Sunday , February 25 2024
A look at the role of the NCAA itself in policing – or not policing – college athletes who commit crimes.

NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crime, Part 4 – NCAA Edition

Fact Or Fanatic350pixels_use this oneWelcome back to NCAA: Fact or Fanatic, where the season is over but the questions and problems remain. We’ve been taking a look at the staggering number of collegiate athletes who are committing crimes, and the universities’ responses. But there’s another entity we need to factor in here, and that’s the NCAA. How is it possible that the NCAA can cite a school for a violation because of a picture of the coach being too close to a recruit, but not weigh in at all on athletes committing crimes?

For an example, let’s go back to Baylor.

There isn’t a college football fan in the country who doesn’t know what went down at Baylor. New reports from women who were sexually assaulted continue to come out. The Pepper Hamilton report indicated that the university was involved in shaming victims who filed a report, threatening to tell their parents they’d been drinking or promiscuous, and in that manner kept their star athletes in school. The police department buried victims’ reports, thereby obstructing justice in these cases.

Through all this, the players continued to play, the seats in Baylor’s new stadium continued to be filled, and the university as well as the fans and alumni are unrepentant, defiantly pronouncing their support for disgraced and dismissed head coach Art Briles as Baylor kept the entire corps of assistant coaches on staff in 2016.

What do we hear from the NCAA?

Not a damn thing. And that’s the status quo regarding any athlete committing a crime. In December, 2016 17 college football and seven college basketball players were arrested or cited for crimes, according to Arrest Nation. Take a look at the schools involved:

Mississippi State University – 3 arrests/citations/charges
Ohio University – 3 arrests/citations/charges

Auburn University – 2 arrests/citations/charges
Florida State University – 2 arrests/citations/charges

Eastern Kentucky University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Marian University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Morehead State University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Texas A&M University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Arkansas – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Florida – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Houston – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Kansas – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Michigan – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of South Carolina – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Utah State University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Western Michigan University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Youngstown State University – 1 arrest/citation/charge

But that’s just in one month. It doesn’t give you the true scope of the problem. Let’s take a look at Arrest Nation’s stats for 2016. First off, the top eight universities in athletes arrested or cited for crimes:

University of Missouri – 9 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Auburn University – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Georgia – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Nebraska – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of South Carolina – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Mississippi State University – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Colorado – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Miami – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Notre Dame – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Washington State University – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges

University of Florida – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Illinois – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of North Dakota – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Wyoming – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Baylor University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Florida State University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Indiana University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Texas A&M University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Alabama – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Iowa – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of North Texas – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Oklahoma – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Youngstown State University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges

T6. Arkansas State University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
T6. Coastal Carolina University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Illinois State University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Lindenwood University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Louisiana State University (LSU) – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Ohio University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Purdue University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Arkansas – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Hawaii – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Kansas – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Kentucky – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Massachusetts – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of New Mexico – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Tennessee at Martin – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
West Virginia University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Western Michigan University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Xavier University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Arizona State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Bowling Green State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Chapman University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Colorado State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
East Carolina University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Eastern Kentucky University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Montana State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Southern Utah University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Stony Brook University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Arizona – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Connecticut – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Maryland – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Michigan – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Nevada – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Oregon – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Southern California (USC) – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Utah – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Utah State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Western Kentucky University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Boston College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Brigham Young University (BYU) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Central Michigan University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Clemson University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Cornell University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Eastern Washington University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Florida Institute of Technology – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Gonzaga University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Grambling State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Iowa State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Jacksonville State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Johns Hopkins University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Kent State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Louisiana College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Louisiana Tech University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Marian University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Marshall University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Maryville College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Miami University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Michigan State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Morehead State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Morehouse College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Mt. San Antonio College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
New Mexico State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Ohio State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Oklahoma State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Penn State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Portland State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Shorter University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
The Citadel – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
United States Military Academy (Army) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Akron – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of California, Davis (UC Davis) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Houston – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Idaho – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Maine – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Minnesota – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Missouri – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Montana – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of North Alabama – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of North Carolina – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Tennessee – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Texas – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Texas at San Antonio – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Washburn University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Wesleyan University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge

NCAA National Office, Indianapolis

The sports breakdown in these 273 incidents are as follows: college football, 203 arrests; basketball 57; baseball 4; lacrosse 2; soccer 2; track and field 2; gymnastics 1; softball 1; and volleyball 1.

Oh, and college coaches? Twelve arrests or citations. Twelve. Just let that simmer for a moment.

The scale of the problem is horrendous, and annually it keeps on growing. Keep in mind that, as we’ve previously discussed, only 1 in 10 sexual crimes are reported to police or the university. These stats also don’t count allegations that university doesn’t follow up on.

You’ll note that the worst offender is college football. But there’s another factor we need to consider. Not included in the stats above is another group that should concern us:

Former players.

In 2016, 97 former college football players were arrested or cited for crimes. Professional football had 33 arrests in 2016. How is that possible? These players got a full ride to their university. They didn’t shell out a single dime for an expensive education. Even if pro football didn’t pan out, they received an education.

Didn’t they?

Not necessarily. Right now, the University of North Carolina is under investigation by the NCAA for academic fraud perpetrated from 1993 to 2011. According to USA Today:

roy_williams_coachWainstein’s report focused on courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department requiring only a research paper or two while offering GPA-boosting grades. Many were misidentified as lecture courses that didn’t meet.

Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports accounting for roughly half the enrollments.

That means more than 1500 student athletes got college credit and high grades for a course they never attended. One would have to be stupid to believe this sort of thing isn’t going on at other major universities. And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

Ever hear of Dr. Jan Kemp?

Kemp was a remedial studies professor at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s. You know – when Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker was there, and Georgia won a national championship. The academic situation was dire in the football program, and Kemp was the whistleblower who brought the whole process to a grinding halt. The university fired Kemp in 1982, after she refused to pass UGA football players in her classes if they hadn’t earned a passing grade.

According to an ESPN article by Tom Farrey:

Leroy Ervin, Kemp’s boss, was secretly taped at a faculty meeting. “I know for a fact that these kids would not be here if it were not for their utility to the institution,” he was caught saying in a staff meeting. “They are used as a kind of raw material in the production of some goods to be sold as whatever product, and they get nothing in return.”

Vince Dooley, at the time the Bulldogs’ coach and athletic director, testified that athletes were admitted with SAT scores of less than 650 out of a possible 1,600. “In order to be, we think, reasonably competitive, we thought that leeway was necessary,” he said at the time.

Kemp won her wrongful termination suit. She was reinstated at UGA, where she continued to teach remedial studies to college athletes until her death in 2008. Kemp’s reasons for speaking up about the UGA football program and its low academic standards was a benchmark moment.

“All over the country, athletes are used to produce revenue,” she told The New York Times a month after the trial. “I’ve seen what happens when the lights dim and the crowd fades. They’re left with nothing. I want that stopped.”

When you look at cases like these, and then consider the numbers of athletes who are charged with crimes, you have to start to wonder: What is going on in our universities? And why isn’t the NCAA doing anything about it?

The fact of the matter is that the NCAA hasn’t changed that much since the 1980s. Back then, in the UGA case:

Georgia would face no NCAA violations. The NCAA, an athletic body that usually lets schools determine if its own academic policies were violated, just was not interested in her information. Kemp recalls an NCAA investigator telling her, “We don’t want to hear anything about grades. All we’re interested in are cars, or trips, or things of that sort.”

She told him she hoped the university did give the athletes cars, since they weren’t getting an education.

So the NCAA had little interest in maintaining the academic integrity of college football programs as far back as the 1980s. But what are they doing now?

For that we need to look at another school: Penn State.

joe_paterno_sideline_psu-illinois_2006In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the NCAA was driven to act. They forced Penn State to vacate 111 wins under Joe Paterno, pay a $60 million fine, and accept a bowl ban and scholarship reductions. The problem was that most of the sanctions were lifted. Why?

Because the NCAA was punishing people who had nothing to do with the abuse. Players. Fans. The game. Most of the sanctions were lifted because of the legality of the consent agreement the NCAA had forced Penn State to sign. Kansas State President Ken Schultz serves on the NCAA Board of Directors, and he stated:

“As the board of governors, we don’t have any desire to go in and have to do these sort of actions with any of our colleague institutions ever again,” he said. “This was a truly extraordinary circumstance and the board felt that they had to quickly and decisively put forward a set of sanctions … I hope it is a once-in-a-hundred-year type of occurrence and that we’ll be able to use the regular compliance activities” in future cases.

So what effect does this have on the Baylor case? Or Minnesota or North Carolina? Texas attorney Kevin Lindstrom weighed in.

…we have clearly gotten mixed signals from the NCAA over the past few years. Their actions in the Penn State matter may have an unfortunate chilling effect in situations such as Baylor where they absolutely should be aggressive.

Here is the key differences in the Baylor situation to the Penn State situation. In the Sandusky matter, it was a college employee assaulting children. While awful, I can see why people were critical of the NCAA for involving itself in such a matter that did not involve student athletes. Baylor, on the other hand, was student athletes committing crimes against other students and other student athletes. That screams jurisdiction for the NCAA.

The distinction he makes there is sound. Sandusky’s child abuse occurred in his off-season camps which, while they were held at Penn State facilities, did not involve or include student athletes. The NCAA sanctions against Penn State were a knee-jerk reaction to the horrified response throughout the athletic and academic worlds. And while the sanctions ultimately did a lot of good when that $60 million was distributed to organizations that lead the fight against child sexual abuse, the harm the NCAA inflicted upon student athletes at Penn State, who were innocent of any involvement in Sandusky’s crimes, was unjustified.

art_briles_at_2014_press_conference-1That brings us to Baylor. As Lindstrom points out, NCAA has direct jurisdiction here. These are student athletes who committed crimes, and the university administration, staff, coaches, and even the campus police colluded to keep those crimes from being prosecuted. As a result, victims were more than ignored. They were bullied into silence by individuals who are directly answerable to the NCAA. So here’s our question:

What, exactly, in the role of the NCAA in the Baylor case?

The NCAA may not get involved in the Baylor case at all.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has notified Baylor that it won’t exert its executive authority to impose sweeping sanctions against the school for broad institutional failings, and will instead follow its normal investigative process, according to people familiar with the matter.

Wait – what?

So although the NCAA self-identifies as having the authority to impose sanctions, it’s not going to? If this isn’t the type of case that falls directly under its jurisdiction, what is? Sure, it can stomp through the minutiae of Ole Miss’s recruiting records, imposing sanctions for feeding recruits breakfast or going to Hugh Freeze’s house. It can raise all kinds of hell about overnights in hotels or a coach’s behavior. But in a case like this involving student athletes, it’s not going to impose sanctions?

To be fair, the NCAA is looking into recruiting offenses by Baylor assistant Kendal Briles. Yes, that would be Art Briles’ son, who still worked at Baylor for the 2016 season. So what violation was so dire the NCAA could sanction Baylor when they refuse to do so in the sexual assault case?

According to the NCAA release, Briles and Wallis tried to find loophole in the rules that allowed them to see more prospects in the spring. This involved attending a recruit’s track meet and turning their backs when the recruit competed so it did not count as an official evaluation. The NCAA stated the two coaches attended the track meets during the spring of 2015 and were in a position to be seen by recruits. This put Baylor over the limit of two evaluations per prospect during the spring recruiting period.

Briles and Wallis were suspended for the 2015 season-opener against Lamar. According to ESPN, the violations were related to the recruitment of Sachse’s Devin Duvernay and Stafford’s Hezekiah Jones.

The NCAA has fined Baylor $5,000 because two assistants went to a track meet. In the meantime, fans have blacked out McLane Stadium in support of Art Briles, paid for full-page newspaper ads in support of Art Briles, and hung signs out of luxury boxes extolling Art Briles. And yet, the NCAA is silent.

Look, there are major problems with sexual assault on college campuses. While Title IX is intended to provide a system through which victims can seek recourse, Title IX coordinators are not law enforcement. The investigation and prosecution of athletes who are accused of crimes must go through proper legal means and due process. You can’t expect a university panel to legitimately determine which cases are important enough to discipline a player.

But in a case like Baylor, when the campus police are actively burying reports, you can’t even count on law enforcement to do what needs to be done.

On many college campuses, the university police are exemplary and genuinely investing in protecting all students.But on some – campuses where the win and the almighty dollar are the most important factors – the system breaks down. When that happens, it’s never in favor of the victims. Never.

That gap, between Title IX jurisdiction and the legal system, is what needs to be bridged. Title IX laws were designed to insure that both genders are treated equitably. In athletics, that means scholarships for both sexes must be equal, and athletes must have comparable privileges. Title IX is not designed to handle sexual assault allegations unless and until the victim has no other options.

If the victim reports the assault to the university and the university police and nothing is done, as at Baylor; if after she reports the assault she is bullied or threatened by the officials who are supposed to be protecting her, as at Baylor; then Title IX is the only option she has left.

That approach is not working. Lindstrom is able to speak authoritatively on this subject as well.

Well, first, we need to reevaluate Title IX’s role in investigating criminal issues between students. It seems that is putting someone who is often unqualified to know the details of something as complex as a rape case in an incredibly difficult position. Even for those who are in the business of investigating, prosecuting and trying rape cases have very difficult challenges, so how do we expect someone who has no experience with such matters to be able to address it fairly to the accused and accuser?

Excellent point.

101016-N-7647G-111 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Oct. 16, 2010) U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Ricky Dobbs (#4) is tackled by Southern Methodist University linebacker Ja'Gared Davis (#56), defensive end Taylor Thompson (#8), and line backer Taylor Reed (#44) during the first quarter of a college football game at the U.S. Naval Academy. The Midshipmen won the game 28-21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason M. Graham/Released)
101016-N-7647G-111 ANNAPOLIS, Md.

In the end, it’s hard to escape the fact that the NCAA isn’t using the authority it already has in cases where it must be used. The same organization that gave SMU the death penalty for paying athletes to play, the same organization that punished football players for abuse that occurred without their knowledge or participation, is sitting on its thumbs regarding a case that’s far more severe than SMU’s and which falls directly under NCAA auspices, unlike at Penn State.

As Laura Leigh Majer, Texas sports journalist with and host of “Down and Dirty Sports” on AltConRadio, remarked:

When the schools are not disciplining bad behavior, especially criminal behavior, and it appears an institution is covering it up, it needs to be taken to the next level.

So we find ourselves in a conundrum. The NCAA isn’t doing anything in these cases – remember, the UNC academic fraud case has been ongoing without result or sanctions since 2012  – which emboldens the universities to not do anything either. Meanwhile, Title IX coordinators have offices that are woefully understaffed and underfinanced and sadly underqualified to pursue these cases or to impose any penalties outside of lawsuits. And that leaves victims like the ones in Baylor and Minnesota with nothing.

Apparently Ken Schultz and the rest of the NCAA governors are getting their wish. They have chosen not to act in this case. As a result, they have destroyed any respect the NCAA might have possessed as well as any trust. As for Baylor, it has additional problems. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges has given the university a warning that its accreditation is in danger:

The commission found Baylor out of compliance with several accrediting requirements related to the sexual-assault scandal that has plagued the Baptist university in Texas, including a failure to provide adequate support services for students and a failure to have “appropriate fiscal and administrative control” of the institution’s athletics program.

Evidently, the SACS isn’t quite as intent upon non-action as the NCAA Board of Governors and Ken Schultz are.

minnesota_gophersHere’s the thing: In order to really make a difference in the world of college athletes and crime, there must be fundamental shifts of ideology at both the university and NCAA levels. Both must be willing to enforce penalties against student athletes who violate the law and the student code of conduct. When I was in college, if I’d been arrested for a violent crime against another student, what happened next would have been swift. I would have been arrested, charged, and tried for the crime. I would have lost my scholarship. I would not have been allowed to attend the university. And that would have been all she wrote, because at the end of the process I would most likely have served a sentence whose length depended on the degree of the crime. Period.

Same thing if my GPA exploded. If I pulled a 1.7 GPA for the semester because I decided to play video games in the football center instead of going to classes, my scholarship (communications and sports information, by the way) would have exploded as well.

Same for you, reading this column right now. Do you doubt it? Think for a moment. What breaks do non-athletes get when it comes to sexual assault?

None in the communications department. I was a debater. None of us on the team could have committed such an offense and been allowed to compete. Ever.

Texas sports journalist Laura Lee Majer’s answer to this question is direct.

The safety of all students on a campus should be a primary concern for a university.  No one should be above the law or given “special treatment” for being a star athlete if they break a law. I do not think universities are providing safe environments, and support for victims, overall.

We agree with her. What seems to be a point of contention, however, is when it’s the NCAA’s obligation to act. For that, Kevin Lindstrom has the correct answer, in our opinion:

I think it is an NCAA problem from the beginning. If we are talking about a student athlete, the NCAA needs to be kept appraised of it from the start. That transparency, while probably pretty burdensome on both the reporting school and the NCAA, would be essential to ensuring that something like Baylor can’t happen again.

So when will the NCAA act? Or will it continue to put it off like it has the UNC case? That’s the question that we, as taxpayers, alumni, and college sports fans need the NCAA to answer. Considering the NCAA is a tax-exempt organization that accrued revenue of nearly $1 billion in 2014, it is answerable for its decisions regarding cases under its jurisdiction. It might not think it’s responsible…it might not act like it is…

But it is.

We’ll wrap up this series next week with our final area of analysis: the fans. With college athletics generating so much revenue for everybody but the players, how much responsibility do football fans bear for the status quo? How do we impact colleges, players, coaches, or the NCAA? Why is the moral compass never pointing true north when it comes to athletes who commit crimes?

Some of the answers might surprise you.

About Celina Summers

Celina Summers is a speculative fiction author who mashes all kinds of genres into one giant fantasy amalgamation. Her first fantasy series, The Asphodel Cycle, was honored with multiple awards--including top ten finishes for all four books in the P&E Readers' Poll, multiple review site awards, as well as a prestigious Golden Rose nomination. Celina also writes contemporary literary fantasy under the pseudonym CA Chevault. Celina has worked as an editor for over a decade, including managing editor at two publishing houses. Celina blogs about publishing, sports, and politics regularly. A well-known caller on the Paul Finebaum Show and passionate football fan, when Celina takes times off it's usually on Saturdays in the fall. You can read her personal blog at and her website is at

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