Although it never is a good thing to be dealing with NCAA rules violations, West Virginia University did a brilliant job of handling the situation involving the Mountaineer football program.
Rather than place itself at the mercy of the NCAA, West Virginia was proactive in dealing with the issues, including placing itself on probation for two years. The probation, however, doesn't mean WVU can't compete for the Big East championship or go to bowl games. It simply means the Mountaineers had better not commit further violations between now and July 7, 2013, or else the NCAA will lower the boom on West Virginia.
In addition to the probationary period, WVU also reduced its number of football scholarships by two for the 2010-11 academic year and by one in 2011-2012. It also reduced the amount of time students-athletes participated in football activities by 23 percent and eliminated two non-coaching graduate assistant positions.
This could have been worse, especially since the violations occurred under two different head coaches -Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart. Plus, there were five major violations and one secondary breaking of the rules.
West Virginia's best option was to punish itself and show the NCAA that it took such matters seriously. Obviously, it also had to come up with just the right amount of punishment that would satisfy the NCAA without doing irreparable harm to future football seasons. It did just that. The NCAA accepted WVU's self-imposed penalties and closed the matter.
Now, WVU's job is to make absolutely certain it follows the rules, for repeat violators are dealt with much more harshly than first-time offenders.
While you can say none of the violations were all that serious -and I would agree -you simply can't break the rules. If you do, you run the risk not only of getting caught, but of subjecting your program to national scorn.
West Virginia was a major national sports story on Friday. "NCAA places West Virginia football program on probation for two years'' the headlines and the sports tickers screamed. That's not good. It sullies your reputation. No matter how trivial the rules you violated might seem, you now set yourself up to be billed as cheaters. And I don't need to tell you that nobody likes a cheater.
That would include West Virginia fans, who certainly don't want their team's recent successes to be chalked up to breaking rules rather than due to having a strong football program.
The only good thing about the NCAA's announcement regarding West Virginia is that it happened to come on the same day that Ohio State announced it would forfeit all its victories from last season -including its triumph in the Sugar Bowl. That became the major story of the day, far surpassing the impact of West Virginia's woes.
While we can question many things about the NCAA, the one thing I've never understood is that while the schools must endure penalties, and thus those who remain with the programs suffer, the penalties don't follow the offending coaches to future jobs.
Although Rich Rodriguez has caused both West Virginia and Michigan to deal with NCAA violations, he's free and clear to accept yet another job without facing any repercussions.
So are Bill Stewart and even Jim Tressel. That doesn't make sense.
Contact Dave Poe at email@example.com