Let's go ahead and get this out of the way: The NCAA is a complete mess right now.
The only question is what can be done about it. If anything at all.
It seems like only yesterday that NCAA President Mark Emmert was being praised (in some quarters, at least) for the historic and unprecedented sanctions he handed down on the Penn State football program--sanctions that came in the wake of the almost unthinkable Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
But even in the early days after Emmert's harsh actions against Penn State, there were some who questioned whether Emmert had gone too far, whether the NCAA was veering out of control, and whether the universities that the NCAA supposedly polices would continue to put up with an organization that, quite clearly, had decided that it was completely comfortable breaking its own rules when it saw fit.
Over the past few months, the criticism of the NCAA has only grown louder--and justifiably so.
Most recently, Emmert's troubled organization admitted that its investigators acted improperly during its investigation into the University of Miami athletics program. That admission has not only called into question the integrity of the Miami investigation, but also raised serious new questions about the integrity of the entire organization--one that, again, seems to be operating by a rulebook of its own invention.
Beyond that, the various missteps have only emboldened Miami president Donna Shalala, who has made it clear--first with a statement issued after the NCAA admitted its errors, and then again with another after the NCAA issued a dreaded Notice of Allegations shortly afterward--that she does not intend to go down without a fight. And you know what? She shouldn't. The NCAA screwed up and, to be honest, it's an organization that shouldn't be trusted. Not now, anyway.
Yes, the NCAA is under fire, and it has nobody to blame but itself. Columnists and talking heads nationwide are calling for Emmert to be removed from his job and, in some cases, calling for the entire organization to be shut down. That's how bad it's gotten, and really, this doesn't look good for anybody.
Make no mistake: In the short term, this is certainly a bad thing for college football; it makes the entire sport look really bad, and given the tenor of the national discussion about football in general these days, the last thing the sport needs is another black eye. But a black eye is precisely what it's got. One can only hope that this short-term pain may ultimately result in a long-term gain--that reforms can come, that this sport can be run better, and policed better, and survive and thrive for years and years to come.
Yes, despite the dark times in the here and now, it's possible that better days may be ahead for this sport that we love. I really believe that.
But as to whether the NCAA is still around to see those days, and be part of them?
Well, that's anyone's guess. But the mere fact that we're discussing the possible end of this organization speaks volumes--not only about the horrible job it has done of late, but also about the awful leadership it's seen under Emmert.
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