I was in the middle of my first week here at Trapit when I came up with the idea of an NCAA Probe Trap. At the time, whispers about a University of Oregon investigation were undoubtedly brewing and the Ohio State scandal had already been rapidly developing. The tightly woven spiral in college football began unraveling, wobbling out of control right before my eyes. It was the perfect opportunity to give the tools of Trapit a test drive to see where this story may go. Nobody could’ve predicted it would get this ugly.
I woke up that eerie morning via text message.
Next thing you know, I am upright in bed, blind as a bat, and opening my laptop without bothering to jump up to put in my contact lenses. Eyebrows inches from the screen, I read the headlines that the head coach of my beloved Oregon Ducks—Chip Kelly—was bound to be the next coach to walk the plank in college athletics. Moment of silence please. Yahoo Sports had just released a second investigative piece detailing the relationship the Ducks football program had with an unofficial street agent Will Lyles. The cold hard facts were startling, and as a diehard Duck grad, the realization that there was no logical explanation for our program’s actions created a fiery concoction of emotions I can’t bare to describe. It stung even worse to see that my NCAA Probe Trap had picked up the Oregon story right away. As a sports fan, as a sports editor, there was no hiding from it.
From the get-go, the NCAA has had a serious case against Oregon. Although there are many gray areas, there is still no doubt about some sort of a case existing there. When the facts emerged about the dated player profiles given, the documented phone records, and Kelly’s suspicious behavior, I decided I could no longer search for a reason to defend our program’s innocence. Instead, I hung my head and harnessed any energy I could muster from this situation into finding hope that the NCAA would have mercy on us when coming to an agreement on our reprimand. I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard the NCAA hammered our fellow conference nemesis USC. Could we really be the next victim to face a post-season ban, just one year removed from the national championship game?
And then it happened. Out of nowhere, we truly became lucky ducks. And who would’ve thought that Yahoo Sports of all institutions would be the ones to come to our rescue after what they had written about us just a month prior. After an eleven-month investigation, Yahoo struck gold for the second time this summer, releasing another groundbreaking article about a university tied to serious NCAA allegations.
This time, the negative light was beaming down on the Miami Hurricanes, and the Ducks were free to fly away from the headlines and start prepping for what truly mattered: LSU.
Seeing this picture posted above was just another day waking up to an absolutely eye-popping story in college sports. Details on the freshly surfaced Miami scandal began to flood my NCAA Probe Trap right off the bat. The Ducks were under fire for a paper trail amounting to a measly $25,000. With the seriousness of Miami’s situation, it was much different. We are talking millions of dollars in off-the-field exchanges. The types of infractions committed were through the roof, above and beyond what any university has done in recent memory. It made sneaky Oregon money look like toilet paper in contrast. There was a bigger picture in college football beginning to come into focus and Yahoo’s story revealed that the problems in college sports were well beyond players interacting with agents and boosters.
According to Yahoo’s little bird—Nevin Shapiro—the rule breaking on South Beach began in 2002, when athletic director Paul Dee was high in the chain of command at the university. Dee stuck around the Miami campus for the next seven years as the acting AD, but continued to turn a blind-eye away from serious infractions being committed by student-athletes year-after-year at Miami. Whether he knew about the dirt being swept under his very own rug or not, it doesn’t take a genius to decipher that Dee highly lacked institutional control over his position at the University of Miami. Dee even had the nerve to boast that all schools should, “have to put in place the kind of institutional control we have at Miami.” A little over a year later, Dee has found himself caught up in one of the biggest scandals in NCAA history, involving over 70 different student-athletes that all played under his watch.
So as Duck fans, why should we care about Dee in the first place? USC has their reasons, and so should we.
Dee’s eventual career move is where the rubber finally meets the road. After Dee stepped down as Miami’s AD in 2008, he graciously accepted a career move as the new chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. His first task was to evaluate how the NCAA should handle the investigation of the USC football program after it became public knowledge that the family of ex-Heisman champ Reggie Bush accepted a significant chunk of cash while he was still enrolled in school. As a result, USC was docked thirty scholarships and received a two-year post-season ban, both of which were heavily influenced by Dee’s role in the committee. It was the most harsh NCAA crackdown on a storied football program in decades.
It’s sickening to find out a year later that a complete hypocrite was the muscle man calling the shots on USC’s punishment. Dee’s doctrine was simple: “High profile players demand high profile compliance.” This was an actual quote he used to stand strong behind his decision to keep USC—a team vastly followed by a giant sports market—out of a bowl game for consecutive years. Even though Duck fans loved to watch the USC empire crumble, the baton passed over to us always felt like it was done in uncomfortable way.
It’s time for the NCAA to call off the dogs and take a hard look in the mirror at the monster that they have created. As fans, we are supposed to be able to expect that there is nothing but a trustworthy, unbiased governing body making the tough decisions that affect college sports. This is especially important when we are talking about decisions that could potentially break the hearts of millions of people that would be crushed to see to their team’s season lose its meaning. There is no hiding it now, the comittee made an awful mistake by allowing Dee to punish USC in such a brutal fashion. The NCAA absolutely cannot afford to make a mistake like that again…at least not while the heat is on them.
As a Duck fan, the realization that the NCAA took a step backward with Dee’s leadership debaucle is a beautiful thing. It bought us time. The credibility of the NCAA has been crippled, and they are getting hammered about this very truth in the media. And rest assured, journalists will be keeping a critical eye on the methods of future NCAA investigations from here on out.
For now, Duck fans can breathe a heavy sigh of relief, because in the current state of affairs, there is a little stench in everyone’s corner at this point. How can anyone point a finger right now? Let’s just put this NCAA Probe to rest, and play some football already.