If they can figure out you are doing something shady, you're in trouble.
Yesterday Oregon produced an FOIA data-dump that initially caused yawns. Important people on my twitter said "nothing to see here," so I didn't look. Then Doctor Saturday said it again:
And as far as NCAA violations are concerned, frankly, it seems there's not a whole lot to see there: Oregon paid its money, and received its materials, as do many other schools that use recruiting services within NCAA rules.
And then Doctor Saturday related what Oregon had bought with its 25 grand:
Amid the documents released by Oregon related to the football scouting services inquiry were 140 recruiting profiles of high school players under the heading "2010 National High School Evaluation Booklet." Above each individual profile, however, reads "Player Profile 2011." The related invoice cites the "2011 National Package."
A search of all the players listed revealed that virtually all graduated from high school in 2009 with a few graduating in 2010 or 2008.
And I'm all like wait a dang minute here. Oregon paid a guy $25k for perfectly useless information and it seems like people are reacting like this isn't a major violation on a plate. Andy Staples comes to the rescue, but even as he does he feels the need to point out paying 25k for nothing may not be against NCAA rules:
Even if the payment was for something else, investigators probably couldn't have proved the Ducks broke any 2010-vintage NCAA rule regarding scouting services. But that only holds true if Lyles produced something resembling a legitimate product. If Kelly or any of his coaches tried to pass off the booklet released Monday as legitimate, NCAA investigators might consider that a fib on the level of, say, claiming a recruit wasn't at a cookout at a coach's house when he actually was or, possibly, conveniently forgetting to mention that series of e-mails about the tattoo parlor. Ask former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl and former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel how those fibs turned out for them. It's relatively unclear whether any NCAA rule in 2010 could prohibit a school from paying a recruiting service $1 million, much less $25,000. But it's crystal clear that in 2010, the NCAA rulebook forbade lying to the NCAA.
Meanwhile in North Carolina, Greg Little's license plate thing gets even more bizarre:
Between March 9 and April 29, 2009 Little’s Dodge was issued 16 parking violations under three separate license plates. The car was cited three days in a row from March 30 to April 2, and each time had a different plate. On April 13, the car was cited twice, with two different plate numbers.
Many of these plates are "linked to a car dealer currently serving time in federal prison for money laundering."
Even more meanwhile, the Ohio BMV says there is nothing to see here with the Ohio State car purchases:
The BMV's 65-page report issued Tuesday said the certificates of titles for cars sold by Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct to players and families accurately reflected the vehicles' sales prices.
This leaves Ohio State dealing with tattoos and memorabilia and nine guys with dealer plates instead of temporary tags and several other things besides.
The question the NCAA is going to have to answer soon is "how obviously fishy does something have to be before we punish someone?" Each of the three items above falls at a different place on the you-expect-me-to-believe-that scale:
- Actual car purchases by Ohio State people checked out by governmental organization: not that fishy in and of itself. Add the loaners and the memorabilia and the cuddly relationship and there's still a cocktail of NCAA violations, but the actual sale of vehicles that were apparently sold for book value or above in most cases is plausibly on the up and up. The sheer concentration of sales and murky value of used cars makes it unlikely there wasn't some extra benefits going on, but proving that seems required if that particular slice of the Ohio State issues is going to produce anything.
- Greg Little's ever-rotating license plate from guy serving time for money-laundering: there might be some level of plate and car swapping that is reasonably explained. Little clearly exceeds that and is hooked up with a guy who was in some dirt. Other schools monitor traffic/parking infractions closely; if UNC did so they would have ended up suspending Little a lot sooner. This should be the ground for a failure to monitor charge, one that will be part of a more general hammering for John Blake's clear knowledge of Marvin Austin, et al., and their magic carpet rides.
- Oregon paying 25k for perfectly useless paper: if you had purchased a $25,000 vehicle and found out it was in fact a rabbit, you would get your money back. You would instruct your credit card company not to honor the charge or sue or something. You would not go on your way, maintaining a positive relationship with the man who sold you a rabbit he told you was an Escalade. This is fishiness that should rise to the level of a major NCAA violation in and of itself, a clear quid-pro-quo with no plausible explanation.
The NCAA dared to make inferences in the USC case, something that forms the basis for much of the Trojan outrage surrounding the case. They made a leap of logic many fourth-graders could make. Oregon obviously fails the fourth-grader test. North Carolina likely does. In this instance, Ohio State does not; with the loaners they do.