Is requiring a program to vacate wins gained while using ineligible players an effective deterrent?
The Division I Committee on Infractions has used the penalty from time to time, and committee chair Dennis Thomas clearly believes the sanction has clout based on his reaction to how Kentucky counted vacated wins in honoring men’s basketball coach John Calipari for 500 victories.
Now comes the Ohio State football case and the program’s self-sanction of vacating wins earned involving ineligible student-athletes.
Based on reaction to the Kentucky matter (that is, the sentiment that people pay no attention to vacated outcomes and evidence that programs other than Kentucky disregarded orders to vacate victories), you might think the media reaction to the Ohio State’s self-penalty would be uniformly negative, but that’s not the case. Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandell thought the penalties seemed reasonable given the nature of the allegations at the moment.
Two commentators, though, have advanced a different approach. They want to require offending programs to pay train-riding dollars for games in which they used ineligible athletes.
Blogging for Forbes’ SportsMoney, Patrick Rishe proposed consideration of severe monetary sanctions – millions of dollars − for programs that knowingly violate the rules. “(V)acating revenues earned with ineligible players and instituting strict financial penalties for cheaters is the only way to truly show contrition,” Rishe wrote. “If the NCAA truly wants to institute change while scaring the bejesus out of Division I coaches and administrators, it needs to ‘man up’ and legislate specific and strict financial penalties that would surely cause a reduction in infractions.”
Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch took a similar approach. “College football is big business,” he wrote, “so treat it as such by throwing the checkbook at cheaters. It’s time to speak the language of athletic directors and presidents. You cheat, you pay. Packing such a powerful punch could be as restorative as it is punitive. The NCAA could divide the guilty school’s payment evenly across other conference schools. Talk about an effective deterrent.”
The list of possible penalties is provided in Division I Bylaw 126.96.36.199, and one of them (paragraph f) is “a financial penalty” − although that hasn’t been taken to mean anything on the order of the $10 to $15 million hit that Rishe described in his article. The most recent change to those penalties occurred in 2003, and the nature of the enterprise has changed remarkably in the intervening years.
Maybe it is time to see if the punishment fits the time.