Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
The NCAA's infractions committee on Wednesday announced its penalties for Oregon's football program, which didn't amount to much other than a show-cause penalty for former coach Chip Kelly, now with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike Big Ten members Ohio State and Penn State, Oregon avoided the dreaded postseason ban. Today's Take Two topic is: How should the Big Ten react to the Oregon decision?
Take 1: Adam Rittenberg
Every infractions case is different and Penn State's situation certainly was unlike anything we'd ever seen in sports. But I can't imagine the folks in Columbus and State College are too pleased to learn that Oregon basically gets a slap on the Nikes. Like Oregon, Ohio State had its head coach receive a show-cause penalty. Like Oregon, Ohio State fully complied with the NCAA's investigation after dismissing head coach Jim Tressel. Like Oregon, Ohio State didn't expect a bowl ban from the NCAA. But it got one. Neither school had a Mike Garrett-like figure trying to defy the NCAA. This is another example of the NCAA being unpredictable and inconsistent with its infractions decisions.
Looking at the length of the NCAA's investigation into Oregon's violations and the few penalties actually imposed, Ohio State has reason to be miffed. I still go back to the second wave of Ohio State violations, the ones involving former booster Bobby DiGeronimo that surfaced after the initial infractions hearing took place in the summer of 2011. If those hadn't surfaced, I really believe Ohio State avoids a bowl ban. The delay in those violations coming to light pushed back Ohio State's ruling and ultimately the bowl ban from 2011 to 2012. Ohio State ultimately had more people involved in its violations -- the head coach, two groups of players, a booster -- than Oregon and perhaps paid a heavier price for it.
Penn State's case is so different from the ones at Oregon and Ohio State, but the Oregon ruling lends credence to the argument that the NCAA acted too emotionally in its penalties for Penn State, both in what it imposed and how it did it. The lengthy infractions process tends to dilute the emotion and anger about specific cases, which isn't a bad thing. Penn State had no such process, as NCAA president Mark Emmert felt he had to act immediately and drop the hammer. Unfortunately, the NCAA seems content to use this hammer with most of its non-Big Ten infractions cases.
Take 2: Brian Bennett
What? The NCAA was inconsistent in one of its rulings? I'm shocked -- shocked!
Seriously, though, what could we have possibly expected from an NCAA whose enforcement division is in complete disarray under Emmert. At least there were no major ethical lapses in the investigation a la the Miami football and UCLA basketball probes. But this is just the latest in a long line of head scratchers ("punishing" a coach who's already in the NFL, really?) in infractions decisions. The penalties Oregon received are probably about right, given the murkiness of that case. But schools like Ohio State, Penn State and especially USC have every right to wonder why they were treated so much differently.
It seems to come down to this for the NCAA: The cover-up is worse than the crime, and if the organization feels like it has been personally betrayed in some ways, it reacts emotionally. Think about it. USC was defiant and got sent to the woodshed. Ohio State had a coach who lied about his knowledge of broken rules and leadership that insisted there were no more problems, until there were. And Emmert not only believed that Penn State hid its knowledge of child sex abuse allegations, he was probably offended that old pal Graham Spanier was allegedly involved. Emmert erased all previous precedent to cripple the Nittany Lions' program. In the future, any Big Ten team that is accused of infractions should just supplicate itself before the NCAA, beg for forgiveness and kiss the ring of Emmert.
Of course, here I am trying to find some pattern in the NCAA rulings. Silly me. There is no such thing.