Probity, integrity, judiciousness? — Or a Gonzo Group? Let’s look at Barry Alvarez, Pat Haden, Mike Gould, and Dan Radakovich
[See also related Oct. 2013 post, “NCAA Decision Shows Clemson AD Dan Radakovich Would “Taint” Football Championship Selection Committee“]
We don’t know much yet about how the new College Football Playoff system is going to work out, come selection time, and the 13 new members won’t meet until Oct. 28. Unfortunately, we do know more, based on events just this week, about some of the characters selected to do the selecting.
Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez: Here’s Wisconsin AD and College Football Playoff Selection Committee member Barry Alvarez, apparently yelling at a referee from the sidelines of Wisconsin’s 37-7 win over Western Illinois last Saturday.
This is maybe a tad over-the-top, and almost not worth a mention — but for other shenanigans by other “august” members of this new and untested Selection Committee.
USC AD Pat Haden: On that same day, USC AD and College Football Playoff Selection Committee member Pat Haden not only argued directly with game referees about unsportsmanlike conduct penalties which had been assessed against USC Coach Steve Sarkisian. He preceded that extraordinary intervention — I’ve never seen an AD do anything which even resembles what Haden did – by a dramatic, attention-grabbing trot all the way across the field. That trot had to have been witnessed by most fans, well-familiar with Haden’s usually genial appearance, but also by referees who also knew who he was. And those same people can be presumed to have known that Haden is now, based upon his appointment to the prestigious selection committee, one of college football’s major “heavyweights.” This was Haden “pulling rank”: using his power, status and prestige to influence the decisions made by referees employed by the PAC-12 conference. It’s fair, isn’t it, to assume that each of the referees in that game “learned their lesson” when Haden came down on the field, which was to thereafter “lay-off” USC? And also fair to guess that those referees were also just plain stunned that any athletic director would engage in that behavior? We call this, to use the NCAA jargon, unfair “competitive advantage.” Corrupting the process.
Lt Gen. Mike Gould: Gould, former AD at the Air Force Academy, is also a member of the new Selection Committee. If you haven’t read this superb but appalling account (from the Colarado Springs Gazette) of the lawlessness and corruption rampant within the football program at the Air Force Academy during Gould’s tenure as AD at the Academy, then you should. The investigatory piece lays out a long and disgusting pattern of sexual assault, academic cheating and other violations of the Academy’s supposed Code of Honor during Gould’s entire tenure. Remember that the NCAA’s entire regulation and enforcement model depends upon one linchpin: vigilant self-reporting by each school. Gould’s flouting of that linchpin shows that he has little or no respect for the entire process. Corrupting the process . . .
Clemson AD (and former Georgia Tech AD) Dan Radakovich: In its July 2011 Georgia Tech decision, the NCAA chastised both the GT compliance director and GT then-athletics director, Dan Radakovich (now the Clemson AD and member of the 13-person college football playoff selection committee) for variously engaging in the “tainting” of witnesses, “hindering” of the investigation, and use of “pre-emptive contact” with witnesses. These are the descriptions by a Committee on Infractions of acts which constitute elements of corruption of process. If the testimony which was “tainted” by the actions of Radakovich and his compliance director had been sworn testimony, their actions would be considered suborning perjury.
The NCAA COI GT decision is one of a very tiny number of such “major violation” decisions where the athletic director (Radakovich) was the major violator. Most major violation cases involve players or coaches who have somehow broken the rules. In contrast, the GT violations directly arose from illegal actions taken by Radakovich while he led the school’s actions during the investigative stage.
The NCAA GT decision shows that Radakovich was insubordinate to his superior at the NCAA by intentionally breaching an explicit order of confidentiality. Radakovich’s insubordination had a direct impact upon the subsequent strange and 180-degree “change of story” by one of the players:
In November 2009, the NCAA contacted a GT Compliance officer with information that an “agent” had been spotted at GT, and that several GT football players may have received free clothing from the agent. The NCAA staffer explicitly warned the GT compliance officer that this information about agent actions could be revealed only to the GT President and AD Radakovich — and no one else.
Incredibly, only ten days later, AD Radokovich, Head Football Coach Johnson, the GT Compliance Office and the football player in question all sat in one room for a meeting. And they spoke in detail about the fact that the NCAA had information that an agent had been present and had provided free clothing to the athlete in question.
The result of this meeting?: the player in question reversed his prior admission that he’d received the clothing. That is, prior to the meeting he was forced to attend with the AD, Coach and Compliance chiefs at GT, that player had admitted that he’d gotten free clothing. After the meeting, he denied that fact.
Radakovich and the compliance officer admit that they both knew that they knew they had had a duty to keep the information confidential. Instead (to use the NCAA’s words) they “tainted” and “hindered” the NCAA investigation.
Pre-Emptive Meeting: The NCAA COI decision made much of this “pre-emptive” meeting which Radakovich and Johnson had with the player and how that prevented the NCAA from being able to make any final determination as to whether the clothing was “illegally” gotten from an agent or his runner.
Hindered the Committee: The COI found that “the staff members provided, before the NCAA could conduct their interview, information about what would be discussed in the interview,”[and that]”these actions impeded the enforcement staff investigations and hindered the committee in getting to the truth in this case. Otherwise, this case, as it pertains to the football program, would have been limited to impermissible benefits and preferential treatment violations.”
Let’s stop and think about this meeting, in a way that someone at the NCAA must have seen it. These are probably the two most powerful Athletics figures at GT –the AD and football coach (along with the compliance head) – in a room with the young player. Think he’s scared? Think he knows what’s expected of him? — maybe to shade the truth?
So it’s not simply that AD Radakovich engaged in deliberate, knowing conduct which directly contravened not just several NCAA bylaws, including Bylaw 10.1. It’s more profound than that: Radakovich countermanded an explicit order by the NCAA.
The COI cited GT for a lack of cooperation during the investigation and a failure to meet the conditions and obligations of membership (among other things.) GT was given four years’ probation, a $100,000 fine, and vacation of the 2009 ACC title game. They also imposed upon Georgia Tech’s athletics operation an order of “Public reprimand and censure.”
Finally, and as is common, the COI reflexively ordered all kinds of rules “education”, including the requirement that Radakovich attend a mandatory NCAA rules education seminar in 2012 (even though there was no evidence that Radakovich’s intentional acts were the result of any “misunderstanding” of the rules).
Days after the COI decision, Radakovich took a “we-did-nothing-wrong” stance.
1. “We cooperated fully during process.” (Compare this to the “pre-emptive meeting”, “tainted” evidence, or “hindered” [access] to the truth” findings by the NCAA.)
2. “We don’t agree with the report and its findings.”
3. “Georgia Tech should not be placed in a position where its integrity is challenged.”
4. “We disagree but we will move forward.”
Contrary to these assertions, there are many indications that Radakovich’s entire department was, in 2011, completely out of control. The COI found, as just one example, “The former general counsel was not the only person… who conveyed a combative attitude toward the investigation. The [NCAA Investigator] …. needed supervisory support at some interviews because of the attitude of the institution’s representation.” In addition, the Head Basketball Coach was fired prior to the NCAA decision, and violations in both football and basketball operations were addressed in the COI decision.
Radakovich is, apparently, a man comfortable in his own sin. But his behavior in these events, as a center-stage actor in a major violation involving subversion of the process which all members schools have agreed to, should make anyone very uncomfortable about the prospect of having him involved in any highly sensitive, nationally-oriented selection process. In fact, the clearly unethical behavior exhibited by Radakovich, along with similar major ethical breaches recently by Jim Tressel (fraud) and Jo Pa (concealment of evidence), are three major examples revealing that the entire Self-Reporting obligation which is the linchpin of the NCAA framework must now be presumed broken.
More to the point, if Radokovich will, as he did at GT, intentionally breach confidences he had a clear professional duty to maintain, should he be entrusted with highly confidential, if not publicly volatile information developed or discussed by the selection committee? If he will engage in efforts to illicitly “taint” or “hinder” process or evidence, is he suitable for a selection committee which must be beyond reproach? Isn’t the mere presence of this “taint” from the GT decision enough to disqualify him from consideration for the selection committee?
Finally, Radakovich intentionally “blew up” the team to which he had a higher duty: a “team” which should’ve been formed, cooperatively with the NCAA, and which should have included Radakovich, to investigate any GT violations. Instead, he subverted that team, apparently for his own interest. And he still apparently fails to comprehend the nature of gravity of his violation. Radakovich: a team player?
But that’s not the end of the story. Look back at this haughty, condescending comment by Cowboy Radakovich immediately after the NCAA’s 2011 decision, which established that Radakovich’s department, and Radakovich, had been cited for preferential treatment violations, a lack of cooperation during the investigation and a failure to meet the conditions and obligations of membership.
“I think that’s where they feel (the investigation) started,” Radakovich said. “I’ve been working with coaches for 25 years, and I think it’s important that you have a relationship with coaches. And while in this particular circumstance I should’ve picked up the telephone and made a call — and I probably could’ve convinced the (NCAA) individual that this was important for me to do. I’ve worked with other investigators who wouldn’t have had a problem with that, so I think that’s part of the other growth and understanding process you go through when you have these issues at hand.”
This is Radakovich making manifest that the rules do not apply to him because he knows better than anyone, including the NCAA’s COI, what is really important: “hav[ing] a relationship with coaches” and, avoiding the awful bad luck, we all should know, of not getting to work with “an investigator who who wouldn’t have a problem with” [the tainting of witnesses].
Keep the above Cowboy Radakovich quote in mind as you consider what the NCAA just did on September 4 , 2014, announcing a new set of penalties, including extending GT’s probation for another two years (to June 13, 2017), for repeated events which took place while Radakovich was still the AD at GT. Repeated impermissible phone calls were made in the two revenue sports, football and basketball. Some of the calls were made only three days before Radakovich and other GT sports managers appeared before the Committee on Infractions in April 2011. In all, GT coaches made at least 478 impermissible calls and sent at least 299 impermissible text messages to a total of 140 prospects.
New GT AD Mike Bobinski, hired after Radakovich left for Clemson in 2013, and apparently not too pleased with Radakovich’s out-of-control operation, said, “”What transpired in 2011-12 and the ‘failure to monitor’ finding are not things that sit well with me or with any of us here at Georgia Tech.”
What a trail. Radakovich “taints” witnesses, and “hinders” the investigation. Then takes the attitude, even after he’s been called out by the NCAA COI using extraordinary terms indicating corruption of process, that he and GT did absolutely nothing wrong. Might there have been a logical conclusion drawn by the basketball and football coaches at GT, in the face of Radakovich’s bluster, that all these NCAA rules are ridiculous, should be ignored, and that the coaches should just keep right on (illegally) dialing recruits phone numbers? These new facts suggest that Radakovich (and his department) were even more out of control than we had known, and that Radakovich was directly responsible for every sanction imposed upon GT.
Probity, integrity, judiciousness? Or “pulling rank;” unfairly using status and power to influence an outcome; obliviousness to rules and rule-breaking; tainting and hindering witnesses. Corrupting the process . . .
Unfortunately, we’re seeing more evidence that at least three of the Selection Committee members are prima donna cowboys, who believe the rules don’t apply to them.