Postseason bans, lack of institutional control not necessarily a death sentence for blue blood programs
When it comes to big time college athletic programs being punished by the NCAA for major violations, history shows that even the harshest penalties can be overcome in time.
It’s still far too early to know exactly what is coming for the Kansas men’s basketball program and head coach Bill Self in the wake of Monday’s Notice of Allegations sent by the NCAA.
The NOA charges KU with three Level 1 violations, a lack of institutional control and also has levied a head coach responsibility charge against Self, which basically states that whether he was actively involved in any of the alleged wrongdoing or not, he shoulders the responsibility of knowing what’s happening in all areas of his program and ultimately is responsible for the actions of those around him.
According to the NCAA Manual, Level 1 violations carry the most severe punishments, including postseason bans and loss of scholarships.
While KU and Self have vowed to fight the allegations vigorously, the recent NCAA penalties handed out at Missouri last January show that severe punishments have been levied for less serious violations.
Stemming from a Level 1 charge of academic misconduct involving a former tutor, MU’s baseball, football and softball programs all received one-year postseason bans, were placed on probation and also docked scholarships and given recruiting restrictions.
While MU’s violations, some of which were self reported, were of the Level 1 variety, the university was not hit with the lack of institutional control tag, widely regarded throughout college athletics as the most serious charge the NCAA can make. KU has been accused of lacking institutional control.
Showing further the inconsistent nature of these types of NCAA rulings is the fact that Mississippi State’s football and men’s basketball programs, which also were in trouble with the NCAA over academic misconduct, this summer received three years probation, scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions but no postseason ban.
According to a 2016 article at InsideHigherEd.com, more than a quarter of all Division I colleges, 43 percent of all FBS football programs and more than half the members of the Power Five conferences committed major violations of NCAA rules from 2006-2015.
The report states that the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions issued findings of major violations in 114 cases during that same time frame and that 96 Division I colleges and universities were found guilty of such infractions, with 16 programs punished twice and two — Oklahoma and West Virginia, both Big 12 programs — punished three times apiece.
Particularly in college football, which has endured many more lack of institutional control cases throughout the years than its basketball counterpart, even the blue blood programs have taken the stiffest penalties that the NCAA has to hand out and found themselves still thriving just a few years down the road.
Football programs at Miami (Fla.), Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio State and USC all recently received postseason bans from the NCAA, with Miami, in 2013, and USC, in 2010, also receiving the lack of institutional control tag.
While those last two powerhouse programs have struggled through a series of coaching changes and experienced varying degrees of success since being hit with the lack of institutional control charge, Ohio State has proven there is a path back to national prominence beyond the sanctions.
Moving from one national title coach in Jim Tressel to another in Urban Meyer — as opposed to shifting from Pete Carroll to Lane Kiffin and then Clay Helton, as USC did — may have had something to do with it, but the Buckeyes found a way to maintain their elite status long after the sanctions.
In late 2011, Ohio State was hit with a one-year postseason ban when the NCAA ruled that eight Buckeyes players had taken a total of $14,000 in cash and tattoos in exchange for jerseys, rings and other OSU memorabilia and that Tressel knew about it and did or said nothing.
Tressel, mind you, had led the Buckeyes to a national championship in 2002 and national title game appearances in 2007 and 2008, while racking up 106 wins in 10 years leading the program.
The Buckeyes avoided the lack of institutional control designation but were denied postseason play for one season.
Under pressure from the university, Tressel resigned in May of 2011, and OSU assistant coach Luke Fickell took over on an interim basis for the 2011 season.
The Buckeyes went 6-7 under Fickell and reached the postseason — losing to Florida in the Gator Bowl — but were back in business one year later with Urban Meyer in as the new head coach.
Meyer, who won a national title at Florida before sitting out the 2011 season, was hired about a month before the postseason ban was handed out.
Despite knowing their season would extend no further than the regular season finale that year, the Buckeyes rolled to a 12-0 record in 2012 — such a result any other season almost certainly would have landed them in the BCS title game, which pitted 12-1 Alabama against 12-0 Notre Dame — and finished 12-1 and were back in the BCS title picture in 2013.
In 2014, Meyer’s Buckeyes climbed all the way back to the top, finishing 14-1 overall, with wins over Alabama and Oregon in the first ever College Football Playoff semifinals and title game.
Ohio State, now led by first-year head coach Ryan Day, has not won fewer than 10 games in a single season since 2011 and is off to a 4-0 start and ranked No. 5 in the nation this season.
With an NCAA-record 14 consecutive Big 12 titles, three Final Four appearances and a national title, Self and the Jayhawks have won at a similar clip throughout the past couple of decades. Competing and winning is what they do best. And that may be why the university and Self appear to be digging in for a fight in their response to the NCAA’s allegations.
“I have always taken pride in my commitment to rules compliance and led programs that operate with integrity and within the rules, and I am proud of the success that we have achieved at each program along the way,” Self said in a statement Monday night. “Every student-athlete who has ever played for me and their families know we follow the rules. These allegations are serious and damaging to the University and to myself, and I hate that KU has to go through this process. With our staff’s full cooperation, these allegations will be addressed within NCAA procedures and with urgency and resolve. I will strenuously defend myself and the program, but I will respect the process and will not speak to the details of the case.”