Bob Valvano: Self-imposed ban is ‘terrible decision’
After some short reflection...
I have spent the better part of the weekend rolling the decision by the University of Louisville to self-impose a postseason ban on its men's basketball team around in my mind, and I must tell you, I think it's a terrible decision. More so now than when it first came out.
Here is why. Let's deal in facts.
As we don't know exactly what was uncovered that led to this decision, we are left to examine all the possibilities.
First, that the offenses all happened before this group of players were here, but the school wants to show it understands they are serious.
If so, I suggest then you impose the ban for next season, making a statement that says clearly this year's group, having done no wrong, shouldn't be punished, even singling out Damion Lee and Trey Lewis. Don't run from factoring those kids into the decision. They represent all the NCAA says it wants from its student-athletes. Why should you hide from saying you're trying to do right by them?
Then, allow any high school senior who has signed, or committed, to a school the opportunity to be released from those pledges if they wish. This is the fairest decision in regard to the student-athletes, the group that unfortunately all too often doesn't seem to factor into the decision-making enough, if at all.
Scenario two: If, as some have speculated, there are some players in the current group who were involved in these nefarious doings, this decision looks even worse. If you know who they are, suspend THEM, not everyone. Let UofL coach Rick Pitino guide Lee, Lewis and three walk-ons, if you have to, if you find everyone else was involved. As that seems absurd, it is safe to say if you now know who was involved, discipline them, not everyone, and play with the rest.
Scenario three: While no current players are involved, they find that Pitino or any current coaches knew and covertly or otherwise, helped facilitate it, again the decision is awful. Those coaches should be dismissed. As I don't believe that to be the case, and certainly not with Pitino who, according to reports, passed a lie-detector test, proving he was unaware. I don't think that is the case, but if it were, the penalty is still ridiculous.
The last scenario is this: that this is an effort to "save," the national championship from 2013. I have no idea if this is true either, but if it is the case, someone has to have the guts to say that's a pretty lame attempt to do so. Is some sort of public self-flagellation doing anything of substance in regards to the 2013 title? Who sees logic in this? This group has NOTHING to do with that one. It's like your neighbor robs a bank; three years later, they arrest the new owners of the house. Who does that make sense to?
If there were ample proof that the 2013 team may have committed violations that would nullify that title, that's a separate battle to be undertaken in a separate initiative.
I can't find any other viable scenarios.
Why then do teams self-impose? Do they even work?
I spoke with ESPN's Jay Bilas about this yesterday. He's a frequent, vocal critic of the NCAA, and he too thinks this decision is awful. So I asked him, why then do teams self-impose?
He said, simply: "The NCAA terrorizes you. They tell you not to talk, not to fight back, that to do so means you're 'intimidating' witnesses. I think that's ridiculous. The whole process is ridiculous."
He has often said, as have I, the NCAA is not made up of bad people. It's a flawed system.
But then he shared a troubling story.
He said a compliance officer at a Power 5 big-conference school said, "Jay, I have bad news for you. You're wrong. A lot of these guys on the compliance committee are NOT good guys. They're petty, vindictive and they like the feeling of power that comes with intimidating schools."
I had never heard that before. I don't know these people so I can't say first hand, but that story and this whole incident tells me, on a broader scale, the system isn't working and needs more transparency.
Left to speculate on what actually might have happened, even considering the worst scenario, this decision still seems a poor one, and the process reeks of an overseeing organization in the NCAA, whose reach has apparently exceeded its grasp, and there are myriads of people - not the least of which, the student-athletes themselves - who are left to pick up the dysfunctional pieces they leave behind.
Bob Valvano does color commentary for UofL basketball radio broadcasts and is a radio talk-show host.
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