Gay centre of NCAA storm

LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas’ powerhouse track and field program will return to practice this fall after a season battered by athlete illnesses and the criminal conviction of a former assistant coach.

The university appeared before an NCAA infractions committee for a half-a-day hearing Saturday in Indianapolis, hoping its self-imposed sanctions after former assistant Lance Brauman’s conviction will be enough.

Coach John McDonnell also said Tuesday he just wants his squad of sophomores and juniors to stay healthy after three came down meningitis, two suffered staph infections and four had mononucleosis.

“It’s like Murphy’s Law – everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” McDonnell said. “You’ve just got to say to yourself, ‘Hey, regroup and come back.’ You can’t worry about things like that. It was more of a disaster than anything else.”

McDonnell declined to comment on the NCAA hearing. Scott Varady, associate general counsel to the school, said officials remain confident the NCAA would view the school’s self-imposed penalties as sufficient.

“We believe this case is limited in scope,” Varady said. “It involved one assistant coach and one student athlete over a very short period of time. I think that’s important to note.”

The student athlete was sprinting star Tyson Gay. Though never named by the university, Brauman’s mail fraud indictment listed Gay as the one the former coach offered illegal help to while at Barton County Community College in Kansas.

Brauman, who received a year in prison for fraudulently using the federal work-study program to give athletes full-ride scholarships, was working at Arkansas at the time of his conviction. He resigned shortly afterward, stunning an Arkansas’ program that has 42 national championships in track and field and cross country.

In 21 of the past 23 years, the Razorbacks have won at least one national title, including an 18-year streak. The most recent came in the 2006 indoor season.

In a written statement Tuesday, university Chancellor John White stressed the infractions did not “contain any alleged violations of NCAA rules specifically against Head Coach John McDonnell” or other members of his staff.

“Nevertheless, as set forth in the institution’s response to the notice, the university acknowledged its responsibility for certain NCAA violations and detailed the meaningful corrective and punitive actions that it had instituted,” White said. “As I stated to the committee, the university accepts full responsibility for those violations.”

In a January report to the NCAA commission, Arkansas acknowledged Brauman helped an unnamed athlete with transportation, tutoring and housing in 2003, before the athlete became academically eligible and in violation of NCAA rules. Arkansas also reported that the athlete was unknowingly enrolled in a course at Barton County and received a grade.

If Gay had not graduated from a junior college, he would have been ineligible to enroll and participate in athletics at Arkansas. Since then, the former Razorback has won races on the international track scene in the 100- and 200-meter runs.

Arkansas’ self-imposed penalties included loss of three scholarships for 2007, 2008 and 2009, and the school also agreed not to recruit from junior colleges for those years. Varady said the NCAA committee would decide in six to eight weeks whether Arkansas’ sanctions would be sufficient.

Arkansas was to have a hearing before the NCAA Infractions Committee in June in Portland, Ore., but the university requested a delay.

McDonnell said cross country practice would begin Monday, with track and field athletes starting in early September. Several athletes could “step it up” for the program, which wants to bounce back after the turmoil on and off the field, he said.

“All those kids, every single one of them has said, 'Hey, I didn’t come here for that type of performance,” McDonnell said. “I said, 'Well, I hope you didn’t.”

I’m not sure what to make of all this.

On the one hand you have your rules.

On the other, you have a phenomenally gifted athlete who has been given a break and the chance to shine and make a dollar by his entertaining performances. Had the rules not been broken, it may have been Gay who was left broken.

again back on the other side of the coin, how hard is it to graduate junior college on your own?

This coin has a lot of sides. How about when the big institutions routinely make a mockery of the notions of “student-athlete” and “unpaid amateur” by giving players gravy jobs and “keep them eligible” classes then play CYA in the media when a smaller school gets caught mostly because their rule breaking isn’t well enough built into their system?

And how about the members of the media, who know that the football factories chew up young people and spit them out, yet say nothing until there is a “scandal” they can exploit for ratings. Could it be because a real journalistic investigation of the exploitation in the NCAA could hurt BB and football TV ratings?

shamteurism is in full force in some places and i don’t really have a problem with it, its the nature of the game and goes back as long as anyone has documented or cared to remember. While they shouldn’t be paid by the Universities, the realities of being a top player in a money sport(fball or bball) are different than those of the regular student or even the regular student athelte. As early as 1980 colleges were paying 1/4 of a million for a top Bball player(john williams to LSU in 1983).

however, occasionally even the big guns get into the poo, Oklahoma with the QB scandal last year and O$U and U$C under the gun recently for their dealings with former top tailbacks(bush and clarrett). Basicly, when breaking the rules, at least with the NCAA you’ll most likely get away with it, when you don’t though, you tend to get totally screwed. see SMU football in 1988 or even for a 1 athelte deal like this, the razorbacks are losing almost a 4th of their scholly’s. The NCAA allows 12.5 for mens track and XC and they are sans 3 for the next few years, even if J-mee remerges as a world beater they will not likely win another team title while they are on probation.

edit: the hypocracy is sorta dumb though, Oregon has a guy running for them who turned pro, took money from Nike, then decided he wanted to come back and run for U of O, and the NCAA let him, he currently takes coorospondence courses and trains with the Nike guys, nothing wrong with that, but if he got his eligiblity back after basicly committing the cardinal NCAA sin I don’t see why the Razorbacks should get railroaded for getting a guy eligible.