As 'Bama fans, we come to learn this song and dance frighteningly well over the last two decades: our team breaks the rules, we get caught, the NCAA issues its sanctions, and we (as fans) spend the next several months shouting at anyone who will listen how unfair they are.
Conquest Chronicles is, as you might expect, following that script to the letter.
I hate to rain on the parade, but there are a few points CC, and the Stewart Mandel article they linked for support, are missing.
Comparisons to the Albert Means case
Invariably, any Southern Cal apologist who brings up the Albert Means case does so to highlight the fact that the individuals handing out cash were actual Alabama boosters while those in USC's case were supposedly not. They conveniently leave out a host of other differences, however. Those include:
- Alabama had a picture-perfect compliance department, while USC's was woefully under-manned and uninvolved.
- Despite Alabama's best efforts, it had no way of knowing that Means and his coach were on the take. Among other juicy details, the NCAA infractions report puts one of Bush's coaches at a party where Bush was receiving extra benefits. (USC fans also tend to ignore the second half of "knew or should have known")
- Alabama complied quickly and thoroughly with the NCAA investigation. The USC investigation was stalled by any number of parties and a USC coach lied to the NCAA.
- Mandel's opinion notwithstanding, Alabama did not commit either of the two cardinal sins: Failure to Monitor or Lack of Institutional Control. USC was found to have lacked institutional control.
- Means was not yet a player on campus, but Bush and Mayo were both being seen every day dozens of people who have the responsibility of promoting enforcement (fellow players, coaches, administrative staff).
In the balance, those differences weigh far more than whether or not someone is technically a booster.
Greater Enforcement for Greater Athletes
I haven't yet put my finger on why Mandel and USC fans bristle at the notion that higher-profile athletes should garner more attention from a compliance staff.
You don't put a $40,000 alarm system on a $5,000 car, and you don't protect your Lambo with a sticker that says "please don't steal me". It is wholly reasonable to expect greater risks to be protected against more strongly while allowing lesser risks to take a back seat.
The NCAA did not say that superstars require inhuman levels of monitoring. The point they were driving at, as best I can tell, is that USC treated all of the players as if the level of risk was comparable to a 2-star bench warmer.
While infractions can happen with any caliber player, when it comes to the type of infractions USC committed, they're just not going to involve players for whom college is the last place they'll play competitive football. There's no incentive for agents to proposition Johnny Scout Team and, as a result, enforcement activities related to keeping Johnny away from agents does not need to be as it does a player who is bound to be a high-round draft pick.
There's nothing "illegal" about requiring compliance departments to adopt this eminently rational behavior -- to the contrary, I'm sure the NCAA wouldn't mind at all if every athlete was watched over as though he or she was a corrupt, low-character, future first-round draft pick. What they're not going to allow, is treating that player like a bench warmer.
The Impact on Other Schools and their Fans
Mandel suggests that other schools should be scared of this "new" rule. My guess is compliance departments are going to take a look at this ruling and, in some cases, step up their monitoring of their best athletes, possibly adding a person or two to the staff to help with the increased workload. Other schools, probably the majority, are already in good shape because they take compliance seriously from top to bottom and because they do their best to recruit high-character players.
As a result, fans need not worry any more about their school than they already had been. The compliance department cannot prevent every infraction, and they'll never be able to. A quality group with buy-in from coaches and administrators, however, will reduce the number of infractions through education and "promoting and atmosphere of compliance" and they'll minimize the impact of the infractions by catching them early and responding to them appropriately.
It's certainly an uncomfortable truth for USC fans to face, but many of their current woes have nothing to do with Reggie's business partners and everything to do with the haphazard way USC did (or didn't do) compliance. Southern Cal was heaping dry straw into a 200 year old barn with their minimal compliance staff and the head-in-the-sand attitude of coaches and administrators . . . Bush and Mayo were just the matches that set the whole thing ablaze.