Archive for the ‘NCAA’ Category

National Communists Against Athletes (No, Really)

August 25, 2009

If we are to believe Mike Balogun, Stalin, McCarthy and the Spanish Inquisition have nothing on the NCAA.

By way of background for the uninitiated, Balogun is in the process of suing the NCAA for unexpectedly revoking his eligibility a few weeks back related to issues arising from his participation in a semi-pro football league. At issue in the case has been whether or not Balogun played in the league after his 21st birthday. If so, the 25-year-old linebacker would be ineligible this season.

Admittedly, Homerism is no legal scholar. However, something about the Association’s version of “due process” as depicted in Balogun’s petition to the Cleveland County District Court seems a little off to me. The timeline of the case:

-May 2008: NCAA reviews Balogun’s involvement with the North American Football League and clears him to play at Oklahoma as a junior.

-January 2009: Intrepid college football gumshoe Thom Brenneman reveals on national TV during the BCS title game broadcast that Balogun played semi-pro football. (Shows what spending five minutes with Tim Tebow can do for you.) Although this should come as a surprise to no one at NCAA headquarters, seeing as Balogun’s eligibility already has been certified, the amateurism authorities decide they want another bite at the apple.

-March 2009: With its balls firmly trapped in the Association’s vice grip thanks to Kelvin Sampson, Rhett Bomar and J.D. Quinn, the OU compliance department rounds up one of Balogun’s former assistant coaches, who states he thinks Balogun played after his 21st birthday. Meanwhile, OU also hands over affidavits from Balogun and his former team’s owner in which both contradict the coach’s recollection. Plus, the league’s ex-commissioner tells OU compliance that records show Balogun didn’t play in the league during the time in question and that the information being presented against Balogun–internet box scores–is unreliable.

-July 2009: Balogun appears before NCAA investigators yet again to discuss his status.

-August 2009: Balogun is ruled ineligible.

(For proof of just how stupid this entire scenario is in the first place, note that the conference’s former commissioner says Balogun never received any remuneration for playing. In fact, Balogun himself had to pay a referee fee just to participate.)

Aside from the fact that Mike is apparently a common nickname for “Ademola,” I found this passage to be possibly the most interesting part of the brief:

“Despite being provided with (information contrary to the claim that Balogun played semi-pro football after the age of 21), Defendants [the NCAA] continued to furtively investigate Balogun’s amateur status and certification for several months without advising Balogun of the existence of the investigation and without advising him as to the witnesses interviewed or the materials gathered during the investigation. In addition, at no time during this investigation did Defendants advise Balogun that he had the right to have his interests represented during this investigation.”

OK, for purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside the bizarre standards of proof the NCAA appears to be using in Balogun’s case. Instead, let’s focus strictly on the Association’s process of adjudication, which looks like it would be best described as “railroading.” Stealing a page out of the Gestapo’s playbook, it appears as though justice NCAA-style means conducting ongoing covert investigations of college athletes, denying the accused access to the evidence against them and ignoring the principle of double (and even triple) jeopardy.

Today came word that the NCAA is working with Balogun’s lawyer to potentially achieve an out-of-court resolution. I hope it works out for Balogun’s sake, but you can’t help wondering if the Association would benefit from having its day in court.

Don’t Look at Me

August 22, 2009

Florida State is claiming no ill intention in its inquiry into Mike Balogun’s eligibility. According to the Daily Oklahoman, however, Balogun’s court filings say the Seminoles gradually worked the question of the linebacker’s status up the compliance food chain.

So, FSU’s compliance department contacted OU looking for help with Corey Surrency’s case, huh? Plausible, but seems a little fishy to me.

The Burden of Proof, From Balogun to Bush

August 20, 2009

In the grand scheme of the 2009 college football season, Mike Balogun doesn’t mean much. The hardscrabble 25-year-old ex-construction worker is no Butkus Award winner, but he would have given Oklahoma some nice depth at middle linebacker. Maybe he could have boosted his stock with the pro scouts and won a spot somewhere in the back of the pro draft.

Instead of fighting for a starting spot on the Sooner defense, though, Balogun is now fighting an uphill battle against the most rigid of rigid bureaucracies, the NCAA.
Over what, exactly? Well, according to court filings submitted in his lawsuit against the Association, there’s a box score floating around the Internet that says Balogun played in a semi-pro football game. There’s also the recollection of a former assistant coach that Balogun suited up for the Maryland Marauders of the North American Football League after his 21st birthday.
That’s it.

That was enough evidence to lead the powers that be to rule Balogun ineligible for the season. Nevermind that Balogun says he didn’t do it. Nevermind that the team’s former owner says Balogun didn’t do it. Nevermind that the league’s former commissioner says Balogun didn’t do it, the box score being presented against Balogun is unreliable and the league records don’t show Balogun playing. Nevermind that we’re talking about a fly-by-night semi-pro where it looks like the game is just a warm-up for the beers afterwards. Nevermind that the NCAA already cleared Balogun before he suited up for OU last year.

In the grand scheme of USC’s return to glory earlier this decade, Reggie Bush meant a lot. The decade’s most dynamic player helped propel the Trojans to conference and national titles, winning a Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in history along the way. When he was done dazzling college fans, he took his act to the pros, where he signed a lucrative contract as a high draft pick.

Since then, of course, accusations have surfaced that Bush and his family accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit benefits during his three years in Troy. The people who have come forward against Bush claim to have all kinds of documentation backing up their stories. Bush himself hasn’t exactly done much to defend himself against the allegations, reaching an out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers who was suing the now New Orleans Saints running back.

Yet, the NCAA has been investigating the USC athletic department for going on four years now, supposedly tying even more scandalous allegations against the men’s basketball program into the Bush investigation. So far, nothing.

If the case against Balogun is supposed to be strong, the case against Bush looks airtight. To be fair, we have no idea what kind of case has been presented in USC’s defense. (Assuming a case has been presented at all.) However, that doesn’t make the difference in apparent standards of proof any less glaring.

Of course, there are some important differences in the two cases—chiefly that Balogun met with the NCAA in-person to explain his situation, while Bush has blown the Association off. There’s also the matter of OU willingly handing over the goods that put the nail in Balogun’s coffin, while USC appears to be doing its part to vigorously observe the NCAA doing its digging.

Oh, and one other difference: Balogun is a backup linebacker who few outside of Oklahoma will miss, while USC is one of college football’s golden geese.

Bummed for Balogun

August 15, 2009

Given that the NCAA cleared Oklahoma LB Mike “The Bricklayer” Balogun to play last season, today’s news that he has been declared ineligible is pretty stunning.

For those unfamiliar with Balogun’s background, the 25-year-old former construction worker came to Norman last season out of Lackawanna (Pa.) Community College. After graduating high school, where he was forced to quit football so that he could get a part-time job, Balogun played two seasons of “semi-pro” ball in Maryland. (Homerism was as surprised as you probably are right now to learn such a thing still exists.) Anyway, apparently NCAA rules mandate that college players lose a year of eligibility for every year they play semi-pro ball after their 21st birthday. The purpose of the rule? I have no idea.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Balogun can continue to practice with the team until next Wednesday, at which point his status should be cleared up. However, coach Bob Stoops didn’t sound too confident: “We’re still hopeful that Mike will be eligible for this season, but we’ll have to see what happens over the coming days.”

Homerism has a soft spot for guys like Balogun. It’s tough not to admire someone who scraped and clawed his way out of a tough situation to achieve something great. Balogun brought that same blue-collar attitude with him to Norman, working his way up the depth chart as injuries felled the Sooners’ middle linebackers. By the end of the year, The Bricklayer found himself starting in the Big 12 and national title games.

This season, Balogun had been competing for the middle linebacker spot with senior Ryan Reynolds, last year’s first-stringer who’s coming off his second major knee injury, as well as sophomore Austin Box and true freshman Tom Wort. Although OU coach Bob Stoops’ decision to close the vast majority fall practices has choked off the flow of information coming out of fall camp, signs indicated Balogun would see meaningful playing time for the Sooners this season.

OU is fortunate that linebacker may be the deepest position on the 2009 team this season. The coaching staff seems to view Reynolds–one of defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ all-time favorites–as the odds-on choice to get the nod at middle linebacker. Box is expected to shift back to the middle after working some on the outside. He played extremely well in the middle last year when called into action. Plus, early enrollee Wort had a stellar spring and has carried that over into fall practice. He may turn out to be too good to keep off the field this year.

Still, Reynolds’ injury history makes the need for a solid backup or capable rotation pretty clear. At the short open session on Thursday, Balogun ran with the first-team defense, as Reynolds watched from the sidelines. Thinking back on the revolving door of players who saw action at middle linebacker for OU last year, the loss of The Bricklayer looms larger than you’d think for the Sooners.

A New Twist in the USC Investigation

July 30, 2009

The NCAA investigation into the USC athletic department took yet another turn today, as the Los Angeles Times reported that the football team had employed an outside consultant to advise on the Trojans’ special teams play. In fact, coach Pete Carroll confirmed today at the Pac-10 media day that he has brought in multiple ex-NFL coaches in consulting roles after receiving approval from the university’s compliance department.

Sounds innocuous enough, but, like everything else, the Association actually has rules governing this kind of thing (bylaw 11.7.1.1.1.4):

“An institution may use or arrange for a temporary consultant to provide in-service training for the coaching staff, but no interaction with student-athletes is permitted unless the individual is counted against the applicable coaching limits. An outside consultant may not be involved in any on- or off-field or on- or off-court coaching activities (e.g., attending practices and meetings involving coaching activities, formulating game plans, analyzing video involving the institution’s or opponent’s team) without counting the consultant in the coaching limitations in that sport.”

Sounds like a clear violation, but I guess it depends on the definition of “coaching activities.” In the end, it may come down to savvy.

My Money is on Ole Miss

June 24, 2009

Wow. Just… Wow.

Fanhouse blogger Clay Travis gives us this sign of college football’s apocalypse: online betting service BetUS.com is offering odds on the next program to commit an NCAA violation.
With all the rumor and innuendo swirling around USC, it’s no surprise the Trojans are the favorite here. Like Every Day Should Be Saturday, I’d love to hear the rationale behind Michigan State at 12-1, though. Is there some kind of inside information going down there?
As an aside, how the hell would Vegas settle this? If you’ve been following the news lately, you know that most programs have already “committed” some kind of NCAA violation by the time you’ve finished your morning constitutional.

USC (Finally) Comments on Investigation

June 12, 2009

USC has decided to speak out about the investigation into improper benefits allegedly received by Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo. ESPN blogger Ted Miller is right when he says there’s no breaking news in the statements from university official Todd Dickey and athletic director Mike Garrett. To Homerism, the biggest takeaway is that USC is claiming accusers Lloyd Lake and Louis Johnson are lying about the school declining to interview them. Also, note that USC appears to have initiated its internal investigation after the allegations were made and the NCAA had opened its own inquiry. From a compliance standpoint, that may not sit well with the Association.

From a purely tactical standpoint, I would have done this much sooner. At this point, it appears as though the media pontificating about the case finally goaded the Trojans into addressing its stance on the charges. 
If there’s one major issue that USC should have in its favor here, it’s credibility. Yet, by refusing to give any insight on its position, the school ceded some of that advantage, in my opinion. It’s kind of like that detective rule of thumb about guilty people sleeping soundly when they’re caught, while innocents scream their heads off. On top of all that, the delay in responding smacks of crisis management 101 strategies for dealing with a scandal.
In theory, public opinion should matter little to the NCAA. Good luck selling that now, though, seeing as Alabama got nailed today for a textbook scandal–not exactly flat-screen TVs and rent-free housing, as has been alleged in the USC case. If USC is cleared of wrongdoing, the Trojans better have damn good, irrefutable evidence that their accusers are lying. Otherwise, conspiracy theorists will have a field day, and the public will view this as the ultimate proof of the Association’s panty-waist “authority.”

Floyd’s Downfall

June 10, 2009

Today’s news that Tim Floyd has resigned as USC head basketball coach could be interpreted a number of ways in relation to the allegations against the Trojan athletic department:

1. He really feels he “can no longer offer the level of enthusiasm to (his) duties that is deserved by the university.” (By the way, Floyd’s statement reads like he hasn’t written anything since he was 18.)
2. Floyd did what he has been accused of.
3. The USC brass is making Floyd the fall guy for the current scandal. His ouster is a gesture to the NCAA in an effort to take some heat off the athletic department. Note the tacked-on comments from Todd Dickey, USC’s senior vice president of administration, regarding USC’s participation in the ongoing investigation. It’s probably the most in-depth statement yet from the university about the investigation.
4. A combination of 2 and 3.
As to how all this relates to the USC football program, the answer is, Who knows?
Obviously, this smacks of damage control on the part of ‘SC. If the Southern Cal athletic department is on the hook for the dreaded “lack of institutional control,” jettisoning Floyd at this point could provide a signal of how athletic director Mike Garrett and the school’s administration intend to address the potential NCAA charges. Specifically, Floyd himself was corrupt, but his transgressions don’t reflect a systemic problem with the school’s athletic department. Now that Floyd is out of the picture, USC should be allowed to carry on as usual. (Read: Hands off the football team.)
Whether or not the NCAA would buy that argument, though, is an entirely different matter. For example, if Floyd’s departure signifies a veiled admission of his guilt, would that lend credence to the notion that agents and runners also were patronizing the football sidelines and locker room? What about the fact that the alleged rules violations supposedly took place within a relatively short timeframe? Such inferences may not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be enough for the NCAA.
Whatever the case may be, Floyd’s unceremonious departure from Troy makes him look guilty as hell. It doesn’t exactly look too swell for USC football, either.

It Never, Ever Ends

June 2, 2009

This is how it’s done.

Trojans Choose not to Speak

June 1, 2009

Adding to the mountains of media coverage, today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times features an inquiry into one of the more curious aspects of the USC-NCAA firestorm: the university’s code of silence regarding the nasty allegations leveled against its football and basketball programs.

(The frequent references to the Sooners’ last run-in with the amateurism patrol struck me as embarrassing, humorous and, somehow, slightly vindicating all at the same time.)

Times reporter Paul Pringle offers a thorough analysis of the situation, and, to me, the most interesting takeaway is that ‘SC would be within its NCAA-sanctioned rights to mount a public defense against the charges. But, invoking the Seinfeld precedent, the Trojans choose not to speak.
Times columnist Kurt Streeter writes today that he fears USC’s response reflects the disheartening mindset that success on the playing field means not having to answer to anyone. USC, on the other hand, says its lack of response reflects a desire to maintain the “integrity” of NCAA investigations.
The school’s silence hasn’t stopped the army of Troy from decrying the media feeding frenzy surrounding the story, though. (I wrote about this wholly predictable reaction from Trojan Nation a few weeks back for Tilting at Windmills.) Nor has it prevented ‘SC haters from piling on.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a good thing when one of college football’s glamour programs gets nailed for major infractions. Doesn’t matter if it’s OU, Alabama or USC. Yet, as a fan of a program that has left me all too accustomed to trying to explain away a preponderance of damaging evidence, I can recognize desperate rationalizing when I see it. 
I’ll close with some food for thought. If all the allegations against USC’s football and basketball programs are entirely off-base, why aren’t Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo taking their accusers to court?