Tag Archives: NCAA sanctions

PAC-12 media play

Yesterday afternoon marked the first completed PAC-12 media day. Now, more than ever, there is little to differentiate pro and college football. The biggest of controversies discussed was the investigation of University of Oregon’s dealings with a Houston-based recruiting service owner, Willie Lyles.

I read an article this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle (distributed by the Associated Press) about the controversy and Oregon Coach Chip Kelly’s comments, or lack there of, during the PAC-12 media day. To the multitude of questions from the media about the NCAA investigation, Chip Kelly responded, “As head coach of this football program, we’re held accountable for everything we do… I’d love to talk about it. There are a lot of answers I’d love to make sure we can get out there.”

The article also reads that in a statement sent out to program supporters by email last Friday, Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens said the Ducks have retained a law firm to assess the $25,000 payment to Lyles for an apparently outdated scouting report last year.

In an ESPN recap of the media day, Ted Miller interviewed Bruce Feldman about the current happenings of the PAC-12. In the interview, Feldman makes a comment about Oregon delaying their response to the accusations to defuse the situation as much as possible. Is this an effective tactic? Yes. Unlike Tennessee, Oregon is not punishing themselves prematurely, but as far as they know, they’ve done nothing wrong (That’s their story and their sticking to it!). The fact that Oregon has retained a law firm to independently examine their payment to Lyles shows that the program is proactively investigating the situation.

You can’t comment on something if you don’t know happened for sure, and I commend Chip Kelly for not trying to.

PS. Sorry if this post is bias in your eyes…ALL HAIL CHIP!

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Volunteers volunteer probation

Last week, the University of Tennessee announced a two year self-imposed probation for the schools athletic department. This was in response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations on May 20.

“The University has taken what it believes are meaningful and appropriate steps to address the problems identified in this case,” the response reads, “including declaring student-athletes ineligible, implementing enhancements to the compliance program, and self-imposing penalties upon the particular coaching staff members and sports programs that were designed to punish the head coach, deter similar conduct in the future, and offset any advantages that the programs may have gained.”

Yesterday, it was reported that Lane Kiffin, former head coach for the Volunteers and current coach of the USC Trojans, is now facing charges for “failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program and failing to monitor the activities regarding compliance of several of his assistants.”

Tennessee is still awaiting ruling on the twelve major infractions.

My question is, do self-inflicted punishments work? They can, if executed properly. Here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to the kind of crisis communications colleges and universities have become so familiar with lately.

  1. Speed of response – Tennessee was quick to take responsibility for violations. That is not always the case. A quick response shows that you are paying attentions and eager to fix problems within your organization.
  2. Admitting guilt –  The university went above and beyond expectations here. They are not only willing to accept charges for violations, but also willing to punish themselves for their own mistakes. In doing this, I would think it is a good possibility that the NCAA may reduce their infractions to applaud UT for their voluntary probation. But even if they don’t, they still look good.
  3. Placing blame – Don’t do it. Tennessee didn’t once complain that violations were committed under the supervision of a now Trojan and by others that have now left the program. This could have been rewarded by the NCAA’s charge of Kiffin individually, separate from the school. Charges against Kiffin are not likely to disappear anytime soon. He is expected to be sidelined for several games at his new USC home (an almost insignificant problem for USC compared to other sanctions they have faced recently).
  4. University culture – This incident shows that there was little control and supervision going on in the athletic programs. Because of Tennessee’s actions regarding my previous three points, it has given the impression that there are great changes going on in this department.

Schools can no longer rely on their coaches to enforce and educate their staff on NCAA rules. Coaches are put under immense pressure to perform and attract the best players in the country. But every school’s athletic department needs to have a crisis plan. And whether Tennessee had one prepped or not, it performed beautifully.

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Harris at the edge of a Cliff

I just started interning for the second summer at a small PR firm in San Francisco, so forgive me for abandoning my blog for a week. Now that’s out of the way, lets get down to the nitty gritty that is college football. I read an article when I got home today; it was ESPN‘s report of some heartbreaking news.

Wednesday, Oregon football coach Chip Kelly released a statement announcing the indefinite suspension of cornerback Cliff Harris. All because this kid (and I’m allowed to say kid because I’m older than he is) can’t keep it under 100 mph. The 20 year old was cited Sunday morning after police clocked the player going 118 mph with a suspended license in a rental car.

There are so many things wrong with that last sentence.

  1. Suspended License – Why did he have a suspended license? What did he do originally to get it taken away?
  2. 118 mph – Seriously? The main highway going through Eugene has a 55 mph speed limit.
  3. Rental Car – This could be a lie, but I thought you needed to be 25 to rent a car. Never mind the fact that you need a license (this I know to be true).

The car was said to be rented to a university employee, which just opens a whole different can of worms that I don’t want to even think about.

I can’t help but think this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. The same day, ESPNU posted a podcast discussing the state of college football after a rather turbulent offseason. Amongst the talk, interviewee Pat Forde suggests that some of the controversies going on in college football today have probably been going on for a long time and are just now being brought to light. Host Ivan Maisel, in response to Forde’s comment, brings up the fact that information is more readily accessible than it has been in the past due to the emergence of social media, which could explain the exploding of controversies this year.

But is this an excuse? Social media can make you, and it can certainly break you. First impressions are no longer made over the phone or face-to-face, but rather via Facebook “stalking.” I will never forget my first day of J452: Strategic Public Relations Communications when my professor started off our first class with a slideshow, one slide per student. She revealed what anyone and everyone (including future employers) could find about each of us on the web within ten minutes. Some weren’t so bad, some were pretty bad and some were worse. Yes, it’s harder the shield ourselves from the world because everything we do is online, kept forever in the intangible nothingness of the Internet. But that’s no justification. Maybe if we were older, using our first computer and just started to learn about that thing that can find all the answers (Google). But we’re not, and by “we” I mean me and all those athletes making mistakes. I got my third laptop at eighteen. I’m not sure I can remember what I did with my free time before Myspace and Facebook came along. The irony of all these social media-induced scandals is, they’re all coming from those who’ve grown up in the digital age. One would think we’d know how to use social media the way it’s meant to be used. Psych.

Chip Kelly said something in his statement that really stuck with me.

Cliff’s future clearly is in Cliff’s hands. Earning an opportunity to represent the University of Oregon and this football program certainly rests far beyond a player’s ability on the field of play. Our behavior out of the spotlight often is more important and will be held to a higher standard. Until Cliff is able to conform to the same standards all of us must comply with, his status will remain unchanged.

For some reason, these words really reinforced my faith in the Ducks. Perhaps it is the fact that this team has a leader that truly understands the meaning of a team and the environment we live in today, the digital age. These players are given more than they probably ever dreamed. They are the heroes of a small town that worships one thing: the duck. With great power comes great responsibility. But amid all the praising, winning and inflating egos, Kelly is still able to understand that today, the spotlight is never out; get used to it; adapt.

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The lies that lead to a slow and painful demise

Breaking college football news: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor won’t return to Ohio State for his senior season. I watched a video posted on ESPN today featuring ESPN College Football Insider Joe Schad’s comments on the situation. He said he wasn’t surprised and there has been talk that Terrelle Pryor has been blamed by teammates for the late departure of coach Jim Tressel.

This got me thinking about how one bad decision can change everything. Although Pryor made a few bad decisions, not just one, it goes to show that lying never gets you anywhere. The scandal at Ohio State lead to Tressel’s painfully long demise. But is Pryor responsible for that? When it comes down to it, the athlete follows the advice of a coach, not the other way around. Blame for the famed coach’s resignation should not be placed on Pryor but on Tressel himself.

But none of that even matters because once you lie, and the truth comes out, no one will ever trust you as a teammate or anything else. Things are not looking up for Ohio State or Terrelle Pryor and the only thing I can say to that is, thank goodness he didn’t come to Oregon.

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How the mighty fall, and fall, and fall

“This is not a good day for college football, but it’s a necessary day,” said Brent Musburger of ESPN College Football on ESPN this morning, “I am afraid that once again someone forgot to study the lesson that we should have learned when Richard Nixon left office. The cover up is always worse than a petty crime like this.”

Today, Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resigned after NCAA sanctions have paralyzed the school’s once thriving program.

Musburger is right. I’ve heard it so many times in my PR classes. People are more likely to forgive a brand that takes responsibility for its actions than one that tries to cover something up. Someone who makes a mistake and apologizes is forgiven and forgotten (or remembered in a positive way). Someone who makes a mistake and lies about it is always found out and always remembered as one who can’t be trusted.

“I think Ohio State is one of the best brands in college football; they will get past this but it may take them a few years,” Musburger comments.

I’d like to say I think the NCAA crackdown in a good thing. It seems in recent years, there is not much separating college and professional sports. Who is really at fault in most of these situations? The school for offering benefits or the athlete for taking them? Well, the answer is both. But the real question is, who suffers the long-term consequences? The school does. If the player is worth the rewards (not to say I’m condoning this), they’ll probably go pro. And did giving back the Heisman really hurt Reggie Bush’s career? No. After it’s over and done, professional teams don’t care if an athlete did shady things. But the school is punished for seasons to come. It will take years to recuperate from the damage a sanction can cause.

So is Tressel resigning a good thing? Well, it’s too late for him to reconcile is damaged image, but yes. it shows the world of professional sports, a school can just about loose all the merit its got at the drop of a hat.

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And the punches keep on coming…

As if the the suspensions weren’t enough. The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that Ohio State University’s chief enforcer of NCAA rules will investigate used-car purchases made by dozens of OSU athletes at two Columbus car dealers to see if any sale violated collegiate rules.

“We’ll take a step back, we’ll take a look at the transactions and the values, and we’ll make some determinations in consultation with the (Big Ten) conference office and go from there,” said Doug Archie, associate athletic director and head of compliance at OSU. “I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred,” he said.

Where do we begin. The article explains that 50 sales will be investigated including the eight athletes and eleven athletes’ relatives who bought cars from Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct during the past five years which was uncovered by The Dispatch earlier. Two dozen of the sales to be investigated were by Aaron Kniffin who worked for both dealerships.

The Dispatch reports that public records from 2009 reveal then-sophomore linebacker Thaddeus Gibson was titled a 2-year-old Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles for a nice purchase price of $0.

What does Archie mean, “I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred”? Isn’t Kniffin being a common thread something? Aren’t records showing a car was given to Gibson something?

Crisis communications started the second The Dispatch uncovered the sales records. There is a difference between saying “no comment” and “I have nothing to believe a violation has occurred.” It feels like I’ve said this a million times, transparency is the best policy, and if there are questions you can’t yet answer, say what you are doing something to find out the answer. And since the hits just keep on coming for Ohio State, Archie should probably learn what this transparency thing is all about.

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Buckeyes’ Tressel, too little too late

News broke today that the NCAA has launched a new investigation involving the Ohio State Buckeyes, this time regarding long-time football coach Jim Tressel. Pat Forde wrote an article for ESPN advocating for the termination of the coach.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel now forced to make some decisions off the field

According to Forde, Tressel has the second best winning percentage in Big Ten conference history among coaches with more than ten years in the league. Needless to say, there is some consideration to be had before a termination takes place…or not.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Lets rewind a bit.  In December 2010 five Ohio State football players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling championship rings, jerseys and awards in exchange for “improper benefits” from a tattoo parlor and its owner. Since the ruling by the NCAA Tressel has also been punished for knowing about the violations prior to their public uncovering. First suspended for the first 2011 game, now suspended for five, the star coach is likely facing even harsher sanctions for his lies to the NCAA.

Forde wrote in his article, “The fact is, a coach who portrays and markets himself as something more than a coach — a High-Character Leader of Men — lied about what he knew, when he knew it and who he told about it.”

This is crisis communications 101. Admit your wrongdoings and be transparent. It’s lies that do the most damage. So be honest, everybody makes mistakes. People are more likely to forgive those who tell the truth, even if it means taking responsibility for something bad. In times of crisis, honesty is always the best policy.

Now it’s up to Ohio State to decide which is more important, reputation or ranking.

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