Notre Dame Football: NCAA Message Clear, Don’t Do the Right Thing

By placing the Notre Dame football program on probation and ordering them to vacate wins, the NCAA sent a clear message to the rest of the nation – don’t bother doing the right thing.

Remember when you were a kid, and your parents probably told you that no matter what you did wrong, the punishment would always be worse if you lied about it. Tell the truth, ask to make atonement, and eventually all would be forgiven.

It would seem Mark Emmert and the NCAA witch-hunting brute squad never received that lecture, or chose to simply ignore the timeless message.

The message of transgression, confession and atonement is particularly pertinent at a Catholic university such as Notre Dame, and when the athletic department there uncovered evidence of academic fraud, they did what they felt was necessary to make the appropriate mea culpa for the violations.

During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, a student-trainer completed academic coursework for two football players and gave “impermissible academic assistance” to six other players on the team, according to the NCAA. In addition, a number of those players also committed academic misconduct by playing while technically ineligible.

Notre Dame self-governed efficiently through their own honor code process in this case. They dismissed the student-trainer from the university, they retroactively lowered grades and rescinded academic credits for three players who received improper assistance, and made sure that no football staff members were involved, which none were.

But the NCAA decided to bring down the hammer on the Irish, ordering the program to vacate wins from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, as well as being put on probation for the 2017 season. Their statement (part of which is below) reads like a potty-training manual.

The panel found the former student trainer violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when she committed academic misconduct and provided the impermissible academic extra benefits. She signed documents outlining that she should not complete academic work for student-athletes, but the panel noted she provided the assistance and did not ask the university’s compliance representatives if her actions would violate university and NCAA rules.

Penalties prescribed by the panel include the following:

Public reprimand and censure for the university.

One year of probation from Nov. 22, 2016, through Nov. 21, 2017.

A two-year show-cause order for the former student trainer from Nov. 22, 2016, through Nov. 21, 2018. During that time, any NCAA member school that hires her in an athletically related position must appear with her before a Committee on Infractions panel.

A disassociation of the former student trainer from the university’s athletics program from Nov. 22, 2016, through Nov. 21, 2018. During this period, the university may not accept assistance in the recruitment of prospects or support of student-athletes from the former student trainer; may not accept donations to the athletics program from the former student trainer; may not extend athletics benefits or privilege to the former student trainer that is not generally available to the public; and must ensure the former student trainer is not involved in the university’s athletics program.

A vacation of all records in which student-athletes participated while ineligible during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 football seasons.

A $5,000 fine.

Their message? We don’t care if you do the right thing without being asked, we’re going to send you to bed without any supper anyway.

This was student-on-student fraud, a minor blip as compared to the unspeakable acts that were going on at Baylor which the NCAA is conveniently giving little attention to. This was not some grand scheme by Brian Kelly and his staff to keep players academically eligible.

What incentive does a punishment and statement like this give to other programs who discover improprieties going on without the help of the NCAA? It it worth it to take the time to investigate, compile findings and hand down discipline if the NCAA is essentially going to ignore the fact anything was done internally by a program?

The university is, of course, disputing the NCAA panel’s decision, which may or may not yield the desired result. The NCAA had to forcibly extract information from the grand pillars of sanctimony at Penn State, yet in the end decided to backtrack on much of their punishment for the program. Who knows what leniency could be shown to Notre Dame.

This is a fact that didn’t escape Notre Dame president, Rev. John L. Jenkins, who stated:

“In past academic misconduct cases, the Committee on Infractions has imposed this penalty only when it has found serious institutional misconduct, such as actions with the direct involvement or knowledge of a coach or academic personnel, a failure to monitor or a lack of institutional control. The NCAA enforcement staff and the hearing panel agreed with Notre Dame that no such institutional misconduct occurred in this case.”

The fact is the once again, the NCAA has placed their focus in the wrong direction and has grossly overstepped their bounds when it comes to disciplinary action. In doing so, they are damaging their ability to not only oversee discipline for all its member institutions, but also disincentivizing said institutions to self-impose any punishments for violations discovered in-program.

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