The fact-finding and information-gathering phase of the NCAA's mission to keep its sports amateur is complete. These last 60 years have all been merely a part of a process to gather evidence to accurately determine whether cheating on the NCAA level is actually an issue or just a fad.
From the City College of New York basketball point-shaving scandal in 1951 to this most recent edition of jock sniffers run amok at The U here in 2011, the time has finally come for action.
Now the NCAA is serious. Get out your legal notepad. It is time for a meeting, people.
They may have to work through lunch to get this thing cleaned up.
The University of Miami athletic department scandal broken by Yahoo! Sports this week isn't really anything new or earth-shattering. It is merely more dirt and more embarrassment to the impossible concept of maintaining amateurism in big-time college football.
A guy with a ton of coin wanted to curry favor among Hurricanes athletes, sprayed his wealth that was built on a Ponzi scheme and was admitted to the cool club. Quick math on this, and since the 1980s we've seen similar behaviors at Oklahoma, Ohio State, USC, LSU, TCU, SMU, Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn, and... I've lost count.
I called a person who knows a thing or two about what it's like to run an athletic department hit by scandal. Frank Windegger ran the TCU athletic department from 1975 to '98, and was there when wealthy oilman Dick Lowe and his buddies were nabbed for paying Kenneth Davis and friends in the 1980s. Windegger was there when the NCAA dropped the hammer on his football program, which didn't begin to really recover until 1999.
"The whole thing is a crazy story," Windegger, 77, said. "I think anybody that knowingly takes that kind of money should be banned for life from the NCAA."
As in, no more playing college football?
"Yes. That's the only way you can really do it," Windegger said. "It has to be something that is so devastating of a penalty and that it will stand up in court. You see, most of these guys who play aren't going to the NFL. Something like this would make them think twice about taking money."
But what of the guys who can go to the NFL?
The M.O. has been cash, TV sets, money for strippers and no-show jobs for players, who are secure in the knowledge that if they get busted they can exercise their out-clause by running to the NFL. That's what Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor did.
NFL super SWAT commando unit leader Roger Goodell recently suspended Pryor for five games after he was busted for various improprieties while he was at Ohio State -- the same penalty Pryor would have received had he stayed in college. Pryor did nothing wrong by NFL law, just NCAA. So Goodell is now enforcing NCAA penalties. This is an unprecedented move and speaks to just how much policing power Goodell exercises.
Windegger's plan should deter the kid who has no shot at the NFL. If the kid has a shot and takes money, Jedi Knight Goodell is there to make you pay.
How can the NCAA or even the NFL stop a wealthy person from trying to shower cash on a college player? The NCAA could even ban for life the head coach who saw these things happening, although expect every head coach to have stamped on his business card, Plausible Deniability. The head coach must turn to the pros or NAIA for a gig. But there is no way for the NCAA to police a pack of wealthy overzealous fans who live vicariously through their college football or basketball teams. Boosters can be banned for life, but breaking the NCAA law is far different than breaking a state or federal law.
Not to mention these schools need boosters' money to cover the inevitable losses they suffer every year.
"They are going to have to do something very desperate like this to get it under control. It's gotten so much big-money now it's out of control," Windegger said. "I really had a hard time getting my hands around it. Dick Lowe loves TCU, and he did a lot of great things for that school.
"It was his love for TCU that he jumped in where everybody seemed to be doing it at that time. Every school in the conference was out shopping and doing what they thought they needed to do. And it was the businessmen who were the ones that were running the programs."
Frank retired in 1998. Businessmen, now more than ever, are the ones who call the shots.
But there is nothing anybody can do about the booster run amok.
After more than 60 years of gathering evidence, the NCAA knows this isn't just some fad.
Follow Mac Engel on Twitter @MacEngelProf
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760