Tag:Dennis Thomas
Posted on: July 22, 2011 9:52 pm
Edited on: July 22, 2011 10:18 pm

Emmert's chance to shine doused by Ohio St. case

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Mark Emmert, you have lost our confidence in your ability to do the job.

The next time you speak, we won't be able to take you seriously thanks to news that Ohio State would not face additional charges of failure to monitor or lack of institutional control in the school's infraction case.

'It's all about what the NCAA can prove, not what we've read' is the company line. Well, you had a chance to prove things but you said you weren't going to try.

CBSSports.com took a thorough look at cheating in college football, spending nine days chronicling just how rampant the rule breaking has been over the years. The purpose was the examine the subject with an eye towards where the sport was headed in the near future.

Senior writer Dennis Dodd ended the series saying Ohio State would be a landmark case going forward.

"This is what NCAA president Mark Emmert has been advocating, a way to make the cheaters and liars think twice about cheating and lying," Dodd wrote.

The president failed, however, to send that message Friday. Emmert has called for tougher enforcement numerous times since taking office and here, in front of a primetime audience, was his Howard Beale moment.

He could have sent a message that he was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. Instead, he lost what little confidence we had in "fixing" college athletics.

Dennis Thomas, the chairman of the Committee on Infractions, said on a conference call earlier this month that the committee "was not in the business of sending messages."

Sorry to say it, but the NCAA's enforcement staff and the Committee on Infractions are in the business of sending messages.

They sent one loud and clear: It's ok to cheat. Blame it on the coach if you get caught. No need to monitor emails either.

But you better check on that house 100 miles away.

Emmert has talked about openness and a better understanding. The organization invited several members of the national media to Indianapolis for what they called the "Enforcement Experience."

The aim of it, as Vice President for Enforcement Julie Roe Lach explained to compliance officers from across the country, was for a good number of positive pieces and to remind everybody that the NCAA and the Committee on Infractions are separate.

Last I checked though, the enforcement staff reports to the president. If Emmert wanted to push for a message, a simple walk down the hall could have resulted in serious charges against Ohio State.

According to interview transcripts, Jim Tressel mentioned an email tip to school compliance officers but failed to mention what was actually in the emails. The compliance office - or anyone else for that matter - failed to follow up on this. Yet the NCAA enforcement staff said the school "followed up on tips it received."

The school said they only found out about the emails in January "due to an unrelated legal matter." Ask Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany though and he'll tell you it was due to a FOIA request.

Appears no one, not even one of the most powerful people in the country, could get an accurate answer from the Buckeyes.

At one point in an interview, Tressel told the NCAA that Ohio State told him to get rid of documents so they wouldn't become public record.

The folks at Enron are very impressed.

If the committee can nail USC based on a two minute, thirty-two second phone call, they surely could nail Ohio State with all that.

Ohio State was lauded by many as having a large and well respected compliance office. Yet both the NCAA and Ohio State agreed in December that their education efforts were inadequate. That was the basis for allowing the so-called "Buckeye Five" to play in the Sugar Bowl.

So Ohio State didn't do a good job at rules education in December but by July, according to the case summary, the institution "provided education to football student-athletes and staff regarding extra benefits and preferential treatment."

That statement was contradicted by the enforcement staff five paragraphs later by the way.

"The institution took monitoring efforts designed to identify the sale or distribution of institutionally issued athletics awards, apparel apparel and equipment," but somehow didn't know Terrele Pryor was taking "whatever" he wanted out of the equipment room.

And let's not forget the school's treatment of their beloved "Senator."

"This is an individual that I have tremendous respect for," University president E. Gordon Gee said of Tressel on March 8. "He's had great success in working with young people and we applaud that. But I think equally importantly, he's had great success in building the character and reputation for this university, which I'm entirely grateful for. He's done so by example."

A few months later in the Buckeyes' self-report: "The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel."

At least the flip-flopping when they're backed into a corner is consistent.

There's still one more chance for the organization to say enough is enough. The committee could add a failure to monitor charge or lack of institutional control charge following Ohio State's August 12th meeting with them. The committee did it with Indiana in the Kelvin Sampson case but has rarely done so. It can also choose to punish the school harshly despite the two serious charges, as it did with Alabama several years ago in the Albert Means case. They can also cite the enforcement staff for doing a bad job, which they have also done on occasion.

"I fully expect that every NCAA member institution be held to the same high standards," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said after USC's appeal was denied.

But based on everything that's happened so far with Ohio State, does anyone expect them to? Athletic director Gene Smith was the recent chairman of the NCAA Men's Basketball committee. Gee was Emmert's boss years ago at Colorado.

And even if the committee did hold them to those same high standards set in the USC case?

"I'll be shocked and disappointed and on the offensive, Smith told The Columbus Dispatch. "If I don't agree, we'll do everything we can to battle it and go through the appeals process."

Don't worry Gene, you've already won. Sorry Mark, you didn't.

After all, actions, Mr. Emmert, speak louder than words.

Posted on: July 19, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:13 am

After LSU case, time for a new COI chairman

Posted by Bryan Fischer

I'm sure Dennis Thomas is a nice guy. I'm sure he's a smart guy.

According to his bio, the MEAC commissioner has brought financial stability to the conference and negotiated a new media deal in the past few years. He's done plenty of other good things in his years as a college administrator. Thomas is also the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions (COI) and tasked with leading the group that delivers findings and punishments for member schools.

And he also needs to go.

NCAA bylaws and infractions are not material designed for everyone, that's for sure. For reporters however, it has become almost a requirement to jump on an NCAA teleconference every couple of months and listen to the COI chair talk about the latest school to run afoul of the rules.

In the past six days, Thomas has been on a call with the media twice to discuss Georgia Tech's and LSU's NCAA infractions cases. Each time he has been vague, avoids direct questions and generally sounds like your grandpa does when he can't hear you talk about the ballgame because reception on your iPhone isn't that good.

For those who write about or explain things on-air about these often complicated cases, Thomas's style in answering questions has been extremely frustrating.

What takes the cake however is the almost comical exchange between him and FoxSports.com reporter Lisa Horne, who was interested in what might happen to LSU if the school was found to have committed violations in the ever-expanding Willie Lyles probe - a violation that would have happened prior to Tuesday's ruling but obviously a case the NCAA would be charging the university with afterwards. For nearly three minutes (and after Horne repeated the question three times) Thomas still couldn't give a clear and concise answer. You can listen to the call for yourself here.

On page 18 of LSU's public infractions report, it reads:

As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case,  Louisiana State University shall be subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw, concerning repeat violators, for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, July 19, 2011

To be even clearer than reading the report - which apparently Thomas could not have done - if LSU is found to have committed a major violation relating to the Willie Lyles fiasco, the school will not be punished as a repeat violator because the violations themselves took place before July 19th.

Simple, concise and directly from the report.

This is all on top of many reporters getting frustrated with Thomas' ability to not answer a question during Georgia Tech's conference call. Now it's not like previous COI chairs were any better on these calls but one would think that for one of - if not the - most powerful committees in the NCAA, the chairman would be well spoken enough to handle the media and be able to recall questions about bylaws relatively quickly.

Unfortunately, based on his time as chairman, Mr. Thomas is not.

So if the NCAA (and the member schools who could very well appear in front of the committee in the coming years) really wants to stop taking a hit from media members who bash the process, I'd suggest they start with a new COI chair. An NCAA task force that examined the infractions process suggested earlier this year finding a spokesperson for the committee to deliver reports, "someone who is media savvy."

To the fine folks at the NCAA and member schools: Either make this happen or get rid of the current chairman. You need someone who knows what they're talking about and can, well, talk.

And if you think it's just a few reporters that are upset about this, don't even begin to ask about the coaches.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com