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NCAA punishment system needs reform

Since the words “lack of institutional control” and “failure to monitor” became ingrained on the mind of the average college sports fan, the NCAA has been under intense scrutiny over the past year. That’s no surprise.

From University of Southern California’s two-year bowl ban to Boise State’s notice of infractions, decisions made by the NCAA have been placed under a microscope.

The commonly shared belief: just change something.

In a public relations move, the NCAA held an educational enforcement experience two weeks ago – a mock investigation with 25 media members assuming the roles of investigators and members of the Committee on Infractions (COI) in a fictitious case. The event was similar to the annual mock selection show held each February to shed light on how 68 college teams are selected in basketball’s March Madness.

The idea came as a result of a need for transparency, as well as “to educate critics,” according to a press release run on

“To the extent that we can provide you and your colleagues with better information, we want to do it,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said to reporters.

But underlying its efforts to promote transparency and “enlighten” the public was a tone that appeared all too condescending. Emmert and other NCAA officials appeared to seemingly belittle the criticisms raised over the past year, insinuating that detractors simply do not understand the process.

No doubt, it’s a confusing ordeal. The complex nature should not be an excuse by the NCAA to shield itself from well-deserved criticism. Nobody disputes its nuances.

The real problem lies in the discrepancy in the COI’s decisions, not in a complex process the average fan and beat writer is incapable of grasping. It was not explained at the mock session.

“When it came time to dole out the punishments, I found it strange and surprising we weren’t given any official sentencing guidelines or case precedents,” writer Stewart Mandel said. “While we were given a list of available penalties (scholarships, postseason ban, etc.), we essentially had carte blanche power to make up whatever numbers or length we deemed fit based on the severity of the crimes – which in itself is a subjective judgment.”

Determining a fair way to punish schools and rule violators needs some sort of consistency. As we saw with the USC’s two-year ban, giving a Notre Dame athletic department official free reign to dole out bans might not be the best idea.

There needs to be some uniformity in the decisions process. No matter how complex the process is, this still needs to change.

Joey Kaufman is a student at the University of Southern California.