What Should The Big 12 & NCAA Do About Baylor?
The Big 12 came up with a sanction against Baylor, but is it enough? What should the conference really do about the program?
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Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …
it would’ve been stronger, but the Big 12 took away 25% of it. Once I prove I can be a better writer, you’ll get back that extra portion.
You could call it a slap on the wrist, but that would be an insult to slaps and wrists.
Imagine that your kid just set the dog on fire. Is your kid going to ever do that again? Almost certainly, no, considering you got rid of the dog and won’t ever get another. So what do you do to ensure that Junior knows he’s been naughty and needs to change the way he acts? You tell him he can only watch 75% of his favorite show, and can then watch the rest once he proves that he changed? He only gets to play three-quarters of his video game, or a quarter of his quarter pounder with cheese is held on to until he proves he’s not naughty?
That’s sort of what the Big 12 just did to Baylor, withholding in escrow 25% of the school’s future revenue distribution – roughly $8 million a year – until the school can prove to a third party that the culture has changed and there’s no chance of the sins of the past can happen again. Once Baylor shows that everything is fine, then the school gets the money back.
Next, the Big 12 will punish Baylor by whamming it with soft, cushy pillows.
Okay, yeah, the Big 12 will be slammed for its toothless sanctions, and the NCAA isn’t likely to dive in too deep after it overreached in the Penn State nightmare, but what should be done? What can the Big 12 really do to hurt one of its money-making conference partners, and what can the NCAA do now that it’s all but out of the jurisdiction business?
First, when it comes to college athletics, we have to get over the notion that innocent people getting punished for crimes of the past is an excuse not to punish. This became normalized during Penn State, when every type of analysis seemed to go out of its way to say that the current players had nothing to do with it, and future recruiting classes of players obviously weren’t involved.
No one ever denied that what happened at Penn State was horrible, but did the players go out of their way to speak out against Joe Paterno? Never. Did they do the research to really and truly know what happened and how? From the guys I talked to, if they did, they wouldn’t admit to it.
And when it comes to the future players, it’s simple – you CHOSE to go there. You know what the situation is/was, and you know what you’re walking into. That means it’s your job to be educated enough to know what happened, including all the subtle nuances. And if you don’t, and if you just went there to play some ball, then when it comes to the punishments, too bad.
So if there’s any thought of taking away scholarships or coming up with a bowl ban – go for it. If some players don’t get to go to an extra game and get a swagbag, too bad. Let them transfer if that’s what matters to them.
But the Big 12 isn’t going to want to lose revenue by banning Baylor from bowl games or TV time, and it doesn’t do any good to make the school lousy at football by taking away scholarships – that backfired in the USC/Reggie Bush situation, making the school come out as the sympathetic victim. Of course the Big 12 is mad at Baylor, but really, what can it do? What can the NCAA do?
How about starting with the optics – and this is where the ball was totally dropped – and continues to be – at Penn State.
It’s not just about punishing a program, it’s about turning a whole different direction. It starts by making sure the culture really does change.
What did we learn from Penn State? Sanctions don’t really matter. The football program never went away, the recruiting didn’t suffer a lick, and it got back to the Rose Bowl within a few years – along with the horrific suggestion that the healing had happened and everything was okay again.
No, Big 12, you have to shame Baylor, just like the NCAA and Big Ten should’ve done a better job at shaming Penn State, so the past transgressions couldn’t be swept aside once the ball got kicked off. It all has to be right in everyone’s face at all times.
Maybe force the team to wear pink jerseys. You scoff, but that would do far, far more to change things than holding on to a few million dollars until everything is ready. Maybe, instead of putting that money in escrow, it gets donated to domestic abuse causes.
Maybe, instead of the Baylor logo on the helmet, there’s a phone number and web site address for a national hotline for rape victims. Put the same thing in the middle of the field and the end zones. Something, so that it’s all right there in open at all times, and that this doesn’t leave and it’s not all just swept away like it was for some at Penn State.
No, it wouldn’t be like putting a scarlet letter on the uniforms of the innocent, but it would at least make it appear that the program gets it, and that it’s going to do something drastic.
Big 12 and – more importantly – Baylor, come up with something bigger and better. Come up with something that doesn’t let this slip away once the Bears become really good again under Matt Rhule. Prove that you really, really get it, and not just to get back that 25%.