The new, more vengeful NCAA took a good healthy swipe at St. Mary’s College basketball program Friday morning, hurling half a library at head coach Randy Bennett for a number of things swirling around that old chestnut “failure to monitor.”
So the question to be asked here is this: Will the judges survive the punishment?
[RELATED: NCAA deals blow to Saint Mary's men's basketball program]
The case is clear enough: The NCAA has declared after an investigation of more than a year that the program ignored warnings about the recruiting methods of former assistant coach and director of basketball operations Keith Moss as regards St. Mary’s relationship (or lack thereof) in French player Remi Barry, who ended up at New Mexico State. In addition, the NCAA claimed the school knew of the violations but did not investigate the matter, and that players trained and practiced at non-allowable times.
The penalties are equally stark:
• Four years probation starting today.
• A five-game suspension for Bennett next year.
• No off-campus recruiting for Bennett for a year.
• Two fewer scholarships for 2015 and 2016.
• No foreign tours for five years.
• No preseason tournaments for the next two years.
There was no postseason ban or show-cause element to the program, save for the assistant coach, and there will be at least some level of appeal coming from the school but this is a nice kick to the gut for the little powerhouse in the foothills from an organization that has been getting gut-kicked itself for what can kindly be called high-handed investigative measures.
There is no evidence that the NCAA engaged in the level of conduct that undercut its Miami investigation, and Saint Mary’s acknowledged shortcomings while complaining that the punishment was excessive and ignored steps the university took itself to regulate the questionable conduct (and that is where the appeals will likely come).
But in the macro world, anything the NCAA does now is subject to a level of skepticism and scrutiny never aimed at it in the past, and there is a growing mood at least in the public to chuck the entire hulk into Lake Superior and either start over or just let college athletics become fully unregulated.
You know, as opposed to spottily, inconsistently, often hypocritically and on occasion punitively regulated, usually on the backs of its athletes, as it is now.
And this does suggest the old joke, “The NCAA just caught Alabama doing something wrong, so that means three years’ probation for Mississippi State.” You can substitute different schools if those two offend your sensibilities. The joke’s been told many different ways.
Therein lies the rub. The Gaels clearly worked the system, like most other schools. They also were insufficiently dogged in detection, remedy and punishment. They get their turn in the barrel, and by their own admission deserve at least some of it.
But the punishers are on their heels as well, for deeds that far exceed Saint Mary’s. There is frankly an excellent chance that in five years, the Gaels will be free and clear while the NCAA itself is in trouble up to its own collective neck. It will be an interesting race to see which happens first.
Not that that will help Bennett or the Gaels in the interim, but justice often grinds so slowly as to seem not to be grinding at all.