Senior Columnist

Goodell sets good example for NCAA

You can't tell me it's never happened in college. Bounties. Monetary reward for putting someone out of a game. I had a former college coach call me a couple of weeks ago and laugh about how it happened to his own team.

But that's not the issue. The issue on Wednesday is what to do with cheating college coaches. The NCAA first needs to place a call to Roger Goodell and congratulate him for suspending Saints coach Sean Payton without pay for a year. The NFL obviously thinks Payton was complicit in the bounty scandal.

Then it needs to end the conversation with something like, “How do you think we could implement something like that?”

The NCAA has this show-cause penalty that sort of blackballs coaches, usually after they've been fired by their schools in the first place. Former Cal coach Todd Bozeman can an eight-year ban, one of the longest such penalties ever handed down. Jim Tressel, now at Akron, got one for five years.

Schools who hire these coaches during their ban have to go before the NCAA to “show cause” why the school itself shouldn't be penalized for hiring that coach. There are exceptions. Rob Senderoff, one of Sampson's assistants, won an appeal and was able to become head coach at Kent State.

But a show cause is some sort of limbo. It has teeth, but it doesn't. Tressel is supposed to be blackballed from coaching but he is as close to it as possible with his new position as vice president for strategic engagement. That vague enough for you? The position was created just for him. It also pays him $200,000 per year.

That's kind of like the drug dealer standing outside the legally-mandated 800-yard perimeter of the playground. Dude is still a drug dealer. Akron is either desperate for some attention or wants a coach-in-waiting if Terry Bowden doesn't work out. Point is, Tressel should be nowhere near a college campus. He should be suspended. The length of years is up to you, NCAA, I don't care.

This show cause thing needs some teeth. No appeals to be won. No back doors to slip into. The American Football Coaches Association has asked the NCAA for this. Their stance is hopefully reality: That the large majority of coaches don't cheat and those who do should be run out of the profession.

The NCAA is currently working on enhanced penalties that will be voted on next month. Among the proposals are suspensions “via show cause” for 60-100 percent of games for significant aggravating violations. That's a start. We're talking about spot suspensions for up to a year for stuff that might get overlooked right now.

What we're talking about is a lower threshold for suspending coaches. But the new rules need to have teeth. They to actually work instead of schools hiring more lawyers to make sure their coach doesn't reach that threshold.

Blackballing is one thing. Getting into a guy's career is another. Tressel may not be able to come in contact with Akron players, but I'll say it again: He shouldn't be on a college campus at all. In his case it isn't a show cause, it's a reward. Tressel started his career at Akron as an assistant.

Roger Goodell has reminded us what a commissioner should be, someone who preserves the credibility of his league. Now the NCAA has to follow suit. With the NFL having taken the lead on this, the association's credibility may be up next for discussion.

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February 22, 2017


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