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Opinion

NCAA probation disappoints students

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April 24, 2014

How often do we see the headline of a news story regarding NCAA violations by a given school?

It seems like one university after another gets caught for some sort of rules violation nearly every month.

At the beginning of the day on April 23, there were a total of 24 teams on NCAA probation, according to the NCAA. By the end of the day there were 25.

I certainly never imagined that attending UW-River Falls would also mean attending a school sanctioned for NCAA rules violations. Yet, on April 23, UWRF was the team added to the list of teams on NCAA probation.

According to a report from the Associated Press, UWRF was given a year of probation for failing to monitor the scholarship process.

In other words, UWRF was giving scholarship money to athletes, which is a huge no-no in Div. III sports.

According to the report from the NCAA, $4,090, in total, was given to five members of the team between the 2007-08 and 2011-12 academic years. Additionally, the report indicated that former UWRF football coach John O’Grady was involved in the process.

As a student, I was very disappointed to hear this news come out. This affects the University far more than just the football team being put on a year of probation. While in the grand scheme of things, $4,090 between five members of the football program is not a huge amount, that isn’t the point here.

NCAA sanctions leave a huge black mark on any university. There are plenty of perspective students, especially in Minnesota and Wisconsin, that probably know nothing about UWRF. However, now they know that UWRF has a year of probation in football.

If I was a current high school student hoping to play football in the WIAC, I would immediately write off UWRF after this. When it comes to recruiting football players, and other athletes in general, a black mark of NCAA probation is a huge problem.

And what about the Falcon Center?

The groundbreaking for the center is set for May 2. Phase one of the project involves the face-lift for the football stadium, to be renamed David Smith Stadium, and the installation of field turf on Ramer Field itself.

So now the first part of the more than $50 million project will be done for a team now on a year-long probation.

Talk about putting a damper on next week’s groundbreaking.

An NCAA violation also places, I would imagine, UWRF on the NCAA’s radar. Why is this an important note? The NCAA report noted that O’Grady’s involvement made this a “major” violation.

A major violation suddenly puts UWRF within reach, if you will, of the NCAA’s “death penalty.”

The NCAA’s “repeat violator” rule states that any school that receives a second major violation with five years, in the same sport, will be barred from that sport for one to two years.

While there is nothing to indicate that this will happen, it is still a specter looming around the football program now. Undoubtedly, details will continue to emerge about this situation.

It is my opinion that any parties knowingly involved with this process should lose their job, if still employed at the University.

Again, I do not know who, other than O’Grady, was involved in this scandal.

This was a foolish move by the parties involved, though, and has certainly made this a disappointing time to be a fan of Falcon football.

Benjamin Lamers is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the <em>Student Voice</em> during fall semester 2013.

Comments

Concerned Falcon Fan on 24 Apr 2014: Good Lord Mr. Lamers! Did you read the NCAA report at all or were you just trying to toe the line of "facts" and journalistic integrity to add a touch of drama to your opinion piece? Student coaches =/= players. Your "members of the team" wording is intentionally wishy-washy. Student coaches are vastly different from student-athletes. While you may not care about the difference in the definition of their roles, those definitions play a role in both the NCAA's report and your wildly grasping attempt at "journalism." Secondly, the NCAA reports and UWRF releases clarify that this happened under O'Grady and no current staff were involved. Your comment stating that current staff should need to be fired if they knew is kind of uncalled for seeing as how it was made clear that they weren't. You make a lot of leaps in this column. I see you are a journalism major. I would highly suggest toning down your clearly desperate need to stir the pot and stick to your opinions about true facts. As for the death penalty comment- if every weatherman started bringing up the great flood every time it sprinkled, well, his audience would get tired quickly. Good luck writing to deaf ears.

Benjamin Lamers on 24 Apr 2014: I thought that the story did, in fact, focus on the football team being placed on probation, and did not seem to indicate otherwise. But you are right in that I could have done a better job of clarifying that. However, there are a few areas where your comments are a bit off as well. The first being that no football players received money. However, the report does state that a track and field athlete (I believe the athlete is referred to as Athlete 4, or something to that effect) did receive a package which was included in the $4,090 total for scholarships. The other four of the five were student coaches, which I tried to indicate by saying "members of the team," which is what the Associated Press reported as well. The second is that the death penalty is a possibility in the future (albeit unlikely). But this is where the wording of the NCAA report is key. It cites (on the first page) that the committee concluded that "major violations occurred in the institution's athletic program." And the NCAA's "Repeat Violator Rule" states (in summary) "The rule stipulates that if a second major violation occurs at any institution within five years of being on probation in the same sport or another sport, that institution can be barred from competing in the sport involved in the second violation for either one or two seasons." So as I wrote in the column, if another major violation (in the eyes of the NCAA) were to occur within five years, it would be possible for the NCAA to hand down this punishment. As I wrote, I certainly would not anticipate that happening, but because of the language of the report, it is a possibility nevertheless. Additionally, the NCAA has utilized the "Repeat Violator Rule" on a D3 school before. In fact, it was 10 years ago, for giving grants to players. While it was on a larger scale, it would not be unprecedented. While I'm sorry that I may not have made some points as clear as I intended, the facts are all backed up by reports from the AP, the NCAA report, and the NCAA rules. I hope this helped to clarify some of the issues you had with the column.

Mark on 24 Apr 2014: I think it should be brought up first and foremost that ABSOLUTELY NO PLAYERS RECEIVED ANY BENEFITS OF ANY KIND! It states that in the NCAA report. I get that this is an "opinion piece" but at some point the report should have been read and understood before stating such false "facts". The football program, not the University as a whole was put under a 1 year probation. And that is the least amount of punishment the NCAA could have handed out. To bring up the "death penalty" as if this were SMU is completely ridiculous. Again, I understand this is "opinion", but at some point there needs to be some journalistic integrity by the paper and writer to get their facts straight. This article makes more of a mockery of football program, this newspaper and UWRF as a whole than the probation.