On Tuesday, Feb. 20, the NCAA denied the appeal from the University of Louisville regarding an investigation stemming from allegations of a staff member arranging escort services for players and recruits.
The Cardinals now must vacate wins from 2011 to 2015. That includes a pair of Final Four appearances and the 2013 National Championship. It is the first time in the Final Four era where a championship has been vacated.
It is the second time in recent years where a top program has had to vacate wins. In March 2015, the NCAA wiped 101 wins off the board for Syracuse based on the academics of players.
In both cases, the universities imposed postseason bans on themselves before the end of the NCAA investigation. The NCAA did not impose further postseason bans in both investigations.
The NCAA has seemed to put their foot down when it comes to programs breaking rules, but it is still struggling with consistency in rulings and investigations.
Take the investigation of the University of North Carolina. An NCAA investigation spanned seven years over the Tar Heels’ athletes taking sham “paper classes” allowing athletes to inflate their GPA in order to remain eligible.
The conclusion of the investigation stated that while student-athletes did participate in the courses, they were offered to all students. Technically, it became a case of academic fraud, and the NCAA leaves the policing of such issues to the universities.
North Carolina came out untouched, and the NCAA became a joke in the eyes of many. If it becomes as easy as offering up the services to the general student body, why not do that for every issue?
Would Louisville have been forced to vacate a national championship if they had offered escorts to some incoming non-athlete freshman? Yes, making up an argument is dangerous, but this is a question that frames the issue.
Just asking such a question brings out more questions about the NCAA’s effectiveness in policing any issue when it comes to infractions. And it gets even worse for the NCAA.
In September, the FBI launched an investigation surrounding fraud and corruption into four assistant coaches. Allegations include illegal cash payments to prospects and their families.
If these allegations turn out to be true, and are as widespread as some fear they will be, then how did the NCAA miss these happenings going on under their nose?
Reports that up to three dozen programs could be facing NCAA sanctions are currently circulating through news sites. One source is quoted saying, “When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated.”
Those top-16 seeds from the Feb. 11 show include Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Purdue, Auburn, Kansas, Duke, Cincinnati, Clemson, Texas Tech, Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio State, Arizona and Oklahoma.
The groundwork has been laid for the potential of the biggest bracket buster of all time. This one will have lasting consequences if it happens.
But at this point, it is just conjecture. What is known is that the NCAA is still shaky when it comes to investigations and the punishments it hands out. And if there is one thing athletes can agree on when it comes to officiating, it is consistency on both sides.
The NCAA doesn’t have that. And if there is a big explosion in college basketball, can they handle the pressure? It seems more likely that they too will have to change if the allegations are true.