The SEC breaks down thusly: There’s Auburn, which is feeling good about itself, and there are fans of the 11 other schools who are convinced the Tigers’ BCS title was ill-gotten. For Auburn folks, shrugging off the latest report of wrongdoing has become standard operating procedure. For fans of those 11 other schools, any new nugget offers yet another reason to shout, “See? Told you!”
Fans of the other 11, here’s your latest cue.
SportsByBrooks reported Tuesday that former player Stanley McClover has told “HBO Real Sports” that he received money while enrolled at Auburn from a Tiger assistant coach. (SBB doesn’t name the assistant coach but says McClover will. SBB also notes the assistant coach no longer works at Auburn.)
This wouldn’t seem to endanger the 2010 BCS title, given that McClover left Auburn in January 2006. Cam Newton was in high school, and coach Gene Chizik had just helped Texas win the 2005 BCS title as defensive coordinator. And there’s ordinarily a four-year NCAA statute of limitations. But SBB believes a pay-for-play charge “may leave the door open for the NCAA to pursue an allegation made after the standard four-year period has expired.”
Then again, we were just given cause to see that the NCAA’s punitive power can be rather puny. Jim Calhoun, the winner of two national championships, was slapped by the NCAA for “failing to create an atmosphere of compliance.” Put more simply, the UConn Huskies broke various recruiting rules (regarding phone calls, text messages and inducements) and the Hall of Fame coach stood benignly by. This would seem a huge deal, would it not?
UConn’s penalty: Some lost scholarships, some recruiting restrictions, a three-game suspension for Calhoun in Big East play next season … but no ban on postseason play.
And get this: Calhoun was upset by the severity of the penalty.
Sometimes we regard the NCAA investigative crew as the Scotland Yard of sports, but something has to drop in its lap — the UConn investigation was spawned by a Yahoo! Sports report — for the hounds to be loosed. And even then the NCAA is often unable to find concrete evidence. (That’s because wrongdoers are pretty good at concealing their tracks, and the NCAA lacks subpoena power over private citizens.)
Bruce Pearl lied to NCAA investigators and is still coaching Tennessee basketball. Yes, he was suspended eight league games by the SEC — the conference-wide joke was that Mike Slive had to make somebody pay for Cecil Newton’s sins — but he’s still employed. Calhoun has to sit out three games, but he gets to keep coaching his program and taking it to NCAA tournaments.
For all the smoke in collegiate sports – has there ever been more smoke than there was surrounding Auburn in November? — the NCAA doesn’t often find a three-alarm fire. (Remember, Georgia received no postseason ban from the NCAA after its investigation into the Harricks and Tony Cole.) Even as they look forward to the day when something is made to stick against Auburn, fans of those 11 other schools need to know this:
There’s a chance nothing ever will stick. (There’s also the chance Auburn did nothing wrong.) There’s a chance — a pretty good one — that 2015 will arrive and the Tigers will still be 2010 national champs.
By Mark Bradley