As Florida State faced off against Miami a weekend ago, it seemed to be the battle of dirty programs: Miami, a program run by sleazy boosters, and Florida State, a black hole of accountability. Both are equally guilty in different ways, but neither will receive the same punishment. That’s because they’re under the tyrannical control of the NCAA, the Death Star of college athletics, an organization that does what it wants, how it wants, when it wants, and makes the rules up as it goes.

The Sleazy Bowl!
The Sleazy Bowl!

Miami finally received its slap of the wrist about a year ago, two and a half years after the NCAA started investigating claims of a rogue booster, Nevin Shapiro, doling out money, doing favors, and even buying a yacht for Miami football players over an eight year period. In total, Shapiro estimates he spent $2 million on the football team. The NCAA’s investigation into Shapiro was equally shady. In January 2013, ESPN learned that the NCAA paid Shapiro’s bankruptcy attorney to ask Shapiro a list of questions about the Miami case during his disposition. It took nearly a year for the NCAA to announce its findings, only hitting Miami with a loss of three scholarships per year.

Just for some comparison, SMU, who famously received football’s only “Death Penalty” in history (the football program was shut down from 1986-7), had a booster that paid players “tens of thousands” of dollars. Meanwhile, Miami was let off with only a paper cut. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the NCAA in a nutshell.

Now, the NCAA is faced with a slew of new cases to pick up: there’s North Carolina, who for a decade basically allowed its athletes to skip classes altogether, Florida State, who reportedly covered up a hit-and-run and allegedly tampered with Jameis Winston’s sexual assault trial, and Oklahoma State, who, according to a five-part Sports Illustrated story, cheated in every way possible, paying players for big plays, having tutors finish players’ schoolwork, turning a blind eye to drug use, and providing each potential recruit a “hostess” on their official visit to try to lure them to Stillwater.

All these schools are yet to be punished. Florida State hasn’t even been investigated yet.

The problem for North Carolina and Florida State and Oklahoma State is that they have no way to prepare for what will come next.

They have to fall subject to the all-mighty NCAA, and there’s no telling what can happen when the future of your athletic program is in the hands of American sports’ crazy uncle.

Since giving SMU the Death Penalty, the NCAA has yet to dole out a punishment even entering the Death Penalty’s orbit, but that’s not to say there haven’t been worse scandals. All four cases mentioned above could be considered worse infractions. USC under Pete Carroll, Oklahoma under Barry Switzer, Jim Tressel at Ohio State all fall within the vicinity of SMU’s egregiousness. None came close to having equal penalties. Post-Sandusky Penn State came as close to anyone. The charges were dropped two years after they were announced.

Joe Pa was another that paid for the NCAA's ineptitude.
Joe Pa was another that paid for the NCAA’s ineptitude. Well, and his own.

That’s how it goes with the NCAA, who seemingly has unchecked power when punishing but rarely actively polices the sports it makes judgments on and is supposed to protect, instead relying on schools’ self-reporting and the reporting of journalists as well.

When the NCAA does get those reports, they act fickly. How they reach their verdict is as confusing as finding the inner meaning of Too Many Cooks.

For an organization that, whenever they do bring down the hammer, often cites “a lack of institutional control” as a main reason, the NCAA sure seems like a hose let loose on full blast—uncontrolled. They’re hypocrites, they’re biased, and it’s time some school—be it a Michigan, a Cal, or even a lowly Alcorn State—stands up and shouts what we’ve all been thinking.

“HOW THE HECK IS THE NCAA STILL A THING?!”

All it takes is one—I can promise you that. I see it every day in school, while, during a test, everyone eyes each other from across the room in a standoff to see who has the cajones to stand up and turn it in first. It happened all across professional sports since Jason Collins came out last year, and a handful of others have followed suit. Even this week, it seems like some new woman, protected by the assurance of being just one of many, comes forward every day accusing Bill Cosby of rape.

If a Michigan, a Cal, an Alcorn State disassociated from the NCAA, it would change everything, but at the same time, nothing at all. Within years, the NCAA would be a distant memory, instead a College Football Playoff selection committee-esque board of politicians, ex-players, and athletic directors would take its place. Games would go on as normal. Alabama would still hate Auburn, and Auburn would still hate Alabama.

Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, has completely lost control of the association. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, has completely lost control of the association. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

All that would change would be off the field. Schools and coaches would be held accountable. There would be a law-code of sorts, defining penalties, not just relying on someone’s gut feeling after a measly excuse for an investigation. Schools would be assessed annually, with officials actively searching for infractions, so I don’t have to watch Miami play Florida State and wonder how much money Jameis Winston is getting paid under the table, or where the ‘Canes are planning on taking the team yacht after the game.

Never again would the punishment be more polarizing than the crime. Would the investigator be more curious than the investigation. Would athletic directors have to sit in purgatory while someone in Indianapolis pulls a sanction from thin air.

Sports would be about sports. Isn’t that a wild thought?

But why, you ask, can they not just reform the NCAA? Well, after 20+ years of free rein, it’s beyond saving. There are too many holes, too little control, too many questions that need answers. It’s a dying animal, and all that’s left to answer is, “Who’s taking the shot?”

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