Corrupt probers big problem for NCAA

Corrupt probers big problem for NCAA

Published Jan. 23, 2013 12:00 a.m. ET

The interesting thing about the old mobster days in Chicago was not the idealistic battle between good guys and bad guys, but instead that you had a hard time telling the sides apart. The good guys were almost as bad as the bad guys, living by whatever laws they wanted or created in the streets.

Today, NCAA officials dress a little better than the old Chicago cops, and are paid better and up front, too. But NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that NCAA investigators got slimy while investigating the slime at the University of Miami.

Those are my words. His were that the NCAA had uncovered “an issue of improper conduct within its enforcement.’’

Translation: Dirty cops. What was this issue? Well, at Miami, the investigation is over the dealings of booster Nevin Shapiro and what freebies and how many thousands of dollars he was giving athletes and their parents with the knowledge of Miami’s coaches.


Now, after two years of investigating, the NCAA allegedly caught itself paying Shapiro’s attorney unethically for information. So the NCAA is going to have an external review of its entire enforcement division.

This is a call for that review to be fully, 100 percent open to the public. Our tax dollars are funding nearly the entire college sports system. And this review needs to include answers to questions such as:

Who authorized payment to Shapiro’s attorney? Where did the money come from? And how does stuff like this happen without Emmert knowing? Or did it?

The NCAA has lost the faith of the public. Until Wednesday, it had a tiny bit of credibility left, just because it was fighting the bad guys. It was better than the bad guys. Now, it is the bad guy.

Even if the NCAA’s enforcement procedures were started with good intentions years ago, they have turned to cheap tactics now. They aren’t protecting anyone from anything anymore. The rulebook is outdated, and the fight has become a blur.

Even the reason for it. Is the NCAA actually trying to clean up college sports? Is that how you’d describe it?

Or is it just trying to hang on to its big lie about college sports being an amateur ideal? Athletic departments and entire universities will do anything to get in on the billions of dollars in their amateur world.

What a joke. The NCAA is here to protect that? No, it needs to start all over, and not just with this investigation. It needs to rethink its mission, go back to formula.

First things first: Throw out the case against Miami. The whole case.

Emmert said he won’t use information that was gathered improperly. But no, the case is tainted now, and you cannot tell good action from bad.

Missouri coach Frank Haith, the former Miami coach, needs to skate, too. reported a few days ago that he was about to be hit hard, presumably for his knowledge about what Shapiro was doing at the time.

He was probably going to be fired at Missouri, and certainly suspended by the NCAA. Forget that now.

It’s always fun to make fun of powerful people when they screw up.

That’s what’s happening on social media now. But this is a serious issue of power. The NCAA has too much of it, and uses it any way it wants. It has the badges, after all.

The governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, was pointing out that exact thing a few weeks ago. There is no question the NCAA didn’t bother using its own rulebook in punishing Penn State or that it bullied school officials into accepting a punishment.

I was critical of Corbett at the time. But while his motives were clearly self-serving, his point was right on. It just wasn’t the moment to make that point, as no one wanted to hear Penn State — after it did little to stop Jerry Sandusky from raping young boys — claim that it was a victim of anything.

I still don’t.

Meanwhile, a judge recently tore into the NCAA, saying its investigation into USC was “malicious’’ and “over the top.’’ And an NCAA investigator reportedly was fired when her boyfriend was heard to be talking on an airplane about the investigation into UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad.

So this Miami case isn’t about a rogue investigator. It’s a system that is lost.

Look, someone has to fight the fight in college sports. First, the fight needs to be recast. People will argue that it should be OK to pay athletes, possibly on the free-market system. I’m not even really sure why our education system is in the business of sports in the first place.

It’s time to redefine the whole business. I use the model of Chicago’s mob days, but it’s not as if boosters with paychecks are modern-day Al Capones.

In the new model, their crimes would seem minimal. And only with a some sanity and clarity can the good guys look good, or even be good, again.