The National Collegiate Athletic
Association has imposed what may be the final penalties levied
against the University as a result of the scandal involving the
late booster Ed Martin. In addition to the self-imposed sanctions
issued this past November by Athletic Director Bill Martin, the
basketball program faces the loss of four scholarships,
disassociation from the four former players involved for the next
ten years, four years of probation – including the previous season
– and a one-year extension of the postseason ban. These penalties
are surprisingly harsh and misguided as they punish individuals who
were not involved with the University at the time the banned acts
took place.

The University took appropriate measures by reprimanding itself
in the face of adversity on Nov. 7, 2002, by putting itself on
probation, removing banners and records of the previous teams which
featured the four players involved, forfeiting games won with
ineligible players and self-imposing a ban on postseason play for
the 2002-03 season. While the severity of the violations committed
by the former student-athletes is not in question, the severity of
the punishments placed on the current students is an important
concern. To many, these additional sanctions do not come as a
completely unexpected surprise, considering the unprecedented
amount of money involved in the rules violations and the desire of
the NCAA to set an example to deter future violators. The
punishments, however, should be aimed at the University and those
who committed the acts, not the current players, who played no part
in the controversy.

The loss of scholarships is understandable, as is the increase
in the length of the probation, but the post season ban directly
affects students currently committed to playing basketball for the
University. Students play basketball for the opportunity to compete
for a championship. A ban from the post season ruins the optimism
of a burgeoning program. Men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker and
his entire team not only deserve to play in the post-season, but
also deserve the opportunity for a fresh start. The sins of the
past need to be atoned for, but only the guilty should be
punished.

Steve Fisher, the coach of the men’s basketball team during the
scandal, and Chris Webber, a former player and current NBA star,
face no penalties from the NCAA for their involvement in one of the
largest scandals in NCAA history. By punishing those not involved
in the scandal while not reprimanding those who played the most
intricate roles, the NCAA appears to be taking mistargeted, unfair
actions.

Thomas Yaeger, chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, is
seeking to make an example out of the University. There has been a
rash of rules violations lately, most notably at Georgia and St.
Bonaventure, and by taking a hard-line stance against the
University, the committee hopes to set a precedent regarding the
proper manner in which to handle future infractions. The penalties
placed upon the University’s men’s basketball program are much
harsher than those placed on other schools found to be in
precarious positions. Recent examples seem to show that the NCAA
places stronger penalties and emphasis on punishing universities
that commit violations that increase their competitive credibility,
rather than academic infractions.

The University’s basketball program should be – and needed to be
– punished for the serious violations of NCAA rules that were
committed. The penalties upon which the NCAA decided in addition to
the self-imposed sanctions implemented last November, however, have
crossed the line from being appropriate punishments for certain
improprieties, to ones that now adversely affect the wrong parties,
most notably as a result of the extended post season ban.

The NCAA’s decision unfortunately penalizes the current players.
The University itself and its men’s basketball program in general
deserve punishment for the infractions, but this decision
disregards the reality that they took responsibility for their
actions by imposing sanctions upon themselves. Hopefully the NCAA
will reconsider its decision and refocus its attention on justly
punishing those involved.

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