So you thought the investigators working for the NCAA enforcement division were bad at their jobs, that the representatives of member institutions comprising the infractions committee were biased against your favorite school and too lenient with all your opponents, that the only thing that could fix the whole process would be a panel of outsiders who would examine and adjudicate cases of rules violations?
Well, say hello to the Independent Accountability Review Process — IARP — which has a crummy acronym, takes forever to complete a case and ultimately gives you the same sort of ruling the infractions committee would have delivered in more or less the same amount of time and, quite likely, at a lower cost.
Or, as Pete Townshend put it in a classic rock song more than a half-century ago: “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”
The IARP presented its first ruling Monday, in the matter of NC State basketball and its recruitment of point guard Dennis Smith that was transacted in 2015, consummated with his enrollment in 2016 and revealed to be problematic by the Justice Department in September 2017.
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According to the IARP judgment, an assistant coach on staff at the time was “involved, directly or indirectly, in arranging to provide prospective student-athlete No. 1 with a recruiting inducement of $40,000 and knew of third-party involvement in a recruiting violation. He was involved in a cash payment from the apparel company outside consultant to secure the enrollment of prospective student-athlete No. 1. These intentional violations demonstrate a reckless indifference to NCAA constitution and bylaws.”
There was more, but do you really need it? There were five “Level I” violations in all, and the rest of it might be judged to reflect dishonesty or disinterest in compliance, but the contents of that first finding are about as profound as it gets in the world of NCAA infractions.
For this, NC State faces a postseason ban of … well, it faces no postseason ban.
“We didn’t want to hurt or punish the student-athletes who were currently competing,” IARP member Dana Welch said.
Well, that’s mighty kind of the IARP. I’ve said forever that postseason bans subsequent to the start of the school year should be, well, banned, because it amounts to changing the rules on athletes in the middle of the game.
At least the NC State athletic department was slammed for putting in place the coaching staff that was found to have violated the rules. Right? No, State was hit with a whopping fine of … $5,000.
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Oh, and that was self-imposed. You know how much an athletic department can buy for that? That’s the cost of 30 regulation basketballs. Not having those balls figures to wreck the Wolfpack’s free-throw practicing.
The last significant institutional penalty applied is a doozy, NC State basketball will be see its scholarship allotment reduced by … two.
Basically, that means a walk-on player won’t see his educational expenses wiped out in 2021-22 and 2022-23. It will have no impact on State’s ability to compete; a one-scholarship penalty is of no consequence because most high-major teams try not to carry 13 recruited players. With the transfer rules as they are, the lack of playing time for scholarship players at the end of the bench often leads players to the portal.
NC State will have to deal with the shame of … vacating victories from the 2016-17 season.
Geez, but that may not be any more embarrassing than failing to mount a winning season with a player who took so much extra effort to recruit and ended up being a lottery pick in the NBA Draft.
So how has the IARP made the NCAA infractions apparatus better?
The IARP was one of many recommendations presented by the “Rice Commission,” a panel arranged by NCAA president Mark Emmert and chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that presented its findings in April 2018 and has done basically nothing to improve the sport of college basketball.
Honestly, the problem with the NCAA infractions process for the longest time has been punishing current players for violations generally committed by former coaches and players.
NC State’s Kevin Keatts is a pleasant person and fine basketball coach trying to build something sustainable with the Pack, and there hasn’t been a whiff of impropriety around the program since he arrived in 2017, just in time for NC State to be mentioned in the FBI’s investigation of the basketball talent scene, from which the most serious allegation in this case developed.
So it’s good for him and State fans the program can move forward with few concerns other than the prospect – with a four-year probation in place – that any future violation would be dealt with severely.
I can’t say State faces a promise or threat of a more damning penalty, because there’s nothing in this announcement that suggests the IARP intends to swing a weapon more damaging than an air guitar.