There is a simple reality we must face as fans of a small market school in a monster college football conference. The rules don’t always apply equally to every school. Some teams get a pass from the NCAA and some teams pay the price.
If you are on a championship pace and making the conference a lot of money, potential violations and investigations can get put on the shelf or minimized. If your star QB is signing autographs for cash or his daddy is shopping your services to the highest bidder, sometimes the SEC will turn a blind eye for the good of the whole. And if boosters get real wild, the SEC can always pound on MSU or Ole Miss to make an example for Alabama and LSU.
That should teach ‘em a lesson!
Here is a look back in time at egregious rules violations that never seemed to get any traction from the NCAA investigators.
Compared to these cases, I expect Ole Miss to only lose 7-8 scholarships in their upcoming meeting with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.
2004 LSU’s Academic Scandal
Nick Saban gets embroiled in a systematic grade changing scheme unveiled by a University instructor.
The LSU football team academic culture was “appalling” and “like Romper Room” stated the LSU professor in sworn testimony.
Backed up by graduate students and academic advisors, the academic fraud included plagiarized papers, un-enrolled students showing up to take notes and players that often slept in class.
Current NCAA president Mark Emmert, then LSU Chancellor, went to bat for the coach he hired; the coach that made him the highest paid University President at the time. He also went to bat for his own career as he was on an upward trajectory to Indianapolis.
Emmert “investigated” the claims of the academic staff and per USA Today, Emmert found only five minor isolated problems, resulting in self-imposed penalties of two lost scholarships in football.
LSU’s 82 page report on the investigations said, “the allegations were largely unfounded.”
The NCAA accepted Emmert’s investigation and declined to even place LSU on probation.
The academic staff sued the University after being wrongfully terminated.
Under oath, a witness in the case stated the LSU investigation was “whitewashed” to minimize the damage. They interviewed the people they wanted to. It was typical damage control.”
The attorney for the plaintiffs said academic fraud is systemic at LSU. The University settled with the two women for over $110,000 each according to the USA Today article. (“Digging into the past of NCAA president Mark Emmert”, April 2, 2013, Brent Schrotenboer)
The SEC and LSU was rewarded soon after with a national championship in Baton Rouge in 2004.
2011 Auburn’s Golden Child
Cam Newton is a once in a generational type QB that was forced out at Florida as a freshman due to his possession of stolen property. Even with his questionable background, he was a highly valued “free agent” looking for a place to play for the 2010 season.
Cam’s dad Cecil Newton took the opportunity to shop his son’s eligibility to the highest bidder.
According to investigation documents in the Associated Press article, Mississippi State booster Kenny Rogers worked with Cecil to solicit between $120,000 to $180,000 from MSU for the services of Cam Newton.
Cam eventually chose to play at Auburn University and according to Auburn University, they were never propositioned for payments.
Auburn’s argument against NCAA penalties for Cam’s illegal recruitment to the NCAA was Kenny Rogers was not a legal agent for Cam. They allege the player never had a written or verbal agreement for Rogers or his dad to act on his behalf. Rogers was allegedly not paid for his role in the pay for play scheme.
The NCAA investigation found Rogers and Cecil did approach other schools for Cam’s services, specifically Oklahoma and Kansas State.
During the 13 month investigation that coincided with an undefeated season for Auburn and was headed for a Heisman trophy and another national championship for the SEC, the NCAA’s Academic and Membership affairs staff declared Cam Newton ineligible to play on November 30, 2010.
Surprisingly, the NCAA reversed this decision and allowed Cam to play in the SEC championship game the very next day.
The NCAA’s paper thin excuse was Cam didn’t know his father was doing anything nefarious and they couldn’t find any contact between Auburn and Rogers or Cecil during the recruitment.
There were never any penalties for Cam Newton’s recruitment. Cam never missed a game and no other schools were investigated for the proven pay for play plan.
Alabama. (Multiple years over multiple coaches)
Alabama is dirty. That is not an opinion, it’s just a statement of fact.
Even though the Crimson Tide is the most penalized school in the SEC’s history, much of their actual penalties are far smaller than the actual violations. (“NCAA Ruling Indicates a Turning Tide,” June 11, 2009 Ivan Maisel)
1993. Gene Stalling’s hides the fact that corner Antonio Langham has an agent during the Tides sixth AP national championship season. The NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled Alabama would lose 26 scholarships and serve a three-year probation. (The actual penalties handed down were 17 and 2).
2000. A University of Alabama booster agreed to pay Memphis defensive Tackle Albert Means $200,000. The investigation was only broken when Means’ former high school coach came clean with a Memphis newspaper reporter. The NCAA committee stated Alabama was facing the death penalty. The school actually received 5 years probation, a two-year bowl ban and lost 21 scholarships.
2009. Alabama’s free textbook program for athletes was uncovered. A systematic buy back program that benefited Alabama’s athletes in every sport that helped put cash in their pockets. The NCAA uncovered 201 players had received benefits in 15 different sports. In this case no scholarship reductions were imposed by the NCAA.
2011. Alabama player signs an agent during another National Championship run. According to Yahoo Sports , at least $33,755 was given to Alabama offensive tackle by a sports agent to recruit for his business once he became a professional football player. The only problem, DJ Fluker was still in college.
Sports agent Luther Davis had contact with five SEC players in the 2011-2012 seasons, also given cash, transportation and goods to UT QB Tyler Bray, UT defensive end Maurice Couch and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Chad Bumphis.
Yahoo sports received the documents from NFL sources and were authenticated through Western Union, bank statements, airplane receipts and other financial sources.
To date, the NCAA has not levied any penalties against these schools for the illegal agent contact.
The NCAA soon investigated Tennessee and MSU for other violations that resulted in probation through the 2015 seasons but Alabama seems to have been overlooked.