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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Woodling

Woodling: Why identify boosters?

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After skimming the weighty tome entitled "Self-Report of NCAA Rules Violations by the University of Kansas" late last week, one veteran writer quipped: "Boy, there sure are a lot of people in here named XXX."

That's an understatement. The name of every student-athlete, student tutor or graduate assistant had been, as the report stated, ": redacted in compliance with federal law (the Buckley amendment) and state law on open records."

All the other names included in the report were listed legibly in plain black and white - a fact which, as a journalist, I applauded. And yet I have to admit I was surprised to find the names of three boosters listed as violators - however unknowing - of an obscure NCAA rule.

I was surprised because back in 1988 when Kansas was hit hard by the NCAA for various men's basketball infractions, three boosters also were involved in the case, yet weren't named.

In fact, asked by the media who they were, KU athletic director Bob Frederick declined. So, in effect, it would appear it's not who you are so much as what you did.

For instance, the three boosters mentioned in the latest case - Dana Anderson, Joan Edwards and Bernie Morgan - were not accused of deliberately violating NCAA rules. They were portrayed as innocent victims of incorrect advice.

In 1988, however, the three boosters implicated in the NCAA probation were judged to have cheated knowingly, and KU was ordered "to disassociate" the trio from the athletic program or face additional consequences.

KU coach Larry Brown later identified the three as Mike Marshall, a former KU player who later worked out of Brown's office organizing basketball camps; Jerry Collins, director of Brown's television show; and Ralph Light, owner of a Kansas City construction firm.

So, let me see if I have this right: If you are determined to be innocent in an infractions report, your name is mentioned. However, if you are judged to be guilty, your name is, uh, redacted. Somehow, it's difficult to see the logic in that.

On another probation topic, KU officials have been criticized for ballooning what appear to be secondary - or, in some cases, even tertiary - infractions into heinous crimes.

However, based on a review of the NCAA probation of 17 years ago, perhaps KU officials are going to school on what happened in 1988 by throwing themselves on the mercy of the court.

When Frederick first revealed the existence of an NCAA inquiry into the men's basketball program after the national-championship season, he said of the allegations: "We feel on a whole they're not very serious." And Vickie Thomas, then the university counsel, said, "We did not believe the facts in their entirety indicated violations."

Then, when the NCAA threw the book at the Jayhawks, making them the first - and still only - men's basketball team prohibited from defending the national championship, Frederick conceded he was "somewhat surprised" by the punishment.

Times have changed. In the contemporary NCAA world, schools conduct their own investigations into wrongdoing, arbitrarily impose their own punishment and hope the NCAA concurs by placing no additional sanctions on the school.

At this stage, it may be wise to sound contrite and hope the NCAA rubber-stamps KU's self-punishment because, in retrospect, Kansas may have been better off in '88 if it had adopted a more humble approach. But we'll never know that for sure.

What we do know is that, regardless of the punishment, the mere linking of a school with the word "probation" is damaging enough because other schools - although not all - will distort the facts and spin them into what they hope is a recruiting advantage.

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