Former Temple coach Matt Rhule is introduced at Baylor University as the next football coach. (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram). Mac Engel tengel@star-telegram.com
Former Temple coach Matt Rhule is introduced at Baylor University as the next football coach. (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram). Mac Engel tengel@star-telegram.com

Mac Engel

Death penalty is unrealistic, but NCAA must penalize Baylor

By Mac Engel

tengel@star-telegram.com

February 07, 2017 6:54 PM

The Baylor football program took a tremendous positive step in its latest sex-related headline.

Baylor football coach Matt Rhule immediately fired his strength and conditioning coach after Brandon Washington was busted in a prostitution sting over the weekend in Waco.

Waco never ceases to surprise. Not only is it home to the wildly popular Magnolia Market run by HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, but the city also boasts a thriving biker community and adult service industry, too.

J.J. Abrams or any other Hollywood screenwriter would not dare to attempt to write this latest incident to the Baylor football saga. It’s too farfetched for even the most absurd elements of science fiction.

Equally unbelievable is the fact that Baylor has thus far paid no penalty from the rape fiasco, other than to fire former coach Art Briles and, after the 2016 season ended, to shove his entire staff out, too.

According to two Baylor athletic department sources, the school is now bracing for some type of sanctions from the NCAA.

Thus far that is Baylor’s penalty.

There was a crime and no punishment.

Please stop with stupid cries of “the death penalty,” because the financial ramifications are too great for that to be handed out again.

According to two Baylor athletic department sources, in light of the news that broke last week, the school is now bracing for some type of sanctions from the NCAA despite initial reports that nothing of significance was coming down on the football program. At stake is the NCAA’s legitimacy as a governing body over amateur collegiate sports.

To do nothing will only reinforce the increasing perception that this billion-dollar nonprofit operation selectively enforces penalties for infractions far less egregious than those exposed at Baylor.

In 2010, after a four-year investigation, Southern California was hit with a two-year bowl ban, forfeiture of games and a loss of 30 scholarships and four years of probation for paying running back Reggie Bush.

If paying a player merits those sanctions, Baylor should never be allowed to field anything more than a Yahtzee team.

The damning text messages between Briles and assistants revealed in a court filing last week are the motivating factors for the NCAA to intervene.

An NCAA representative said it can’t comment on specific cases, but ESPN has reported the NCAA is “casting a wide” net at Baylor over potential wrongdoing.

The Wall Street Journal originally reported last year that the NCAA would not enforce punishment as it related to the rape scandal, but could potentially do something as it relates to football players receiving benefits.

In his first recruiting season, Baylor coach Matt Rhule landed the 32nd-ranked class, according to Rivals.

This would make sense and explain why Rhule was able to land the nation’s 32nd-ranked recruiting class, even though he was on the job for less than two months, and had but one commitment when he arrived in Waco. Rhule could tell kids and their parents the NCAA was not going to impair the program.

This is entirely because of what happened at Penn State and the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal. In 2012 the NCAA banned Penn State from postseason for four years, fined the school $60 million and reduced scholarships from 25 to 15 a year over four years. The program was on probation for five years.

Facing legal challenges two years later, the NCAA lifted the postseason ban, and restored scholarships and Paterno’s victories. Internal emails revealed that NCAA officials questioned their authority to impose penalties in a criminal case that didn’t involve NCAA violations.

But that doesn’t mean it should raise the white flag.

Of course, even if the NCAA is sincere about this, it will take a while. Unlike the Penn State case, where criminal investigators did all the work, the NCAA is notoriously slow.

It has been “investigating” major academic fraud in the athletic department at North Carolina since what feels like the end of the Civil War, and no penalties have been given.

What people at Baylor are expecting is that the school will be “over-penalized” for the impermissible benefits.

The NCAA could “O.J.” Baylor.

This admittedly is a poor analogy, but Pro Football Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson sits in a Las Vegas jail cell for his conviction in a robbery and kidnapping case that, upon closer inspection, did not warrant the 9-to-33-year sentence he was given. It is widely assumed the extreme sentencing in that case had everything to do with the infamous “not guilty” verdict he was given on the charge that he murdered his ex-wife and her friend in 1994.

What people at Baylor are expecting is that the school will be “over-penalized” for the impermissible benefits.

If the NCAA is serious about doing anything, but fears that the Penn State case will make it too difficult to penalize Baylor, it has the “impermissible benefits” avenue to enforce a sanction without fear of losing an appeal.

Using the North Carolina, Penn State and USC cases as precedents, Baylor is not going to be free and clear of this for a long time. Think years.

The NCAA can’t be expected to hand out another death penalty to another private Texas football team. But to do nothing as it relates to Baylor neuters a governing body that is already toothless to the point of useless.

If the NCAA doesn’t penalize for this, then why does it even exist?

New Baylor football coach Matt Rhule arrives in Bear country

Former Temple coach Matt Rhule is introduced at Baylor University as the next football coach. (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).

Mac Engel tengel@star-telegram.com

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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