NCAA BS bylaw 10.1- failure to cooperate & unethical conduct

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Although it may seem like a counter-intuitive proposition for anyone who dislikes corruption and believes that bad behavior should always bring painful consequences, University employees and “student-athletes” should always refuse cooperation with the NCAA and its investigators–for two basic reasons of principle.

First, the NCAA’s investigatory techniques are flawed at best and in one sense positively farcical. The farce is that the institution being “investigated” is actually a full participant in the investigation. All witness testimony, even including the most scathing allegation from the most forthcoming eyewitness, is recorded and immediately turned over to the institution’s appointed investigative team. (One or more members of the team are also present for every interview and are permitted to challenge witnesses as they speak.) Tenured professors can feel free to share any and all concerns in such a setting (Jay Smith spoke to the NCAA in the summer of 2014–a disclosure that is itself an NCAA violation.) But who else would not feel inhibited and/or intimidated by a conversation ostensibly aimed at disclosure but designed to give the offending institution a chance to raise objections and to question the accuracy or honesty of the witness? These “joint” investigations and interviews are presented as an expression of the “joint” desire to “get at the full truth.” But universities threatened with disciplinary action–UNC between 2010 and 2014 is the perfect example of the type–have little or no interest in uncovering the full truth of internal corruption and malfeasance. Their interest is in finding the scapegoats who can be thrown under the bus to protect the institution as a whole. By tipping them off about the identities of key witnesses, the nature of their allegations, and their precise position within the bureaucratic hierarchy, the NCAA facilitates the development of a defense strategy for “investigated” institutions. Lacking subpoena power and any true legal authority, the NCAA cannot be expected to do any additional investigating on its own. And so “joint” investigations–though they will almost invariably lead to sanctions of some sort–merely create the appearance of discipline and policing while they actually ensure that the system sails on with few disruptions. Real pain is meted out only to the “bad apples” who need to be sacrificed for the greater good of the athletic machine.

The second reason students and employees should plead the fifth when the NCAA comes calling is that the NCAA and its member institutions offer no protections–none at all–to whistleblowers and truth tellers. At a February 2015 meeting with the NCAA, during which she was warned about her obligation to speak the truth or risk violation of multiple NCAA by-laws, Mary Willingham pointedly asked the NCAA team which of their by-laws protected whistleblowers from retaliation and harassment. The head of the befuddled enforcement team could only respond: there is no such by-law “which uses that language.” Indeed there is not. This might help to explain why, when Willingham spoke publicly and controversially about UNC corruption in 2012, 2013, and 2014, no one from NCAA headquarters offered her any support. No one in Indianapolis rushed to say ‘leave that woman alone, and provide her a secure platform from which to testify about her experiences.’ Taking its cue from the institution with which it would later lead a “joint” investigation, the NCAA ignored Willingham’s existence for as long as possible and allowed her to absorb waves of abuse from crazed fans and even many UNC staff, faculty, and administrators.

Athletes have it even worse. They are used to being right-less, of course, since they sign away a whole range of basic civil rights (including the right to privacy) when they sign their national letters of intent. But the NCAA–with no legal authority but with plenty of intimidation tactics always at the ready–forces athletes to confess their violations of NCAA by-laws (e. g., accepting illicit cream cheese for the bagel taken from the training table) and then uses those confessions to justify the punishments it arbitrarily metes out. In such a system–where legal representation is not provided and is not easily accessed–why should athletes speak candidly to NCAA policemen? Athletes should refuse, en bloc, to cooperate with a disciplinary regime that leaves them unprotected, a regime that enforces morally indefensible rules, a regime constructed to create the appearance of NCAA efficacy so as to protect the high salaries of administrators, coaches, and NCAA personnel.

The NCAA’s disciplinary regime, like the NCAA itself, is broken. It is not worthy of respect. It needs to come down.

 

 

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