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Chuck Landon: NCAA has cut its own authority to survive

Jun. 29, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The NCAA needs a good orthodontist.

For braces?

Nope, for dentures.

It seems the NCAA has lost all its teeth -- not to mention most of its spine -- during the most recent conference reconfiguration, resulting in the creation of the "Big Five" power conferences.

The NCAA appears frightened the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, PAC-12 and ACC will secede from this hierarchy. That would render the NCAA irrelevant. As a result of this sword of Damocles hanging over its head -- or should that be sword of Delaney? -- the NCAA is reluctant to take any action that might alienate the "Big Five."

So, the NCAA has lost its bite. Imagine "Jaws" with no teeth. The NCAA still swims around the collegiate sea looking big and bad and deadly as a great white shark, but in reality it can't do anything but swallow ... hard.

That's because suddenly the NCAA is as toothless as the father of our country after a termite infestation.

The first indication of this disturbing change occurred in April when the NCAA upheld UCF's appeal of sanctions that initially barred the Knights from postseason play during the 2012 football season.

That allowed UCF to contend for a Conference USA championship and subsequent bowl bid during the Knights final season as a league member.

At the time, it appeared UCF was simply delaying the inevitable. Although the appeal allowed the Knights to compete for a C-USA title and play in a bowl game in 2012, the assumption was the NCAA would deny the appeal in February. That would mean UCF would have to serve the postseason ban penalty during its first season in the Knights' new home -- the American Athletic Conference.

Or so we thought.

But that's before we learned the NCAA had its teeth cleaned ... clean gone, that is.

The biteless NCAA allowed UCF to skate, which was a clear message that NCAA president Mark Emmert and his cohorts were running scared.

Call 'em "Toothless in Indianapolis."

That label became even more accurate this week when the NCAA gave Oregon's football program a mere slap on the wrist for what was considered major recruiting violations.

The NCAA discovered the Ducks had paid $25,000 to a guy named Willie Lyles, who runs a recruiting service in Houston, because he could deliver a star high school running back from Texas. One month after Lache Seastrunk committed to Oregon, Lyles received the payment.

So, what were the consequences of this egregious rules violation?

The Ducks lose one scholarship each season during a three-year probation, paid recruiting visits were cut from 56 to 37 during the same time frame and Oregon must disassociate itself from Lyles.

Oh, yeah, and former coach Chip Kelly got an 18-month show-cause order. Geez, that really stings, considering Kelly has a five-year contract to coach the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

But there was no bowl ban or other major penalties.

None.

Now, compare that punishment to what the NCAA levied on Marshall in 2001. Besides being placed on four years probation, MU lost 15 football scholarships and two men's basketball scholarships for arranging jobs for academic non-qualifiers.

That's how much NCAA justice has changed. All because the NCAA is holding on by its ... fingernails?

Nope.

Gums.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2827 or clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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