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West Virginia Latest Program Snared by NCAA Investigators

Aug 5, 2010 – 5:30 PM
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Brian Grummell

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Country roads are taking the NCAA home to the Mountaineers. News broke Thursday that the NCAA has accused the West Virginia football program of five major rules violations and one secondary violation. The allegations link the tainted regime of former coach Rich Rodriguez (right), now at Michigan, and current coach Bill Stewart.

The allegations aren't exactly sexy -- no agents, boosters or academic fraud, at least that we know of -- but they do cut at the heart of competitive balance and fairness. Not surprisingly, they're somewhat similar to the allegations Michigan faced and largely avoided sanction from early in the Rodriguez regime.

The formal accusations are as follows:

*Between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons, non-coaching staff members monitored and/or conducted skill-development activities with football players at least two days a week in the spring and summer.

*Between the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons, non-coaching staff members sometimes analyzed video with football players.

*From 2005-06 to 2007-08, non-coaching staff members sat in on coaches' meetings that they were not allowed to attend.

*From 2007-08 to 2009-10, non-coaching staff members did the above and also provided advice and/or corrections to players pertaining to technique and plays.

Essentially, it looks as if West Virginia may have let additional staff engage in coaching activities that were not permissible. Much of this is inside baseball, but in the name of competitive balance and fairness there are rules in college athletics that cap the number of coaches a program can hire and/or permit to work with its athletes as well as how much time they can spend with said athletes. A similar violation was actually alleged against USC in building the NCAA's case toward "lack of institutional control," for instance.

One's general sense of outrage (or lack thereof) on this matter likely links directly to one's general view of amateurism in college athletics. In the NFL, limits on coaches and practice time are limited not by a morbidly bureaucratic organizing body but by a league office that is a partner with all 32 member organizations and the players' union.

That said, the NCAA's best way to maintain equality of opportunity is to forcefully regulate recruiting and the time coaches and athletes can spend together. The allegations against West Virginia strike at the latter and arguably gave its football program a competitive edge on the field -- assuming its opponents weren't committing similar violations. One could even argue the crime here was even more of a flagrant violation of competitive balance than what happened with USC in regard to Reggie Bush, who with his family received money for a car, travel and home while still participating in college athletics.

For its part, West Virginia says it has cooperated with the investigation. The NCAA has been on this almost an entire year now, according to ESPN.com. Its says the NCAA has interviewed more than 80 people and first arrived in Morgantown sometime in April following its investigation into Rodriguez's activities at Michigan.
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