What little credibility the NCAA had left as the governing body of college athletics vanished with its recent decision not to hammer North Carolina after its investigation into academic fraud involving hundreds of student-athletes and 18 years of bogus courses. Even NCAA President Mark Emmert was forced to admit the public has lost confidence in his organization.
North Carolina’s transgressions were far, far more serious and pervasive than the ones resulting in sanctions against the Syracuse University basketball program a few years ago. This was the difference between going 100 mph in a 20 mph zone and going 65 mph when the speed limit is 55.
SU was punished for a handful of infractions, most notably academic fraud committed on behalf of one player — former center Fab Melo. Under head coach responsibility rules adopted by the NCAA seven years ago, Orange coach Jim Boeheim took the brunt of the punishment and was forced to serve a nine-game suspension and vacate 108 wins. I thought the penalties (other than the deletion of wins) were justified because this was the second time in his four-decade run at SU that his program had been sanctioned for malfeasance.
But given the fact North Carolina coach Roy Williams was not held responsible at all for his program’s violations has caused me to change my opinion. To believe Williams and his staff knew nothing about the nature of these bogus courses strains credulity. I agree with Boeheim that it’s “screamingly obvious” the NCAA Infractions Committee is erratic in the way it interprets things and metes out punishment.
“I’m supposed to know about a 10-page paper and they don’t know about 18 years of A’s?” Boeheim said.
In light of this absurd ruling, I would like to see the NCAA restore the wins they took away from Boeheim.
- Peyton Manning reportedly was in Cleveland to talk about taking over the operation of the woebegone Browns. Owner Jimmy Haslam has donated millions to the University of Tennessee football program, so there is a strong connection between him and the former Vols quarterback. The seeds for Manning wanting to run an NFL franchise were planted during his playing days in Denver, as he watched John Elway make the transition from Super Bowl-winning quarterback to Super Bowl-winning general manager. Now, if the Browns could only find a quarterback half as good as Manning was in his prime, they might be able to climb out of the abyss that’s seen them win one of their last 27 games.
- Speaking of Mannings, the end appears near for Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, in New York. He’s taken a pounding for the 1-7 Giants, and desperate and overmatched head coach Ben McAdoo may soon switch to backup Davis Webb. I blame more of this on McAdoo, Giants GM Jerry Reese and a rash of injuries to key players, such as Odell Beckham Jr., than I do on Eli. I believe the younger Manning is a Hall of Fame quarterback — two Super Bowl victories against the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady-led New England Patriots and more than 50,000 passing yards bolster his case. I also think Eli has some decent football left in him, and wouldn’t rule out a reunion with his former coach Tom Coughlin, now the GM of the re-energized Jacksonville Jaguars.
- When Hall-of-Fame forward Bob McAdoo played for the old Buffalo Braves in the National Basketball Association, the slogan was: “McAdoo CAN do!” The Giants slogan should be: “McAdoo CAN’T do!” Fickle Giants fans who ran Coughlin out of town as the coach a few years ago were chanting, “We Want Coughlin!” during Sunday’s 51-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
- The person who replaces Joe Girardi as New York Yankees manager better be prepared for the through-the-roof, unrealistic expectations for the 2018 season. After being ahead of schedule this season, not only making the playoffs, but coming within a game of reaching the World Series, the Bronx Bombers will be expected by fans and media to win it all next season. They fail to realize this remains a young team, and some of those young players could very well struggle next season. Remember what happened to the Astros in 2016 when many expected them to win it all after the promising results the year before? Sometimes you take some steps back before moving forward.
- The embarrassing loss to the New York Jets two Thursdays ago complicated but didn’t kill the Buffalo Bills playoff hopes. Yes, they would have been sitting pretty at 6-2 had they won. And that would have given them a little cushion as they prepare for a challenging four-game stretch that starts with Sunday’s home game against the red-hot New Orleans Saints, followed by road games in Los Angeles (against the Chargers) and Kansas City, before returning home to host the New England Patriots. If the Bills can go 2-2 in that stretch, they’ll be in good shape for the final run, which includes two games with the Miami Dolphins and one against Indianapolis. Three wins in December could put them at 10-6, which should be good enough, considering the Bills own leads and tie-breaker advantages over several AFC teams. So don’t stop trusting Coach Sean McDermott’s process just yet.
Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist.