CBSSports.com Columnist

New cause: Give cheating coaches the death penalty

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Could Jordan Jefferson's legal trouble open the door for Zach Mettenberger at LSU? (US Presswire)  
Could Jordan Jefferson's legal trouble open the door for Zach Mettenberger at LSU? (US Presswire)  

Nobody asked me but:

1. What about a professional "death penalty" for coaches? NCAA President Mark Emmert says the death penalty is not off the table for any future infractions cases. Emmert is smart to say that because, given this current climate, you at least need to have the threat of the death penalty as a weapon in the enforcement process.

I've long maintained that the NCAA gave SMU the death penalty, figuring it would scare the hell out of everybody and would never have to be used again. And it won't be used again.

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But what about a professional death penalty for coaches?

The NCAA currently has a "show cause" penalty for coaches who are caught in major rules violations. Show cause is a fancy term for "this guy broke the rules and if you hire him we will hammer you." It does serve as a deterrent. Most people who get hit with a show cause don't make it back to college coaching.

But why pussyfoot around with such nice language?

If you want to cut back on the cheating, make it clear to coaches that if they are intentionally involved in a major rules violation, a la Jim Tressel, and if they lie about or obstruct the investigation -- again like Tressel -- they will be banned from coaching at any level of the NCAA for life.

A friend of mine, a former assistant football coach, said that it couldn't be done. It would be too draconian. The NCAA could not make a rule to keep people from making a living. I respectfully disagree. The NCAA is a voluntary organization and if the presidents decided that this was the way to go, the political climate is now right to do it. Yes, the coach would have to receive due process and there would have to be a system of appeal.

The presidents say they are serious about reform. Emmert says there is unprecedented resolve to get a handle on the cheating. You can't control the boosters. You can't control the players. But you can control the coaches because you pay them. Start with the coaches.

2. What happened at Miami, if true, is worse than the SMU case. A number of people, including CBS colleague Spencer Tillman, argue that the SMU cheating scandal, which led to that school getting the "death penalty" is far worse than the potentially bad Miami case.

Their reasoning: The SMU cheating was a highly-organized, orchestrated effort that went all the way to the Governor's mansion. The cheating at SMU, they argue, was so pervasive that the parties couldn't stop even when they wanted to because they had a payroll to meet and one disgruntled former player blowing the whistle could bring the whole operation down.

I get that. But I would argue that events have to be measured within the context of the times they occur. And the Miami case is taking place during a 24-hour-a-day news cycle. Also, as we used to say in the newspaper business, there is great art.

It's one thing to read about players driving cars they don't own and getting envelopes of cash. It's another thing to see Miami president Donna Shalala holding a $50,000 check from a rouge booster at a bowling alley or players relaxing with drinks on the yacht of a booster. It simply has a greater impact when it’s visual.

3. It’s spelled M-E-T-T-E-N-B-E-R-G-E-R. Zach Mettenberger is the backup quarterback at LSU. We'd better get the spelling right now because we may need to write it a bunch in the next two weeks.

That's because four LSU football players, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, are scheduled to visit police headquarters in Baton Rouge on Tuesday to discuss their role in a bar fight in the early morning hours last Friday.

The brawl sent four non-football players to the hospital, one with serious injuries. Police confirm that one of them was kicked in the head.

The LSU players have lawyered up in advance of the meeting. None of the players has been arrested or charged at this point.

But head coach Les Miles is ticked that it happened and called a news conference Saturday to make that point. Regardless of how this case is resolved, does he further make his point by sitting some of these guys for the Sept. 3 opener with Oregon?

Mettenberger, who started his career at Georgia, was one of the top junior college quarterbacks in the country last season. LSU fans, who want to see something that looks like a vertical passing game, have been clamoring for him to get on the field sooner rather than later. There is also the possibility that senior Jarrett Lee, who has had an up and down (mostly down) career at LSU, could get the start against Oregon because he has played against this level of competition and it would be the safer choice.

Miles, however, has been extremely loyal to Jefferson to the point of bringing him to SEC media days for two straight years and proudly proclaiming "this is my guy." Miles might now feel a bit betrayed. It will be a shame if this ends badly for Jefferson because he is a good kid. He is also the face of the program and should know better.

4: The NFL Commissioner is wrong on the Terrelle Pryor ruling. I can't believe I'm about to stick up for Pryor because, to put it delicately, I'm not a fan.

And there is part of me that wants him to pay some kind of price for his transgressions at Ohio State. Yeah, I know some of the rules are stupid, but they are still the rules until somebody changes them. Pryor broke the rules knowing that other people could get hurt -- and they have. The teammates he left behind could see their 2011 team go down in flames.

What price is Pryor paying?

But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is just flat wrong for taking Pryor's five-game college suspension and carrying it over to his professional career -- assuming a team takes him in the supplemental draft. Yes, it might be good for college football if players know that the NFL is not a completely safe haven for cheating. But Pryor broke NCAA rules. Not NFL rules. I don't like the precedent.

But wouldn't it be fun if college coaches who cheated still got penalized even after they escaped to the NFL? Just think of the entertainment value.

5: Lache Seastrunk should not play until Oregon’s NCAA investigation is resolved. You remember Seastrunk. He was the highly-recruited running back who was named in the investigation into Texas-based scout Willie Lyles. Lyles claimed that he steered players from Texas to Oregon in exchange for $25,000 that was supposed to be for "recruiting services." The NCAA is investigating.

Seastrunk, meanwhile, was way down the depth chart because Oregon is loaded at running back. So less than two weeks before the first game Seastrunk suddenly has decided that he misses his grandmother and wants to transfer. Oregon has granted an unconditional release.

There have been rumblings that Seastrunk might even petition to be immediately eligible at his next school, maybe Baylor, because of the health of said grandmother.

I'm sorry, but that simply cannot happen, not in the middle of an NCAA investigation. It would make a mockery of the hardship waiver rule.

The Tony Barnhart Show returns Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. on The CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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