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Monday, February 18, 2013
Prez leaves accountability to others

By Dana O'Neil
In October, the NCAA passed legislation that essentially says head coaches are going to be held accountable for the actions of their assistants. Here's the official language: "A head coach is presumed responsible for major/Level I and Level II violations [e.g. academic fraud, recruiting inducement] occurring within his or her program unless the coach can show that he or she promoted an atmosphere of compliance and monitored his or her staff.'' Yet on Monday, when the NCAA announced the findings of an external review of its enforcement staff and its actions involving the University of Miami case, NCAA president Mark Emmert made it clear that the buck stopped well short of his office door. In the NCAA's continuing push for transparency, Emmert wouldn't confirm a Yahoo! Sports report that Julie Roe Lach, the vice president of enforcement, had been fired, refusing repeatedly to comment on personnel situations. He did, however, say that John Duncan had been named interim vice president of enforcement. Which means Roe Lach now joins a handful of other exiled administrators and investigators as the latest collateral damage from the Indianapolis national offices. So far on Emmert's watch, the NCAA has bungled and fumbled multiple investigations (Cam Newton, Shabazz Muhammad and now Miami); fired two NCAA investigators; saw the exits of two enforcement administrators (director of enforcement Bill Benjamin resigned in June, just eight months after taking the job); and gone well outside of its own rulebook and sidestepped due process to punish Penn State, which generated a lawsuit from none other than the state of Pennsylvania. Yet Emmert continues to pontificate from his self-righteous pulpit, ironically employing the same line of defense that forced the NCAA to enact the new rule for head coaches: "I knew nothing.'' It's the same Sergeant Schultz line Jim Calhoun parroted when he faced sanctions over Connecticut's recruitment of Nate Miles; that Kelvin Sampson used while taking Indiana down on an epic fall; that Eddie Sutton used when the Emery envelope spilled piles of cash; that coaches have utilized since NCAA punishments began. (In each case, interestingly, there was a stoic assistant who took the fall for the boss. Each school's own Julie Roe Lach, if you will.) The NCAA now has taken away that defense for its head coaches, yet somehow it's still OK for the NCAA president who oversees and punishes said coaches. That ought to go over big with the NABC and the AFCA. "I think the actions we're taking today are clearly consistent with holding people accountable for their behavior,'' Emmert said. "If the executive committee believes some disciplinary action against me needs to be taken, I'm sure they will.'' Doubtful, because on the list of 10 people whose accountability is questioned in the external review, Emmert is listed 10th and essentially given a pass. His direct underling, chief operating officer Jim Isch, is listed fourth. He approved the funding to pay Nevin Shapiro's lawyer but essentially escapes on a technicality -- he OK'd the $25,000 payment but was never asked about the legality of such a hire. And when the NCAA's legal staff said it was a bad idea? You guessed it. He didn't know, or more accurately, didn't ask. "He did not follow up on budgetary issues,'' said Ken Wainstein, who led the eternal review. And so the issue is the same as it always seems to be with the NCAA lately: credibility. The mess of the Miami investigation in and of itself has done enough to raise the hackles of the cynics and doubters (of which there are many) of the NCAA process. Now the higher-ups are essentially saying that the rules they've handed down to govern their coaches' actions don't apply to them; that the see-no-evil defense isn't OK at State U., but it's just fine in Indy. This isn't to say that Emmert needs to be fired (maybe he could suspend himself for a few Final Four games?), but the king of the news conference does, like the captain of any sinking ship, need to accept some responsibility. When pressed directly if he was personally embarrassed, Emmert said: "Well, obviously this is an outcome that nobody wants to see on their watch or anyone else's. This is something that is an embarrassment to the association and our staff, contrary to all the activities and directives we've been engaged with and that we espouse.'' Lots of plurality there -- we, the staff, the association. Twenty minutes earlier, in his first comments on the teleconference, Emmert began, "As I announced in January, one of the first things that I did once we had conducted our internal review, I met with the executive committee of the NCAA and the Division I board.'' That's three "I's" (no "we") who did the good and prudent thing. Look, it may seem unreasonable to expect Emmert to know everything that goes on within the walls and cubicles of his national headquarters. But if what's good for the goose is good for the gander, surely what's good for coaches is good for the man in charge.