NCAA responding to winds of change

NCAA president Mark Emmert didn't see the boulder sitting behind him on that July day when he announced unprecedented sanctions against Penn State.

But it was there, waiting for someone to get it rolling.

The bungled Miami investigation gave it a good tap, followed by a decent shove from Ed O'Bannon and, finally, the last bit of oomph, courtesy of Johnny Manziel.

Now the NCAA isn't so much Sisyphus, helplessly rolling the boulder back up the hill, as it is an ant, watching it tumble at full blast and scurrying away in the hopes of not getting steamrolled.

While explaining the decision to reduce the scholarship penalties against Penn State, Mark Emmert insisted this was unprecedented action for unprecedented circumstances.

Nothing the NCAA does can be taken in a vacuum. As much as the organization likes to preach about individual cases and unique decisions, it is, as it also likes to remind us, a membership organization. Its actions -- or more accurately its reactions -- always encompass the greater good.

This decision says as much about where the NCAA is today as the tough stance taken just 14 months ago defined the organization then.

There is less of an appetite for a punitive and righteous NCAA than there ever has been. The public doesn't want cheaters, but it has seen how the collegiate sausage is made and doesn't like the current rule book any more than the cheaters. From APU arm bands to dissecting investigative reports, the culture has changed and changed dramatically.

Between those shifting tides, jabs and body blows from frustrated conference commissioners, and lawsuits coming at it from every angle -- O'Bannon on behalf of athletes, the Paterno family on behalf of Penn State -- the NCAA is at a critical crossroads that may end up as a fight for its very livelihood.

To read the rest of the story from Dana O'Neil, click here.