Posted on: August 11, 2011 12:45 am
Edited on: August 11, 2011 9:28 am

Looks like Texas A&M to SEC could happen

Gene Stallings foretold the current upheaval a year ago.

The Aggies former coach and regent said all the right things about staying in the Big 12. But in the same breath Stallings said that if things did break up he'd rather see the school join the SEC rather than the then-Pac-10. Don't forget that Stallings has extensive experience in the SEC as a national championship coach at Alabama.

Obviously, things have progressed -- or degenerated -- since then. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said Wednesday night he is taking "very seriously" reports that A&M is in conversations about joining the SEC. There were indications at the Big 12 media days last month that the school was close to joining the SEC in 2010 before it decided to stay with the reconstituted Big 12.

The Aggies continue to lean eastward toward the SEC and away from the Big 12. It's a given that the school feels a certain independence and a desire to break away from Texas' influence. The recent rancor over the Longhorn Network was merely a symptom of that rancor. It still believes the SEC could be a long-term home because ...

--Stability. The SEC has it. The Big 12 doesn’t.

--Money is no object. The payouts in both conferences are essentially going to be equal when the Big 12 goes to market for its primary rights in a couple of years.

--Arkansas is a natural rival from the old Southwest Conference.

--If the SEC were to balance things out at 14 teams (for now), Missouri would be an obvious candidate. That would given the Aggies two travel partners in a league that would stretch from South Carolina to Houston.

As for the SEC, it would love to have recruiting access to Texas. Texas -- and the rest of the surviving Big 12 -- would then have to battle SEC schools coming into the Lone Star State for recruits.

Remember, if this happens it won't be portrayed as a predatory move by the SEC in any way. This will be A&M trying to get away from Texas and strike out on its own. Whether the SEC then chooses to go to 14 or 16 will be the next issue. You can bet the Big Ten and Pac-12 commissioners aren't going to sit on their hands and lose traction in the marketplace.

As far as those long-term deals signed by conferences? They can all be adjusted. I'm told they all include periodic "look-in" clauses that would allow for adjustment due to change in membership.

As crazy as the summer of 2010 was, it's hard to believe that the Big 12 might not make it to the 2011 kickoff with a solid 10 going forward.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 8, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2011 7:36 pm

Q & A with Mark Emmert

It seemed like a good time to seek out Mark Emmert. The world has changed a lot even since the NCAA president's state-of-the-association press conference at the Final Four.

On the eve of this week's presidential retreat and a few days before Ohio State's infractions committee hearing -- both in his town -- Emmert talked to me about the issues of the day.

CBSSports.com: You said that this retreat had nothing to do with the current climate. When and why did you come up with it?

Emmert: "I was thinking about this even when I was transitioning into the job. One of my assumptions was, at some point as I came to know the NCAA, I would want to have a broad-based retreat with presidents.

"Then, as all the issues unfolded, and I got to spend more time with presidents commissioners and ADs and coaches it was clear that we have some very significant issues that need to get addressed. It has been months in the planning stage."

CBSSports.com: Has the retreat taken on an added significance because of the current climate of wrongdoing?

Emmert: "Absolutely. The high-profile cases that we've had have been these huge exclamation points about a number of the issues that we have especially around integrity problems."

CBSSports.com: What did you think about SEC commissioner Mike Slive's comment last month -- "Intercollegiate athletics has lost the benefit of the doubt"?

Emmert: "I've said that a number of times myself. I think it's true. It's true of most big institutions these days. It's hard to say that Congress has much of the benefit of the doubt. I daresay even parts of the media.

"We're in a moment in time where there is lots of skepticism. With these big cases that have been out there and the publicity that has surrounded them, there is a lot of reason the public and our fans and members of the higher education community have serious concerns. I'm among them."

CBSSports.com: What is significant about Slive and the rest of the commissioners making specific reform recommendations. Could you, for example, suggest a rise in the minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.5?

Emmert: "Many of the issues that Mike and others have described have been works in progress for some time. Going from 2.0 to 2.5 is an active proposal that is coming out of the committee on academic performance ...

"I was delighted that Mike and [Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany] and all those putting proposals out there are doing so. It's a different day when commissioners are almost in competition to see who can come up with the best reform package."

CBSSports.com: I just wonder if there is something else at work here?

Emmert: "I've been meeting with them as a group of 31 commissioners. Many of them individually. I've been to many of their presidential meetings. Everywhere I've gone the refrain is pretty much the same. We have some significant challenges that need to be addressed."

CBSSports.com: Ohio State president Gordon Gee said recently, that presidents go to these meetings and say all the right things. But as soon as they come back on campus there is tremendous pressure from their boards of directors or trustees to produce winning teams. How much leverage do presidents have since the change has to come from them?

Emmert: "The presidents at the end of the day are the ones who are responsible for all of our athletic programs ... They are the NCAA. They're the ones who have to make those calls.

"There always has been, for a century, this struggle to find the right balance between the academic component of sports, the athletic component and the entertainment component. At different points of time different elements of that equation have had greater sway. It varies by institution.

"Every school has to find that right balance. We as an association have to find it in total."

CBSSports.com: What is your stance on cost of attendance. In general everyone is for it, but you have said you have some concerns.

Emmert: "I am adamantly opposed to paying student-athletes to be athletes. There is merit in having discussion about increasing of the support they get to manage their legitimate costs of being a student, much like we would do with a merit scholar.

"As you know, there is presently a gap between what is provided through a full grant-in-aid and the legitimate cost of attendance. I am happy to have a conversation if we want to consider closing that gap, but nothing more than that."

CBSSports.com: Why does the vacating wins work as a deterrent? It seems like it is being used more frequently.

Emmert: "I don't know if I can answer what works as a deterrent and what doesn't. When you have someone win a competition with ineligible players ... it's not fair to the teams who were their opponents. If nothing else, it's a setting of the record straight.

"I hope it acts as a deterrent. People don't like to take banners down."

CBSSports.com: Why not TV bans? (The last was applied in the 1990s)

Emmert: "I don't think it should be off the table. I think it's one of the things that should be under consideration.

"What you have to do is find a way not to penalize other programs. If you can figure out solutions to that it shouldn't be off the table."

CBSSports.com: Should there be any more significance put on the Ohio State case given the climate right now?

Emmert: "I can't speak about any one individual case. All of the high-profile cases right now are getting special scrutiny because they came in such rapid succession."

CBSSports.com: Your predecessor Walter Byers once said, the only real change in the NCAA has to come from the outside. Do you agree with that?

Emmert: "Obviously, I don't. I wouldn't take this job. I can't speak to his comment. The point of this retreat is to demonstrate we can make real change and do it collectively ourselves.

"I don't think that's impossible. In fact, I think we're going to get a lot of good things done."

CBSSports.com: When can we expect something to emerge from this meeting?

Emmert: "It's critical we come out of this meeting with a clear commitment and level of support from the presidents about the issues that are most critical to them and are most critical to advancing intercollegiate athletics.

"Obviously, this group doesn't have any authority other than a group of presidents coming together. But they can state unequivocally what's important and what they think needs to have happen and the speed with which they'd like to see it happen.

"If we're going to move forward, I want us to move forward aggressively."

CBSSports.com: Do you have an opinion on if high school games should be televised?

Emmert: "It's a really interesting issue. First of all, high school games are televised. I suspect the televising of high school games will continue to grow and grow rapidly. What the role is for any of the conference and institutional networks is just a difficult question ...

"In the meanwhile, as you've seen some folks [Big 12] are self imposing their position on it. I'm sure the Division I board of directors and I are going to have a good discussion about it. It may well be a time where we pause and figure it out and move on."

Posted on: August 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: August 5, 2011 9:59 am

Breaking down the coaches' top 25

A drive-by reaction to the preseason coaches poll released Thursday. If nothing else, it is another sign that we are closer to actual football.

 Oklahoma is No. 1 in a preseason poll for only the second time in the BCS era (2003 was the other). The Sooners got 42 first-place votes. Alabama is a distant second with 13 first-place votes but is only 40 points away from No. 1 (1,454-1,414). That 1-2 slotting probably will last at least to Game 2. In Week 1, Alabama hosts Kent State. Tulsa goes to Oklahoma.

That also means the winner of No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU in the Jerry Dome isn't likely to jump into the top two.

 Speaking of which, still researching the last time two top five teams met on a neutral field in a season opener. Your input is welcome.

 At least seven of the 25 teams are on probation or are being investigated by the NCAA for major violations: Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, LSU, Boise State, Auburn.

 Of the 11 teams to win championships in the BCS era, eight are in the preseason poll: Auburn, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Texas, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida State. Missing: Tennessee, Miami, USC (not eligible).

 You want an early opinion on the season? Ask Tulsa's rookie head coach. Bill Blankenship. His Hurricane play three teams in the top eight in the first month -- No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 7 Boise State and No. 8 Oklahoma State.

 Four of the top five teams play each other in the first three weeks. (LSU-Oregon, FSU-Oklahoma).

 Boise State is the only school in the top eight not playing another school in that group. If the Broncos get into championship contention again, you can already hear the haters.

 The SEC has eight teams in the top 25. That's up from six to end last season. What are the odds that the Strength Everywhere Conference will claim a sixth consecutive national championship? Answer: Good. Very good.

 The SEC (eight), Big 12 and Big Ten (five each) account for 18 of the 25 teams.

 To the surprise of no one, 20 of the 25 teams who ended ranked in 2010 are ranked to begin 2011. Missing: Maryland, Utah, North Carolina State, Central Florida, Nevada.

 The dividing line comes at Arizona State. Penn State is No. 25, three points ahead of the Sun Devils, the first of "others receiving votes."

 The Big East was shut out of the top 25. The highest-ranked BE school is West Virginia at No. 27.

 Defending champion Auburn (No. 19) is by far the lowest-ranked defending champion in the preseason coaches poll in at least nine years. LSU was previously the lowest at No. 6 in 2008 during that period. Others: Alabama, 2010 (No. 1), Florida, 2009 (1), Florida, 2007 (3), Texas, 2006 (2), USC, 2004-2005 (1), Ohio State, 2003 (2), Miami, 2002 (1).

 Fifty teams, 42 percent of FBS, received votes.
Posted on: July 31, 2011 6:53 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 7:49 am

Texas A&M goes to NCAA on Longhorn Network

Texas A&M is urging the NCAA to use a 17-year-old rules interpretation that it believes would keep the Longhorn Network from airing high school games.

CBSSports.com obtained documents that show A&M wants TLN classified as an "institutional publication", per bylaw, which would make it an "athletics representative of the institution." The 1994 interpretation dealt most mostly with what was, at the time, an explosion among specialty print publications. Several newsletters, magazines and weeklies sprung up in the 1990s that covered individual schools' sports. Several of those publications reported recruiting news in varying degrees as part of their coverage.

They were, in essence, what could interpreted as print versions of what the TLN is attempting to become in 2011. A&M is asking that the NCAA apply that Nov. 1994 ruling -- regarding those print publications -- to video-based publications.

If not, the school said, "the NCAA, in allowing institutions to create video-based publication agreements without any restriction on content, is opening Pandora's box."

A&M even uses a quote Texas AD DeLoss Dodds to drive home its point about TLN being an "athletics representative."

“This is yet another step leading up to our launch which will offer viewers unprecedented access to our sports programs …” Dodds said in a January press release.

All of it means that Monday's Big 12 AD meetings in Dallas to discuss "institutional networks" could be the most significant for the conference in more than a year. During the 2010 spring meetings in Kansas City, the seeds were planted for Nebraska and Colorado to leave the conference. During those meetings, Texas reaffirmed its desire to start a network.

"Our goal is to keep this together," A&M AD Bill Byrne said. "I don't see anything contentious about it."

The league recently agreed to a lucrative 13-year, $1.2 billion deal with Fox for its secondary rights. It figures to score another windfall when its ABC/ESPN rights expire after 2015-16. But cracks already are beginning to appear nationally and in the Big 12. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott reiterated last week what he told CBSSports.com in May.

" ... It's my view there will be further expansion down the road," Scott said during the Pac-12 media days.

Texas A&M appears to have leverage with a potential move to the SEC. That could lead to a tsunami of conference realignment if other conferences are forced to react within the marketplace.

Texas has long been speculated to become an independent if it isn't happy with the Big 12. (Although it has never been addressed what would happen with Texas' highly-competitive minor sports.) The school came within a heartbeat of joining the Pac-10 in 2010. A portion of Texas' contract with ESPN states that if Texas is not a member of a conference, ESPN would have 60 days to make an exclusive deal for those TV rights. It would have 48 hours to match any competing offer. That information was reported by the Austin American-Statesman after a Freedom of Information request.

Given the potentially shaky Big 12 partnership, a school like Missouri suddenly would have multiple options in perhaps the SEC, Big Ten, Big East, even the Pac-12. There is every indication, though, that the current situation will be resolved. That still doesn't mean the Big 12 is a long-term proposition.

The growing controversy over broadcasting high school games seems to have only two resolutions. Either it will happen or it won't. Texas and ESPN officials have said they are fine if the NCAA restricts the airing of high school games. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has put a moratorium on the practice until the issue is resolved.

Also at issue is Texas' intention to broadcast a conference game on TLN. That raises issues as to whether a conference member would be helping promote the network by its participation.

What you don't hear at the moment is Texas and ESPN backing down on their own on the issue of high school games. Technology, at this point, is moving faster than the NCAA's ability to react to it. Texas' intent to show high school content via broadband distribution and a coming Longhorn application has Texas A&M and others concerned.

Adding to the confusion is that Texas, the Big 12, NCAA and ESPN are all in a symbiotic relationship. Texas is a member of the Big 12 which is a member of the NCAA. All three have financial relationships with media giant ESPN.

Texas and ESPN announced the 20-year, $300 million partnership in January.

The Longhorn Network is the first individual school-centric endeavor on a major network (ESPN). It is launching Aug. 26 but not before having somewhat of a national referendum on the future of such businesses -- and possibly the Big 12 itself.

After a much-hyped, regents meeting earlier this month Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said TLN's intentions create "uncertainty," in the Big 12. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said last week it is "common sense" that Texas not air high school games. While proclaiming solidarity among conference members, commissioner Dan Beebe said, "Any time there is any kind of perceived crack, there's going to be a lot of vultures in the air."

The issue has attracted the attention of the NCAA which has called an Aug. 22 in Indianapolis to discuss the issue. Among those invited include Texas, Notre Dame and the Pac-12. All three have networks or aspirations of forming one.

At issue is whether the ESPN/Texas partnership creates an unfair recruiting advantage. In early June, TLN chief Dave Brown specified in a radio interview that the network intended to show up to 18 high school games as well as travel to other states to show the games of players who had committed to Texas. That's where A&M, and others took notice.

Texas A&M is lobbying the NCAA hard to the point that ruling in favor of Texas "may cause more than simply discussion and consternation among the NCAA membership. It may lead to undesirable developments, a fear of creeping recruiting advantage that compels members to try to create situations for themselves similar to the Longhorn Network ...

" ... then the next step," A&M states to the NCAA, "could easily be an initiative to broadcast nonscholastic events during the otherwise slow collegiate sporting event summer period and it does not take much of an imagination to target men’s and women’s basketball summer tournaments/camps as being of interest to sports fans."

The NCAA already has its hands full with controlling the influence of those non-scholastic events. Basketball is rife with abuses. The association's enforcement department is working diligently trying to control non-scholastic third party influences in football.

College athletics is watching the TLN situation closely. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Thursday that the Big Ten Network is not interested in televising high school games at this time. That could change, he added, the NCAA allows it.

In that case, he said, "we'll probably have to take a look at it."

At the time the original legislation was passed in 1993, 24/7 networks dedicated to one school didn't exist. Texas A&M argued to the NCAA that "the intent and spirit of the rule was that these type of outside/independent entities ... have greater flexibility in conversations with high school-aged individuals ..."

Dodds said Texas would be not involved in selecting high school games to be broadcast.

"We'll just have to let the process work itself out," ESPN's Brown said last week. "We would have liked to have done them [high school games], one game a week, two games a week. If we have to go in another direction we will."

Coach Mack Brown said last week that high school coaches and players would be hurt most through lack of exposure if their games weren't broadcast.
Posted on: July 20, 2011 11:52 am

Five things about the SEC heading into media days

1. South Carolina is this year's Auburn. Last year no one was talking about Auburn winning the SEC West, much less the national championship. Who is this year's Auburn? South Carolina isn't a bad place to start as this year's under-the-radar team. Sure, sure, the Gamecocks are favorites to win the SEC East but with (perhaps) three future pros on offense and the debut of Jadeveon Clowney on defense, they could go further. The coach sure has national championship experience.

2. Houston Nutt's seat is warm. Ole Miss' coach won nine games and the Cotton Bowl in each of his first two seasons. Last season things imploded as Mississippi fell to 4-8. The Jeremiah Masoli experiment failed, the defense was shredded and the Rebels lost again to Mississippi State. Will that be a blip on the radar or a trend? Nutt's teams always seem to play best when expectations are low. And they are low. It's hard to see the Rebs finishing higher than fifth in the SEC West.

3. Alabama can win a national championship with either quarterback. A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims? Sims or McCarron? It doesn't matter. Play them both, which Nick Saban has hinted at. It doesn't matter. This Bama team is so solid otherwise that it can win with a game manager at quarterback. Trent Richardson is a Heisman Trophy candidate. The defense is nearing 2009 levels. Bama gets LSU at home in the game to settle it all. What's not to like? As long as McCarron and/or Sims don't start channeling Jordan Jefferson the Tide will roll.

4. It's all on Isaiah Crowell. Caleb King and Washaun Ealey are gone at Georgia. That means that Crowell, a true freshman sensation, is going to have to be this year's Marcus Lattimore. Or do we dare suggest another Herschel Walker when talking about SEC freshman breakout tailbacks? Crowell is the kid who pulled out a real, live bullpup when he committed to Georgia.  Now the question is, can he carry the program on his back?

5. When can Auburn really celebrate its national championship? Gene Chizik was slapped down last month by the NCAA enforcement director when he asked about the Cam Newton investigation. There is still the ongoing probe into the four former players who spoke out on HBO's Real Sports. News broke Wednesday that the NCAA was in Montgomery, Ala. in the last week of June conducting interviews. Tigers fans would like to finally celebrate this national championship without survivor's guilt.
Posted on: July 19, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 8:03 pm

Q & A with Urban Meyer

For the first time in seven years, the SEC media days will not include Urban Meyer.

That doesn't mean Florida's former rock star coach is sitting back taking it easy. In this recent interview with CBSSports.com, Meyer is as outspoken as ever. He has been active NCAA reform activist, actually traveling to Indianapolis during the offseason to speak to NCAA officials. He's also doing some analyst work for ESPN.

(Still can't get over his image when I see him on TV. Is he the interviewer or the interviewee? Something looks out of place.)

In this question-and-answer session, we recently spoke to Meyer on a variety of subjects. He is adamant about holding coaches accountable for wrongdoing. Also, don't necessarily believe he'll automatically be back coaching in 2012. Meyer just completed a fulfilling father-son baseball trip around the country and is looking forward to watching his daughter Gigi play volleyball at Florida Gulf Coast University.

We talked to Meyer in the middle of our series earlier this month regarding cheating in college football. We started out by telling him of our main findings: That almost half of FBS schools have had a major violation in football since 1987.

Urban Meyer: "I absolutely believe it. You threw some stats at me I didn't know. In the 80s and 90s I was at schools that ... we just didn't hear much about it [cheating]. It wasn't a big story. I didn't hear it in my staff room. It seems like the last five years is where that [has happened]. I'd have an assistant coach tell me, 'This is what's going on and this is this situation.' You just shake your head and go, 'Wow!'.

CBSSports.com: Was it because of the conference you were in [SEC] or the climate or what?

Meyer: "I think the SEC gets a lot of publicity. The last five years is when it started, and it just wasn't just tied to the SEC. You would just hear non-stop issues about -- for example -- 'Why is this group not coming to your camp now? Why is this kid not visiting your school?'

 Sometimes assistant coaches use it as a defense mechanism where like, 'This school is doing this. That's why they got [a recruit].' Maybe they outworked us.

 "But it seemed like every day I was hearing another story about something that was going on that shouldn't be going on."

 CBSSports.com: What did you tell the NCAA in general terms about the current climate?

 Meyer: "I have a good relationship with the NCAA. What I told them and what I told others: We complicate this thing as having a very clear set of rules and a very clear set of punishment structure ... [The NCAA Manual], it's a big book that says you can't do this, you can't do that. But it never says, if you do this, if you rob a bank you know exactly what is going to happen to you.

 "If you commit -- a term I never heard before until a few years ago -- a secondary violation, there is no such thing as a secondary violation. If it's a mistake it's one thing, but if it's intentional you should be punished as such."

CBSSports.com: Does it amaze you that essentially there is no bylaw to govern what Cecil Newton did? (Offer his son's services in exchange for $180,000 at Mississippi State.)

 Meyer: "The person that has to make the conscious decision [to cheat] is very well aware of the [response] that will take place. It's kind of a difficult situation. I don't think the objective is to catch everyone. I think it's to deter behavior. There's only one way to deter behavior and that's to have a risk/reward situation in place where the risk is so great people will quit doing it.

 "If you are asked a  question and are untruthful with the NCAA, everyone has to know what it [punishment] is. The case with Dez Bryant was clear, it was a year of eligibility."

 (Note: Bryant, an Oklahoma State receiver, was suspended for the season after lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders.)

 CBSSports.com: Are you, then, waiting like a lot of us to see what happens to Bruce Pearl and Jim Tressel?

 Meyer: "I'm kind of anxious see because I love this game of football ... I think this is the perfect opportunity to make this statement."

 CBSSports.com: Is it time to go to the Olympic model where athletes are paid a stipend because the amateur model is broke?

 Meyer: "We can't do that. That's not what this is all about. You've got a president [the NCAA's Mark Emmert] that is very committed to keep college football the sport it is supposed to be."

 CBSSports.com: Is the basic issue here not getting a competitive or recruiting advantage? That's what most coaches are concerned about, right?

 Meyer: "That's very accurate."

 CBSSports.com: There is talk of stratifying penalties. In other words, separate the felonies and the misdemeanors. As it stands major penalties fall into a broad category to the point that Army is considered a major violator from 1980, even though it received only a public reprimand.

 I don't know if that solves the problem but at least it keeps half of FBS being labeled quote-unquote "cheaters". What are your thoughts?

 Meyer: "That's where you're hitting the nail right on the head. There's two terms: Willful, intentional. To me, those are two key words. If you intentionally do something the punishment is severe. If you're not forthright when you're asked a question, the punishment is severe.

 "All the sudden you ask a coach, 'Are you using three cell phones? Are you paying a third party money to have them come to your camps?' If they understand if they don't tell you the truth on record, they will be suspended for one year. I think I can speak on behalf of most coaches that they're going to tell the truth.

 "If you intentionally commit a violation your suspension could be [for example] three games, six games, nine games. It's up to the committee [on infractions]. Intentionally, that's the key word."

 CBSSports.com: Do we need another death penalty to get everyone's attention?

 Meyer: "I don't know. I'm not on the inside. I don't know what's hanging out right now. I don't know what's behind Door No. 1 or 2."

 CBSSports.com: What about subpoena power for the NCAA in its investigations? Is that something you'd welcome?

 "Absolutely. The problem right now the investigation process takes five years, four years. USC can't go to a bowl game. They [current players] were 14 years old, 15 years old when this was going on.

 "The two areas that are missing in my mind are fear and lack of knowledge. Fear on the side of the coaches and lack of knowledge on the side of the NCAA. Why not combine the two? Every quarter you have a conference call [with coaches].' What do you hear? What's going on? We hear  about these recruiting services or camps or bumps. They put a memo together and send it out. 'This is what we hear is going on. If you get caught here is the punishment.' "

 "You won't catch everybody, That's not the goal. You want to stop the behavior." 

Posted on: July 19, 2011 7:23 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2011 8:15 pm

LSU now on NCAA clock

There's no arguing about the timing of LSU's first major violation in football in 25 years. It's fantastic. Coming a day before the start of the SEC media days, the gossip is sure to be flying in the halls of the Wynfrey Hotel when the interviews kick off on Wednesday. Flying like the anticipated quips from South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.

But let's focus. For now this is about LSU. The present is somewhat uplifting. The NCAA threw roses at the school's proactive approach during the investigation. The future, NCAA-wise, looks murky.

Certainly Tuesday's penalties are nothing more than embarrassing: probation, a couple of scholarships. Nothing really damaging -- for the moment. It's the way LSU got there. A former assistant coach was charged with unethical conduct in the recruitment of a juco receiver who never saw the field.

That adds up to a major violation which opens up a whole new world to NCAA wrongdoers. If you're counting, that's two former SEC coaches charged with the most serious of NCAA crimes -- unethical conduct. Tennessee's Bruce Pearl is the other. SEC commissioner Mike Slive cannot be amused. Neither can the NCAA. Suddenly, the clock is ticking on LSU. 

If you're not familiar with the term, "repeat violator" it was installed by the NCAA in the 1980s. It was meant to be a deterrent to habitual cheaters like SMU. Two major violations within a five-year period and you're eligible for the death penalty. Since 1987, though, no other school has been hit that hard in football. So much for being a deterrent.

LSU is in a unique position. For years it took pride in being one of only two SEC schools not to have a major football violation in the last quarter century. The other was Vanderbilt, which has never had a major violation. LSU's last big screw up was in 1986.

But these are different and possibly treacherous times for the Tigers. They are perceived to be SEC and national title contenders. But at the same time the penalties were announced on Tuesday, the football program was simultaneously under investigation because of Will Lyles. The infamous mentor/talent scout has reportedly been paid a combined $26,000 since 2008 by the school for recruiting information.

Nothing wrong with that if, in fact, Lyles provided recruiting info on the up and up and didn't guide players to Baton Rouge. Les Miles told me in April that he didn't know who Lyles was until December. That's plausible but strange considering Lyles reportedly had a long-term relationship with the program and had been paid five figures in the last three years.

That's fishy enough. Let's not forget Lyles is at the center of the Oregon investigation as well. Cal has been linked to him too. That possibly makes Lyles the Hart Lee Dykes of his generation. The former Oklahoma State receiver put four schools on probation after his recruitment. There is still the possibility that Lyles damns three BCS programs to the fiery hell of NCAA probation.

Those two particular violations (Tuesday and Lyles) wouldn't qualify LSU as a repeat violator because the Lyles case started before Tuesday's was completed. But two major violations so close together -- if indeed it comes to that -- aren't going to be looked favorably upon by the NCAA. 

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Vanderbilt is now the only SEC school without a major violation in its history . Maybe that's life in the SEC. Maybe its winning percentage reflects that fact.

So let the gossip begin in the halls of the Wynfrey. Sure, it looks like business as usual in the SEC. Alabama is on probation. Defending champion Auburn is being investigated on two fronts. Slive won't be happy having to deal with more transgressions.

How bad is it? Since we started our series on college football wrongdoing on July 6, LSU is the third school (from three different conferences) to be hit with a major football violation. That's three in 13 days. Three is the average number of such violations nationally PER YEAR since 1987.

There's still five months left in the year to make those numbers even more alarming. Meanwhile, the NCAA has all the time in the world. Maybe it's not an SEC thing, it's just a college football thing.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 14, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 2:51 pm

Meaningful college football reforms

As our five-part series ends, it's time for action. Our own. The following are meaningful and realistic reforms to clean up college football (and by extension college athletics).

Create a commissioner for college football: This is not an original thought. Our Mr. College Football, Tony Barnhart, suggested it in April. 

The sport suffers from too many competing views and constituencies. There needs to be a person with some sort of meaningful authority over the sport. A go-to guy (or girl) who could, for example, explain in plain English why those five Ohio State players were allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl. An authority figure who could suspend a coach for a game or two for ripping officials. Someone who loves the game and has its best interests in mind.

An objective mind with enough respect to shake hands on press row, and enough of an iron fist to make the hard and fast decisions.

In all seriousness, I would nominate our Mr. College Football.

Quit sweating the small stuff: On Wednesday, our Bryan Fischer tweeted that the NCAA came down hard and banned media from filming involuntary offseason workouts. Brilliant. Meanwhile, players are partying on South Beach and making small fortunes selling their gear.

The best way for the NCAA to gain the trust of coaches and get the attention of players is to separate violations into another sub-category involving violations involving a competitive or recruiting advantage. Those are the violations that make a difference in the game. Those are the ones that piss off coaches the most.

"If you lump all violations of the law into one category, then all of us are guilty," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said.

Brett McMurphy pointed out this week that former Oklahoma State receiver Hart Lee Dykes put four schools on probation. Ohio State was able to win a Sugar Bowl and win a sixth consecutive Big Ten title because it fielded ineligible players. Concentrate on the major stuff. Everything else is details.

Call Spielman and Meyer for advice:
You knowingly cheat, you're gone. Six months, a year. Doesn't matter. Put it in the rules. Players and coaches alike. In fact, create a list of penalties equal to corresponding violations.

The infractions committee has leeway in assessing penalties on a case-by-case basis. Too much leeway. That has become a crutch when explaining why one school gets The Big Haircut, while another gets off. This is the No. 1 way the NCAA could gain the trust of the public, coaches and administrators. Moses had the Ten Commandments. Not too hard for humanity to follow for thousands of years.
The NCAA has a 434-page manual that is all over the place. It can't be that hard to tighten things up.

Call Warren Buffett for advice: Former Oregon AD Pat Kilkenny suggested a brilliant way to cut through the B.S. Get four or five power brokers in and outside college athletics and figure it out, or at least begin to figure it out.

Start with SEC commissioner Mike Slive and Big Ten commish Jim Delany. Throw in Phil Knight from Nike. Maybe Warren Buffett. The roster doesn't matter. Just make sure the participants are smart, powerful and willing.

Slive and Delany two of the most lucrative amateur entities in the country. Knight and Buffett are accomplished businessmen. I wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the room but I'll you a number familiar to Cecil Newton that these guys could come up with a way to save college athletics.

Whatever happens, please, no ... more ... committees. It's take for action.

Coaches must be removed from the player discipline process: Coaches are naturally prejudiced in favor of their players. That's not to say they can't be objective when the star quarterback gets a DUI, it means most of the time they won't be objective.

Coaches get paid to win. The best way to win is to have the best players on the field. The AD or a faculty committee should determine appropriate discipline. That would lessen the likelihood of player entitlement and or enabling by coaches. If that means one less Stephen Garcia on the field, so be it.

Make infractions committee hearing public: This was actually recommended by the Lee Commission in 1991. It has been stubbornly ignored since.

Twenty years ago, then-NCAA executive director Dick Schultz asked Ronald Reagan's Solicitor General Rex Lee to look into the enforcement process. Eleven of the commission's recommendations were adopted. Open hearings weren't.

NCAA types continue to argue that allowing the public into the process would keep witnesses from coming forward. Balanced against the NCAA accountability that would result from open hearings, the trade off would be worth it. For years, the accused have griped about "secret" nature of the proceedings. Now they know what the media feels like when practices are closed. Open 'em both up.

Give the infractions committee subpoena power: This has been suggested for years. The NCAA has no power to make people show up for hearings who are not under their jurisdiction. Think if they had the ability to compel Reggie Bush to testify.

There are all kinds of political and legal reasons not to compel witnesses to testify in an issue involving amateur sports. Few want more of Big Brother in our lives. But we're talking about rules-breaking here, not a murder trial.

The NCAA process resembles an administrative proceeding. Remember when O.J. was sued for monetary damages [and lost] after he [allegedly] killed two people? That's closer to the NCAA process than the trial that allowed The Juice to go free.

This one change has the chance of wiping out cheating as we know it. Picture a process where subpoenas could be issued and witnesses -- such as coaches who have left to school -- would have to testify under oath.

Read this transcript from a 2004 House Judiciary hearing for an entertaining and compelling argument both for and against NCAA subpoena power. 

Call 254-754-9000: That's the phone number of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) in Waco, Texas.

Seriously, where is executive director Grant Teaff and his leadership as the worst of his Millionaire's Club members drag the profession down the drain? The NCAA can't be responsible for all the reforms.

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