String of scandals testing NCAA’s limits

The list of major football programs either sanctioned or investigated over the past several months is impressive:

USC was given a two-yearpostseason ban, lost scholarships and was forced to vacate its 2005 Bowl Championship Series title after an investigation found running back Reggie Bush received improper benefits in a June 2010 ruling. Pete Carroll, the coach of the Trojans at the time of the infractions, left for a job with the Seattle Seahawks before the NCAA’s decision was announced. Bush later agreed to forfeit the Heisman Trophy he won that season.

Auburn remains under investigation months after its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Cam Newton, was cleared to play in the postseason last December. The investigation began as reports surfaced that his father, Cecil, solicited $180,000 from Mississippi State in order to secure his son’s services. Newton led Auburn to the national title and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers.

Ohio State’s NCAA investigation delved into whether former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players traded memorabilia for cash and tattoos. The scandal led popular coach Jim Tressel to resign in May, and the team will be led by interim coach Luke Fickell. The NCAA notified the school last week that the school didn’t lack institutional control of the football program and that evidence points to Tressl as the only person who knew about the violations. Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties included vacating the 2010 season and probation, although the NCAA could levy further penalties.

Oregon acknowledged in March that it was subject to an NCAA probe regarding its use of a recruiting services firm. At issue is a $25,000 payment approved by Oregon coach Chip Kelly to street agent Willie Lyles, who had a relationship with Ducks running backs Lache Seastrunk and LaMichael James. Seastrunk reportedly committed to Oregon days after the payment. Oregon officials claim there was nothing out of the ordinary about the payment and they are cooperating with the investigation.

Georgia Tech was put on probation for four years, fined $100,000 and forced to forfeit the final three games of the 2009 season (including a victory in the ACC title game over Clemson), the NCAA announced July 14. At issue was clothing one former player received totaling $312 from the friend of a sports agency employee. But the NCAA seems more perturbed by the lack of cooperation by the Georgia Tech officials, who reportedly failed to aid the investigation at many junctures. The school wasn’t docked any scholarships.

West Virginia’s self-imposed two-year probation, restrictions on coaching and recruiting, and scholarship reductions were accepted by the NCAA on July 8. The NCAA found the school’s two previous head coaches, Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart, failed to adequately monitor “non-coaching staff members who performed duties that led the program to exceed the allowable number of coaches and coaching staff members who engaged in impermissible out-of-season athletically related activities.”

North Carolina football coach Butch Davis was forced out after the NCAA notified the school that there were nine major violations under Davis’ watch, and Athletic Director Dick Baddour announced on Thursday that he was stepping down. Allegations that players received impermissible benefits were at the center of the investigation.

LSU was docked two scholarships, put on probation for a year and must reduce official visits by 10 percent, the NCAA announced on July 19. Much of the investigation centered around the 2009 recruitment of junior college defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. Former assistant coach D.J. McCarthy allegedly made impermissible phone calls to Hicks and arranged transportation and lodging against NCAA regulations.