Saturday, April 22, 2006

kU in big trouble... or at least they should be

By Tiger Fan

For most of my college career, it was kind of difficult to come up with good comebacks when chastised by kU fans. Sure, we knew our school was superior, but when we were losing to them two or three times a year in every sport, it was tough... not to mention our trouble with the NCAA. But recently, kU has been making itself into an easy target. We have split the season basketball series with them each of the past two seasons. They lost to Bucknell. Then they lost to Bradley. And now, this...

In a 25-page letter dated Feb. 16, 2006, the NCAA has charged kU with a wide range of violations, including the ever popular "lack of institutional control". The letter, released to the public yesterday, includes allegations of academic fraud and impermissible gifts involving the football team, impermissible gifts and cash payments from boosters involving the men's basketball team, and impermissible transportation involving the women's basketball team. Also identified were a myriad of unreported secondary violations in every sport from women's soccer to men's golf.

In fairness to kU, there's nothing here that they didn't turn up in an internal investigation last July. But the eleventh allegation in the letter -- the one that charged the department with "failure to exert appropriate institutional control" from 1997-2003 -- is the most damaging. The NCAA is still compiling more information before handing down its punishment (if you've been a Tiger fan for long, you are all too familiar with how long this process takes), but it doesn't look good for the beakers. How bad is it? The last Big XII team to be hit with the "lack of insitutional control" label was Baylor... and that was when one of their players murdered a teammate.

Clearly, kU isn't on the same level as Baylor, but one thing is very clear: these allegations are much more serious than the illegal flip-flops and phone calls that got the MU basketball team put on probation and eventually cost Quin Snyder his job. kU may not find out its fate until September, but "lack of institutional control" is not a label the NCAA throws around lightly. Saturday's KC Star reported that kU got the label for four reasons:
1. It went without a compliance auditor for 20 months
2. It failed to report 26 secondary violations in a timely manner
3. It failed to educate coaches and boosters about the rules
4. It allowed academic fraud and recruiting violations within the football program.

Suddenly, I don't feel quite as bad about losing to kU for the last three seasons in football. At least Pinkel runs a clean program. Later on Friday, kU showed its true character by announcing that it is working with Fatgino on a contract extension (they claim he didn't know about the problems... kind of like Nixon didn't know about Watergate, I would guess). Classy folks... but I would expect nothing less.

The amazing thing to me is how little the attention the media is giving this story. On Saturday afternoon, the Star's Web site had the kU story ninth on its sports page... below stories about the NHL and NBA playoffs (which don't involved KC at all) and a track meet. ESPN.com had no mention of the story on its front page and had a short piece buried in its college football section. Maybe it's because Columbia has more journalists per capita than any other city in the world, but it seems to me that the stories about the Mizzou investigations got a lot more play... and the school got a lot more criticism.

We'll have to wait a while to see how it all plays out. To me, this is a litmus test for the NCAA. They have historically been very hard on middle-of-the-road major conference teams (like Mizzou basketball, Michigan basketball or Texas A&M football), but looked the other way when one of the "legendary" college programs breaks a rule (like Ohio State football, Duke basketball or any sport at Texas). Unfortunately, kU hoops is one of those renowned programs... and as such, we might see their athletic department get a free pass (or at least a greatly reduced fare). I've always said the NCAA is somewhat corrupt and hands out punishments arbitrarily. That's why I think you'll see a lot of very angry Mizzou fans in September when kU comes out of this with a slap on the wrist. But I'll be happy to eat my words if the punishment for kU fits the crime. Or maybe I'll just save my words for kU fans the next time they try to talk smack...

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