Thursday, August 18, 2011
Sports News

NCAA has more to deal with than just Miami mess

By Tim Dahlberg, AP sports columnist

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[August 18, 2011]  CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) -- Strippers, prostitutes, decadent parties on the yacht. If all the allegations against the University of Miami turn out to be true, the NCAA may have to add another chapter to the rule book when it comes to defining what exactly constitutes extra benefits for college athletes.

Not to worry, though. The organization is already on the case, and no doubt will be helped along by an extraordinarily detailed Yahoo Sports expose of a Miami athletic program where cash was king and the partying never seemed to stop.

No word yet on whether they put Inspector Clouseau or Barney Fife in charge, but for five months the NCAA has been diligently conducting its own probe of the Hurricanes and this time it means business. It really does.

"If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement.

Just what those changes might be, Emmert didn't say. Certainly, though, prostitutes and strippers weren't at the top of the agenda when presidents of major universities met last week in what was supposed to be a first step in reforming major college athletics.

Some good did come out of that meeting, most notably a measure to boost graduation rates along with a possible postseason ban for teams that don't measure up. But the scandal unfolding at Miami illustrates how a program can openly flaunt rules for years with little fear of the consequences.

For that to change, someone has to be in charge of college athletics. And, despite all of Emmert's tough talk, it's clear the NCAA isn't.

The big conferences control the big bowls. Television money dictates who plays where and when and in what conference. Wealthy boosters chase after the most coveted coaches with fistfuls of cash.

And all the NCAA does is slap a few hands once in a while when it has no other choice.

That's not to say Miami will get off easy once the NCAA finishes its investigation. The Yahoo Sports report is so damaging that the football program could be grounded for years based on it alone. There will surely even be a call for the NCAA's so-called "death penalty," which has not been used since the Southern Methodist University football program was decimated by it a quarter-century ago.

If ever a program deserves to be shut down, Miami might be the one, given the range of accusations made by convicted Ponzi con man and Miami booster Nevin Shapiro and told to Yahoo Sports. Based on his tell-all, there wasn't much that top football players and other athletes at Miami lacked for over the years.

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Most boosters hand out $100 bills. Shapiro went much further, treating players to strip club parties, paying for prostitutes and catering to their every need. In one case, Shapiro told the website, he even paid for an abortion for a woman one of his players had impregnated.

Much of it allegedly happened under the watch of former Miami athletic director Paul Dee, who would go on to -- no, we're not making this up -- become chairman of the NCAA's committee on infractions. It was from that position last year that Dee came down hard on the University of Southern California in the Reggie Bush case, saying then that "higher-profile players require higher-profile monitoring."

It the allegations prove correct, that makes Dee either a hypocrite or someone who was stunningly unaware of what was taking place right under his nose. Either way, it doesn't do much to inspire confidence in the enforcement efforts of the NCAA.

Ultimately, though, enforcement problems are the least of the NCAA's worries. The real trouble in college sports runs a lot deeper than players getting caught selling jerseys or boosters handing out cash or seats on a yacht.

The NCAA has lost control over big money sports, especially football, and seems powerless to get it back. There is so much money flowing into college football these days that schools and conferences have little incentive to do anything but pay lip service to the organization and its ideas about athletes getting an education and graduating with real degrees.

Emmert says he wants to change that, and so far in his short term as NCAA president he should get credit for at least talking a good game.

Achieving real reform, though, will be a lot tougher than simply cleaning up the mess in Miami.

[Associated Press; By TIM DAHLBERG]

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at or

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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