NCAA Football
NCAA Football

NCAA Should Punish Dirty Football Programs, Not Innocent Players

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By Michael Felder

Yesterday the news was leaked that the Southern Cal request for appeal would be denied today, ending their five plus year saga that the Reggie Bush situation touched off. That means the scholarship penalties, probation and post-season ban handed down almost a full year ago are going to be upheld.

As Wes Rucker from GVX247 reported, not everyone was as joyous about the penalties being upheld as it seems the bulk of the shortsighted college football fan-sphere. Some folks were actually bummed as Rucker showed:

Just spoke w/ Vols DB signee Byron Moore, former USC Trojan. He's bummed about NCAA decision. Said current USC players haven't broken rules.

Count me in that group folks. Maybe it is because I just like football and I'm not fueled by some need to "hate" or celebrate the misfortune of others. Maybe it is because as a former player I can't bring myself to mock, laugh or feel anything but sad for those guys in Troy. Hell, it might even be because I like Lane Kiffin and this is making it harder for him to get that SoCal football machine rolling out west.

Regardless of reason, I hate the idea that those kids out there, guys who never played with Reggie Bush, guys who were in middle school and high school when the transgressions took place are now suffering.

Their team won't be as good as they should or could be because of the scholarship restrictions. Kids in high school that have a true desire to be Trojans won't be able to make that choice because Kiffin can't take his full boat of commitments in the coming years. To add insult to injury, as these thin ranks Fight On they don't get the reward that we all play for; championships and bowl games.

Poo poo it all you want, going to a bowl game is one of the best experiences a college football player can have and I hate it that these guys have already missed out on one that they deserved to go to.

As Byron Moore and so many others have pointed out, it isn't fair to the players. The problem is the NCAA is levying punishment independent of the players, they're enacting penalties to punish the institution, the players are merely collateral damage (more proof they don't give a damn about your or your playing career?).

I think we've heard it all before, the NCAA's only recourse against institutions is their current system of penalties; scholarship losses, post-season bans, TV bans and vacating wins and/or titles.

But why? Why is that the only recourse? Has anyone ever tried something different or suggested something new? When I look at all these penalties I see a mix of innocent kid punishing (scholarship loss and post-season bans) and largely empty rhetoric (vacating wins and titles). The TV ban is the only penalty that truly hits the program while not "technically" penalizing the current and future players (although yes I see how it probably isn't an ideal situation for a kid).

So why not something else? Is this truly all there is? The only way the NCAA can punish an institution is to rob current and/or future players of opportunities for success and the laughable "vacation" of wins or titles, which only counts when some fan wants to make a lame joke?

I don't buy that.

Before I go into what I'd do I will say that I often see "regime change" bandied about as a solution. I'm not a fan of this move. If the university feels the coach wronged them or didn't fulfill his duties and fires him then no problem there but ultimately firing vs not firing is a cost-benefit decision for each individual institution. I don't prescribe to the "you've got to fire him!" camp of screaming from on high, it all depends on what it is worth to the school in the long run.

Regime changes suck from a players standpoint and most schools don't execute their NCAA fueled regime change in the right fashion. As a player your coach is gone which means odds are you're about to get screwed somehow. As for the execution of the regime change; everyone is so concerned with changing football staff that they don't go down to the athletic department, compliance or administration and clean house.

For my answer I'd turn to the wallets. Simple.

Hit coaches, teams, athletic departments and ultimately schools in their pockets. Levy fines. The SEC has already taken to fining folks for rushing the field and we've seen it act as a deterrent in recent years.

Start fining folks. Instead of vacating wins start pulling receipts from those games and extracting those dollars from programs. Instead of taking away championships take away that BCS bowl check. Instead of banning teams from a bowl game for the future grab those earnings from the period of the infractions. Instead of vacating a year grab some of that TV money.

We're not talking small money here, I'm talking about effectively penalizing the teams for what they did wrong. No one wants to give up money and most certainly not the money that comes with ticket sales or BCS bowl appearances. It doesn't matter that Bama or Ohio State or Florida seems to be printing cash the fact is the idea of giving 7 home games of ticket receipts, a conference championship game check, the TV check for the year and the BCS Bowl check back to the NCAA is not a laughable matter.

While the NCAA can't pull all the funds the idea of hitting teams and schools where it hurts is one that will spur folks into action. You think compliance and school administrators are going to stand by or turn a blind eye to the thought of losing chunks of a seasons revenue? I don't.

Monitoring will increase because, just like in everyday America when you're dealing with OSHA and EPA and other regulatory boards, no one at the top is trying to come off their cash.

Instead of penalizing the kids who have done nothing and doing the laughable by vacating wins, the school actually pays, literally and figuratively, the cost for not controlling the offending players.

Get more great college football news, recaps and analysis over at In the Bleachers.