clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The NCAA Has Ways Of Making You Talk

New, 7 comments

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Actually, most of the time, it doesn't. Which according to USA Today is a serious problem when individuals under investigation - like, say, Reggie Bush - refuse to sing:

The NCAA has beefed up and refined its enforcement program since Myles Brand took over as president in 2003, increasing the number of investigators from 12 to 20 and the number of directors from four to five. Average processing time for a case -- from the date the association receives information about a possible violation to the time the school is formally notified of allegations -- dropped from almost 19 to less than nine months.

But that does not address the fundamental problem in the Bush case.

"We have the ability to require certain people to talk to us or face an unethical-conduct charge ... primarily school personnel, people who are directly under our jurisdiction," says David Price, the NCAA's vice president for enforcement services. "But when you go outside that group, we generally are trying to get people to operate in good faith in telling us what happened."

The NCAA can and does enlist schools to coax reluctant witnesses. "But in the end, if they refuse to cooperate, there's not a whole more we can do about it," Price says.

Perhaps further complicating the Bush investigation is a settlement reached recently between the running back's family and the would-be agent, who claims to have plied the family with rent-free housing and cash gifts in what turned out to be a futile effort to land Bush as a client. reported the agreement includes a confidentiality clause precluding the businessman from talking to the NCAA.

(Emphasis mine)

I wonder in my non-lawyerly way about that statement, "There's not a whole lot" the Association can do about its lack of subpoena power. The NCAA isn't a government organization, obviously, but it runs college sports in essentially the same way, establishing rules, investigating reports of transgression and meting out punishment (and raking in citizen-generated cash). When the actual government wants someone to talk in a criminal prosecution, it holds the individual in contempt and denies them most of the rights of a free citizen until they spill their guts or until the prosecution gives up for whatever reason. Witholding information is a crime in itself. What is the risk to the NCAA of doing the same thing, meting out minor probation or scholarship penalties for schools that don't show some effort to cooperate with the Association's version of a prosecution, or striking eligibility to players who won't come forward?

Make 'em squeal!
- - -

That's draconian, and I don't really care about the NCAA's far-reaching powers to coerce its member schools into assisting its enforcement efforts. There are fundamental issues of competition at stake in keeping the field level - competition being the commodity here, after all - but it seems to get along just fine without strongarming anyone to that extent, and if it doesn't, well, screw The Man, I guess. But it's an academic, dare I say Machiavellian question about the structure of an essentially political authority: if NCAA investigators really want to know about Reggie Bush's extremely incriminating relationship with a start-up sports agency, what's stopping them? An institutional revolt?

Are they just too nice? I doubt it. My guess is the inherently heavy-handed, adversarial tone of that approach would create more problems via discord than it would solve in the way of enforcement. But if he really wants to, it seems to me Myles Brand holds the vice of sanctions - apply the squeeze and those nuts'll crack.

- - -
Do not click here. You have been warned.