Profit-Mad Bull generates “Fake” NCAA process… No one hurts or plagues the bull… COI Hearing Process as High School Musical… Collusion to Designate a Fall-Guy… NCAA Amateurs Regulate Professionals
[Below is the second part of my review of B. David Ridpath’s Tainted Glory: Marshall University, the NCAA, and One Man’s Fight for Justice.]
It’s Mostly All Fakery Anyway: The story of Ridpath’s shameful skewering by Marshall is compelling; more compelling is Ridpath’s rude, protracted eye-opening as he collects along the way increasing evidence that the Marshall power-brokers are, in fact, just winking at each other, and that their in-house compliance operation is largely just fakery built atop fraud. The truth, in fact, is that most college staff can be inartfully categorized as either Enablers or Enforcers, depending on just how thoroughly committed they are – explicitly or implicitly, consciously or not – to the hollow oversight demanded by the Profit-Mad-Bull which rules college athletics. (See the first half my review of Ridpath’s book, with reference to the line lifted from the Stones’ Gimme Shelter: “Mad Bull Lost Its’ Way.”)
“No one hurts or plagues the bull in any way”: Ridpath was an Enforcer, who took seriously his duty to attempt enforcement of NCAA Bylaws; in contrast, Marshall’s President, General Counsel Coach and AD all worked as Enablers, with their mantra drawn from Hemingway’s description, in his famous “Pamplona in July” short story, of the numerous randomly-developing morning bullfights (which traditionally precede the afternoon fights featuring Spain’s greatest matadors) conducted by numerous small-town matadors ranging across the broad arena:
“No one is armed. No one hurts or plagues the bull in any way.”
It’s the NCAA Mantra: “No one hurts or plagues the bull in any way”: The mantra applies across the entire NCAA “membership”, whether you are the Georgia Tech compliance officer who engineered (as is reflected in the NCAA’s July 2011 written decision) a swift, not-so-very-clever plan — in direct contravention of an explicit one-on-one phone edict from the NCAA staffer not to do so — to fool the NCAA, or you are Doug Archie, that OSU Grand Poobah of Compliance Enablers who has participated in and arranged a number of deliberate efforts to fool the NCAA and the Ohio public to whom he has owed a fiduciary duty during the last 36 months of repeated, astonishing NCAA sanctions and OSU incompetence. Enablers … and Protectors of the Mad Bull. (More on that in the next posts.)
Compliance Staff As Rodeo-Hand, Tracking the Mad Bull: But whether you’re an Enabler, or an Enforcer, in compliance you’re still the Rodeo Hand, whose primary duty is to keep both eyes on that rampaging profit-seeking Mad Bull. And at Marshall, it was all quite a rodeo; in Ridpath’s words, “one of the worst” compliance settings in the country, all of which makes good theatre: AD Lance West, “just looking for loopholes.” A female compliance cohort named Beatrice, more treacherous than Cordelia. Some guy named Bruce in the Athletic training Department who Ridpath claims gave too many “full body massages.” And a bad-guy, big-bucks, home-grown, by-the-bootstraps Jobs-for-Jocks booster-funder named McReynolds, who happily admitted that, growing up, he “was too poor to pay attention.” All of this in an Athletic Department “hell bent on making money.”
The Ersatz Reality of NCAA COI Enforcement Process: Marshall’s wild-west cheating and scheming provides enlightening, if not disgusting reading. But Ridpath’s book is a must read for every compliance staffer Rodeo-Hand, administrator, AD, college president, lawyer or sports fan primarily because it is one of the most sober and unvarnished inside views of the ersatz reality of the NCAA enforcement litigation process.
It’s not solely that transcripts from COI proceedings are always kept hidden (with only one exception, when an appellate court forced Florida to cough up an entire transcript in response to a FOIA request.) Or that college mucky-mucks never afterward leak a word to the press about the events at the silk-tie “we’re-all-gentlemen-here” COI proceedings. (Michigan’s AD Brandon treated reporter’s questions on the topic as if they’d just asked for Domino’s magic pizza recipe – a recipe which his replacement as Domino’s CEO was – by the way — at that very time trashing as “awful.”) Or that college athletics operations have each evolved into tiny versions of the Kremlin, desperate to hide from the public every possible shred of information which might provide that public with thorough, healthy transparent detail about their operations.
COI Hearing Process as High School Musical Production: In fact, Ridpath’s ugly, entirely accurate picture is of a COI process which has almost none of the characteristics of an adjudicative hearing adhering to the elements of due process, but resembles more a high school musical portrayal of a hearing (with much poetic license being taken). It’s the Mad profit-seeking Bull, demanding a hearing which must be, de facto, fake, and insures that: a) the public will largely be fooled into thinking that legitimate, rigorous oversight is taking place; b) the Profit Bull can continue its’ largely unrestrained romp across campuses; and c) gives the “accused” school plenty of wiggle room to carefully pre-arrange its’ own in-house evidence-burial and cover-up.
The Elements of the High School Musical “Hearing”: The members of the COI, Ridpath points out, thrill to serve on the Committee, both because it’s an opportunity to do the “corporate preen” which has swept the nouveau-corporation ethic of athletics-administration over the last twenty years, but also also because the “plum” nature of the appointment serves to raise the stature of the member back home. And the hearing process itself — as many as 50 or 60 people seated in a horseshoe in a large hotel ballroom – generates implicit pressures to avoid conflict and act as merely “cooperative gentlemen.” Marshall’s President, AD, and General Counsel, for example, appeared substantially more concerned– during and after the COI hearing — about Ridpath’s “confrontational” testimony during the hearing than they were about the deliberate and long-running fraudulent Jobs for Jocks program executed by their Head Football Coach. All of which is consistent with an axiom of de facto NCAA decision-making: “Head Coaches, AD’s and Presidents never lie, Players Do.”
NCAA and Schools Collude in the Night to Agree Upon a Designated Fall-Guy: Ridpath notes another de facto rule of the NCAA High-School-Musical COI Process: When an allegedly offending school’s NCAA filing proposes “self-imposed” penalties, it should always “under-impose,” recognizing that the COI usually adds a few additional penalties, beyond those “self-imposed” by the school. Little did Ripath know that this very practice would seal his fate at Marshall. According to the (less-then-reliable) Marshall power-brokers’ description, their back-and-forth phone calls with NCAA staffers and COI members — after the COI hearing was long past – included demand by the NCAA that Ridpath “be made a corrective action” [i.e.,‘Ridpath should ‘go.’] These communications — off the record, non-transparent and cowardly – subvert the process, but are a common device to allow convenient wink-wink “sweeping-under-the-rug”, and/or a colluded designation of the most appropriate “Fall Guy.” Which leads to another de facto axiom of NCAA COI enforcement: AD’s, Coaches, and Presidents Don’t Screw Up, Compliance Directors Do.
Things Are Not What They Seem: The lesson from all this? Things are not what they seem. The NCAA and its’ members work to create the appearance of a highly professional investigative and adjudicatory process which regulates, purportedly in good faith, the activities of allegedly amateur athletes.
NCAA Amateurs Regulate Professionals: The de facto reality, however, is the antipodean opposite, as shown by Ridpath (and any careful review of the entire process): a profoundly amateurish NCAA regulatory process, devoid of many basic due process elements, which functions to regulate what are essentially professional athletes. And this dysfunctional NCAA system obviously persists not because the billion-dollar per year NCAA lacks the money to invest to make the system legitimate, competent and professional. Many of the de facto High School Musical defects in the process could, truth be known, easily be remedied by President Emmert and the NCAA at relatively insignificant cost.
In fact, the NCAA lacks the will, and the prevailing amateurish High-School-Musical NCAA hearing process persists because it insures that no one hurts or plagues the Profit-Mad Bull in any way. And the illicit NCAA process works toward an entirely illicit end-result: to insure that every finding preserves the fiction – mandated by that Mad Bull – that college athletes are amateurs, not employees.
Summary: The entirely amateurish NCAA Regulatory Framwork Exists to Allow NCAA to Permanently “Regulate” Essentially Professional College Athletes into entirely counterfeit “Amateur” Status.