How Stuff Works: A SEC Investigation In Progress

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Photo: An SEC Investigation In Progress (Nick Saban, Mike Slive, Cecil Newton, Mark Emmert)

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Auburn Openly Mocks NCAA President - In Writing

On March 31, 2011, while speaking to the media at the Final Four in Houston, NCAA President Mark Emmert promised the public that he would not hesitate to implement “sufficient deterrents” to prevent schools from knowingly breaking NCAA rules.


Emmert:

“If our penalties and processes aren’t providing sufficient deterrents, then I need to sit down with the board of Division I and others and fix that and make sure that our penalty structure and our enforcement processes serve as a deterrent so people conduct themselves with integrity and forthrightness.”

Monday Auburn released details of Gene Chizik’s new contract extension.

Besides the length of the deal and an increase in compensation, there were no notable changes to the original Chizik contract consumated between the parties in 2008.

Except one.

Paragraph 13 (d) of Chizik’s 2008 contract included a clause that would relieve Auburn from any financial obligation to the coach if the school’s football program was subject to NCAA investigation. From the 2008 contract Chizik signed:

In the event an investigation is instituted by Auburn, the SEC or the NCAA into alleged major rules violations or significant or repetitive violations involving Coach and/or the football program, during the pendency of the investigation, University shall have the right, after written notice to Coach, to suspend payment of any amount owed to Coach under Paragraph 15 or 16.

As noted by Jon Soloman of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS, of Chizik’s $3.5 million salary, $3 million comes from personal appearances, endorsements and media rights - which are detailed in Paragraph 15 and 16 of the coach’s contract.

Auburn deletes NCAA investigation clause in Gene Chizik's contract

For Chizik’s new agreement with the school, Paragraph 13 (d) was completely deleted and replaced with this clause:

Coach agrees he will comply with Southeastern Conference Rules and be bound by and comply with the enforcement, penalty, and other disciplinary provisions and procedures of the NCAA and of the Southeastern Conference, including but not limited to the provisions of Article 4 of the Southeastern Conference Constitution and the Southeastern Conference Bylaw 19.8.

The new clause is a boiler plate statement designed to keep up appearances while completely all Chizik accountability to NCAA rules violations.

Auburn deletes NCAA investigation clause in Gene Chizik's contract

Three months earlier, NCAA President Emmert said at the Final Four press conference:

“We cannot have coaches, administrators, parents or student-athletes sitting out there deciding, ‘Is this worth the risk? If I conduct myself in this fashion, and if I get caught, it’s still worth the risk.’ We don’t want those kind of cost benefit analyses going on.”

With Auburn recently bankrupting Chizik’s contractual obligation to NCAA rules, it’s impossible to come to any other conclusion than NCAA President Emmert’s public proclamations mean nothing to at least one NCAA member institution.

Perhaps Auburn’s attitude has something to do with Emmert confirming a NCAA violation committed by Cecil Newton, then clearing Cam Newton’s route to the two highest college football honors an NCAA student-athlete can attain.

On March 31, Emmert also said:

We have to hold everybody in the enterprise accountable, whether they’re administrators, coaches, ADs, players or parents, anybody involved. Coaches are no different than anyone else in that process.

Coaches in collegiate sport have a different role than coaches in professional sport. Again, by definition these are student-athletes. So a coach is not just a coach, they’re also a mentor and a teacher. That brings with it responsibilities that are different than being an NBA coach or an NFL coach.

On Jan. 30, 2011, Kevin Scarbinsky of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS profiled Auburn Associate Athletic Director Tim Jackson.

Excerpt from the profile:

In a rare interview in his office Thursday, Jackson said the leadership of Auburn football breaks down like that of an NFL franchise. “Jay Jacobs is the owner. Gene’s the head coach. I’m the general manager.”

Chizik said their management structure “is probably unique in college football. This may not work for everybody else. It works for us. Everybody is on the same page.”

It works because Chizik and Jackson have a unique bond and level of trust for a coach and administrator, especially at Auburn, where the last two head coaches, Terry Bowden and Tommy Tuberville, seemed at constant odds with “the suits.”

As I noted here on Jan. 30, while Jackson’s role as “general manager” of the Auburn football team is detailed in the News profile, his primary job at Auburn goes went unmentioned.

Tim Jackson General Manager of Auburn Football

Jackson is the executive director of the private fundraising arm for Auburn Athletics called “Tigers Unlimited.”

Jackson controls the purse strings of the multi-million organization, which funds much of the operation of the Auburn Athletic Department and pays the majority of Chizik’s salary.

Before Jackson took over, current Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs was entrusted with the same role.

We’ve officially reached the point where I’m ready to hold NCAA member schools blameless thanks to, literally, 100 years of do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do NCAA rules governance.

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Meet The Woman Calling BCS on College Football

Earlier this week United States Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Christine Varney sent a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert (see below) asking why the NCAA has not implemented a college football playoff.

Christine Varney Photo

(At Varney’s confirmation hearing, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch brought up BCS)

Though BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock was also sent a copy of the inquiry, ironic that the person most responsible for keeping the BCS alive and well, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, was not publicly copied.

On Dec. 7, 2005, at a U.S. Congressional hearing titled, “Determing a Champion on the field, A comprehensive review of the BCS”, Delany - flanked by a then-unknown Hancock - said the following:

“I am absolutely sure that an NFL-style football playoff would provide maybe three or four times as many dollars to the Big Ten than the present system does. In fact, a number of corporations have come forward and tried to lure us into a playoff with those kinds of dollars. There is no doubt in my mind that we are leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table.”

That was 2005. Current market conditions suggest that an NCAA football playoff could now net as much as $1 billion per year for NCAA member institutions.

But why is the government once again sticking its nose in the BCS and NCAA’s business?

Might have something to do with Delany acknowledging in 2005 that with the continued implementation of the BCS - which by its own admission restricts trade and limits competition - the NCAA is losing out on hundreds of millions in annual revenue. Revenue which could go to settling massive shortfalls suffered by hundreds of intercollegiate athletic departments across the country.

By, as Delany put it in 2005, “leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table”, those school athletic program deficits are now mostly made up with taxpayer funds. In fact, Delany’s own Big Ten schools (most recently Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin) have accessed millions in taxpayer funds to balance athletic department budgets over the years.

DOJ Christine Varney Letter To Mark Emmert About BCS

Despite the direct rhetoric in the DOJ letter, United States Assistant Attorney General and designated illegal trust-buster Christine Varney and NCAA President Emmert are essentially allies in the quest to eliminate the BCS.

Varney’s May 3 letter is more a warning shot in the direction of the BCS - and a move to empower the NCAA - than it is an interrogation of Emmert. Varney knows full well that Emmert has little-to-no control over the BCS, so the letter is more an announcement of the Department of Justice’s intentions than a fact-finding missive to be taken literally.

No, the man left to answer Varney’s questions will eventually be Delany. But with the Department of Justice now officially on the case, I’d honestly be surprised if the Big Ten Commissioner continues to prop up a system which only exists by his design.

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Ducks Dare NCAA With Seastrunk, Opposite Day

Spring Practice got underway this week in Eugene.

Willie Lyles, Lache Seastrunk, Oregon Invoice To Lyles for $25,000

(What, Chip Can’t Afford To Cash Out?)

The good news for Oregon is that - as Ken Goe of the PORTLAND OREGONIAN reported Tuesday - after a disappointing freshman redshirt, Lache Seastrunk has been impressive this week during drills.

Or is that bad news? (That is, that Seastrunk is even on the field.)

According to Oregon Coach Chip Kelly it’s definitely the former.

On March 3, the same day Oregon confirmed it had paid $25,000 to the one-person “recruiting service” run by Seastrunk “mentor” Willie Lyles, Kelly told John Canzano of the Oregonian: We’ve done nothing wrong.”

So why then did Kelly and Oregon fork over $25,000 to Lyles, who went from not knowing Seastrunk before he became a college football prospect to reportedly living with Seastrunk?

The above invoice for the transaction confirmed Oregon was to receive “Game Film and Highlight Film” from 22 states - including Oregon.

But when Kelly was asked by Canzano what Oregon got for its 25 large, Kelly said, “names and phone numbers.”

The payment to Lyles, subsequent discrepancy over services rendered and Lyles’ “Complete Scouting Service” falling well short of NCAA “recruiting service” guidelines soon drew a visit from NCAA investigators to Eugene.

That visit though may now be an extended NCAA stay after a March 13 FOXSports.com piece by Thayer Evans detailing longtime Oregon assistant coach Gary Campbell’s relationship with Lyles in Texas.

In an article titled “Is Lyles most powerful street agent?“, Evans reported that Lyles accompanied Ducks assistant Campbell to at least two Texas High Schools - Clear Springs High School and Dekaney High School - while Campbell was recruiting football players for the Ducks in 2010. Evans:

Campbell said he did visit high schools with Lyles, but doesn’t recall how often.

Campbell on Lyles:

“I just don’t understand what the big deal about this scouting service and paying Will is all about.

“I don’t think Will did anything wrong. I mean, I know he didn’t do anything wrong with us because he knew that we weren’t going to do anything outside of the rules.”

Apparently Campbell is unaware of the NCAA’s criteria for a booster, or “representative of the institution’s athletics interests” (NCAA bylaw 13.02.14):

an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g., apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have been known) by a member of the institution’s executive or athletics administration to:

(c) Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospective student-athletes;

Again, keep in mind that before Seastrunk was known as a high school football prospect, Lyles had no prior relationship with him or his family.

If Campbell isn’t aware of the rules governing recruiting, it wouldn’t be the first time. The Oregonian reported last January:

The lone blemish on Campbell’s reputation was his 2003 interaction with junior-college running back J.J. Arrington, who had committed to California but was wavering back toward Oregon. In Campbell’s presence, Arrington signed with the Ducks after the midnight deadline, forging his father’s signature. The NCAA gave Oregon two years’ probation.

“It was a mistake,” Campbell said.

But Oregon stood by him, as he had the Ducks for so long. He so appreciates his coworkers’ longevity that if the Ducks’ coaching staff ever fractures or moves to another program, Campbell said, he might just retire.

The verification of the forgery caused Arrington to subsequently sign with Cal and landed Oregon in hot water with the NCAA.

Speaking of (in this case, alleged) undue influence over recruits, Oregon starting quarterback Darron Thomas said of Lyles in another FOXSports.com piece:

“He brings a lot of Texas to this team — a guy that Coach Chip Kelly and them out there now recruiting in Texas a lot. Like I said, he’s a big recruiting guy just leading guys.”

Oregon star LaMichael James on Lyles in the same story:

He’s very influential to me and I know to Lache and just different players.”

For all we know Lyles is a good egg who had no design on personal gain when he struck up a relationship with Seastrunk and his mother. The fact that those relationships happened only after Seastrunk became a major college football prospect, and that Lyles has subsequently moved out of the Seastrunk home and cut off his relationship with Seastrunk’s mother after her son signed with Oregon may be complete coincidence.

Like the $25,000 from Oregon to Lyles right after Seastrunk signed with the school was only for “Game Film and Highlight Film.” (Or was it “names and phone numbers“?)

But as Lyles visited multiple Texas high schools with Campbell, by NCAA rules he’s defined as a booster who is forbidden any contact with Oregon recruits.

NCAA bylaw 13.1.2 (Page 96) on what constitutes a “Permissible Recruiter”:

All in-person correspondence on and off campus recruiting contacts with prospective student-athlete or the prospective student-athlete’s relatives or legal guardians shall be made only by authorized institutional staff members. Such contact, as well as correspondence and telephone calls, by representatives of an institution’s athletics interests is prohibited.

There are some exceptions to that rule, but Lyles doesn’t fulfill any of them.

Lyles and Oregon have already violated the booster-contact rule thanks to Lyles’ relationship with both Seastrunk and assistant coach Campbell. Campbell confirmed the violation himself to FOXSports.com with his comments to Thayer Evans.

That violation would not, unto itself, render Seastrunk ineligible. But we’re now to the point with Oregon where the circumstantial evidence is impossible to ignore: Read more…

Dick Vitale Curbstomps NCAA Prez Into Response

In an interview with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Seth Davis this week, new NCAA President Mark Emmert couldn’t have been more forceful in supporting his organization’s decision to rule Kentucky basketball recruit Enes Kanter permanently ineligible to play basketball at UK.

Dick Vitale curbstomps NCAA president into response

Emmert to Davis:

“The vast majority of people in collegiate basketball knew that this was an issue with Enes Kanter. Kentucky knew it. Everybody who talked with him knew it. So I’m amazed that people are shocked by the fact that he is ineligible.”

If you have followed the NCAA over the years, you recognize the stunning, nearly unprecedented candor being displayed by a sitting NCAA President over a particular enforcement ruling.  So with that in mind, it’s no surprise that Emmert’s candor was most likely far from a coincidence.

On November 23, 2009, Todd Dybas of the SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER reported that Kanter had verbally committed to the University of Washington. In a long post extolling the virtues of Kanter’s on-court game by Dybas, there was no mention of the possibility that Kanter may have been facing NCAA eligibility questions. And if there were, obviously Washington, UCLA and USC were not overly concerned, as all three schools were in the running for Kanter’s basketball services at the time. (Kentucky later entered the picture, obviously.)

Kanter eventually de-committed from Washington a year later, which led Huskies Coach Lorenzo Romar to say at the time:

“You develop relationship with kids, and in your mind you have a vision with how it’s going to work with them in this program and how you’re going to help this kid develop and how they’re going to help you. Then, when that changes, it’s disappointing.

“When you’re recruiting someone and they’ve never committed to you and they go elsewhere, then that’s a part of what we do. But if someone does say, ‘I’m picking you, I’m coming with you and we’re getting ready to do this together from here on out,’ and then if they were to change their mind, it’s very disappointing.”

So Romar was indisputably still on Kanter’s trail up until the Turkish recruit’s decision to de-commit from Washington.

Now back to Mark Emmert’s statement about Kanter to Seth Davis this week:

“The vast majority of people in collegiate basketball knew that this was an issue with Enes Kanter. Kentucky knew it. Everybody who talked with him knew it. So I’m amazed that people are shocked by the fact that he is ineligible.”

Who exactly was the President of the University of Washington when the Huskies received their verbal commitment from Kanter? (And subsequently Kanter’s “very disappointing” de-commit?)

Mark Emmert.

But even with that intersection of what some may view as mere coincidence, why was Emmert so heated in defending his NCAA’s decision to render Kanter’s ineligible?

Enter Dick Vitale. Read more…

Could Just 1 Person Be Responsible For BCS? Yes

Question: Why does the BCS exist and who runs it?

(They BCS is not a “they” or an “it”; It’s a “him”)

Answer: For the benefit of one person and his small constituency.One person is pulling the strings, along with a collection of mostly unwitting accomplices.To find that person, we have to identify who we indisputably know is not responsible for the BCS.1) NCAA President Mark Emmert: On Nov. 7, 2008, 16 months before he took office as new NCAA President, then-Univ. of Washington President Mark Emmert told the SEATTLE TIMES, “I happen to be one that thinks it’s inevitable we’ll have a [college football] playoff.”One week after watching his own organization, led by NCAA office colleague Greg Shaheen, reportedly internally initiate the expansion of the NCAA basketball tournament to 68 - and possibly 96 - teams in the future, new NCAA President Emmert said of the NCAA’s role in a future college football playoff system:

It’s not particularly relevant what I want as an individual in this one (NCAA football playoff). The NCAA knows how to run championships, if they (BCS) want us to be involved being helpful then I stand ready to do it.

So though the NCAA initiated the expansion of March Madness, NCAA President Emmert said his organization would have no role in initiating any changes in major college football’s postseason.2) ESPN (Disney): ESPN prints money not because of original programming, but because it has a death grip on broadcast rights to so many premium play-by-play properties - like major college football. (And the BCS.)The ability to exclusively broadcast the best and biggest games allows ESPN to charge cable operators - and viewers - by far the largest fees of any cable channel to carry its programming.  Take away the games, and you take away ESPN’s leverage to charge cable operators those exorbitant fees, which are nearly the sole source of ESPN’s hefty profit margins.To lose the ability to air college football games would strike at the core of ESPN’s business model. So in order to hold onto plum college football broadcast rights, ESPN does as it’s told.The next comment an official representative of ESPN’s business side makes in public about the validity of the BCS will be the first - and last.3) SEC Commissioner Mike Slive: The strongest public proponent of a playoff, and ditching the BCS, is also the man who presides over the BCS conference with the best collection of college football teams - by far.During the decade of the ’00s, SEC teams went 48-31 in bowl games while Big Ten teams went 28-41. In BCS bowl games during that 10-year span, the Big Ten went 6-11 while the SEC went 12-3. (SEC teams were 6-0 in BCS Championship Game.)Despite the SEC’s lopsided on-field advantage over the Big Ten, from 2000-2009 the conference actually received less at-large BCS bowl invitations than the Big Ten - which is why in 2008 SEC Commissioner Slive pushed harder than any other BCS conference commissioner for a limited playoff option but was reportedly blocked by the Big Ten.And why in 2006 Slive said of his term serving as “BCS Coordinator”: “These are my two years in the penalty box.”That same year, final entry to the BCS Championship game came down to the SEC’s 12-1 Florida Gators and the Big Ten’s 11-1 Michigan Wolverines. SEC Commissioner and BCS Coordinator Slive said at the time:

“I think any team that wins our league with one loss should have the chance to play for the national championship.”

When asked what his reaction would be if Michigan won out because of BCS computers and polling, the acknowledged leading public proponent of the BCS, Slive, said at the time, “I’d be disappointed.”So the man most responsible for representing the BCS to the public in 2006 said that had Michigan been awarded the BCS title game spot over Florida, he would’ve disagreed with the conclusion of the very system he was charged to support.To recap where we are so far:The NCAA President, the world’s largest and most influential sports television network and the man who oversees the top football conference in college football, the SEC Commissioner, have no power to remove or modify the BCS. 4) Chairman of NCAA Board of Directors and former Chair of the BCS Governance Oversight Committee Harvey Perlman: As current Chairman of the NCAA’s Board of Directors, many would argue that Perlman is the most powerful man in college athletics. But the NCAA Board of Directors is the final deciding mechanism on all things NCAA except the BCS.While Chairman of the BCS Governance Oversight Committee in 2009, Perlman appeared before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights:

During his appearance, Senator Orrin Hatch asked Perlman: “Is it fair to pick teams when you do not even go and see–when the criteria does not require you to even go and see a game? And let us use the Mountain West Conference as a perfect illustration.”Perlman: “I appreciate that it may seem unfair and it may, in fact, be unfair.”When Perlman said that, “in fact,” the BCS “may be unfair,” he occupied the highest position that the BCS could provide.5) NCAA championships and business strategies guru Greg Shaheen: Shaheen is the man I first exposed early this year as the NCAA’s architect of the expansion of March Madness to 96 teams.An expansion that happened for one reason and one reason only: Increased revenue to cover the brutal shortfalls that result from staging nearly 100 NCAA championship events every year. (But not including the BCS.)Shaheen, who recently got a promotion from new NCAA President Emmert, said of the reported hundreds of millions of dollars a college football playoff could add to the NCAA and its member school coffers, “If I had the authority, I’d address that.”6) Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee: As president of the school with the largest athletic budget in the country, overlord of one of the highest-profile college football programs in the nation and probably the most vocal supporter of the BCS in the past decade, one would assume Gee exerts considerable influence in BCS matters.Remember Gee recently telling the ASSOCIATED PRESS that TCU and Boise State - despite BCS-enabled spots in the national championship race - did not face a difficult enough schedule to play in the national championship game?

“Well, I don’t know enough about the X’s and O’s of college football. I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. “So I think until a university runs through that gantlet that there’s some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame.”

Since Gee made his comments, have you heard any representative of the BCS come out in support of the Ohio State President?The only people who supported Gee’s contradictory stance on the BCS are the attorneys trying to use the BCS to get the NCAA’s anti-trust exemption removed.For someone long known as a leading proponent of the BCS, Gee’s criticism is rather ironic considering he sold the same BCS in 2007 to the CINCINNATI POST as inclusive to all schools:

“The rich would get richer and all the others would be excluded. Now, I happen to be at a school that’s at the top of the heap, but I recognize that this would be wrong. It would be against the university values system.“You would have to pry a national championship (tournament) from my cold, dead fingers. My view is a simple one. Any notion of a college football playoff system is absolute nonsense.”

Someone needs to get his story straight.OSU President Gee’s opinion of the college football postseason is also in direct conflict with his own coach, Jim Tressel.Appearing on the Dan Patrick Show on Nov. 12, 2010, Tressel said of his sport’s future:

“I’m sure we’re headed for change, playoffs one day I’m certain will be part of the package. Within five years we will be positioned for a playoff of sorts.”

With the nonexistent public support Gee received from colleagues after his statements about Boise State and TCU, who now has the more relevant opinion about the future of the BCS, Gee or Tressel?To recap, here are the people who are not responsible for the BCS:1) The NCAA President2) The Chairman of the NCAA Board of Directors3) The 2009-10 former Chairman of the BCS Governance Oversight Commitee (Top BCS Position)4) The NCAA employee most responsible for initiating and carrying out the recent expansion of the NCAA basketball tournament  - and the accompanying television rights negotiation5) BCS game broadcaster ESPN: the world’s most powerful sports television network6) The man who oversees the top BCS college football conference in America, the SEC Commissioner7) The University President presiding over the largest school athletic budget in the country and prominent BCS college football programs in the nation 8) You and me.My god. Who then does that leave?Who is still out there who benefits enough to want to do everything in his power to keep the BCS alive?THIS: Read more…