heisman candidate. The quarterbacks were introduced two Fridays ago, she said, when Nathan told Masoli to “come be a Rebel.”

“That’s the way my boys were raised,” said Gina Stanley. “He made a commitment to the school, the team and the coach.”

And what of that commitment if he loses his starting job?

“I don’t have a problem with that,” she said. “It means he wasn’t the best.”

That’s enough to want Gina Stanley running both the NCAA and the Bowl Subdivision. Amid all these investigations, she had come out for the lost causes of college ball — merit and the sanctity of competition.

Tagged: North Carolina, Miami (FL), Michigan, USC, Oregon, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Jeremiah Masoli

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