MURPHY’S LAW: 590 Page Headache

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I have a headache. Iowa State’s 590 page Summary Disposition Report will do that. To Kill A Mockingbird, it’s not.

The NCAA and Iowa State agree some of the violations are major, or total up to major. Nearly 15 hundred phone calls to recruits dominate the findings. More than 14 hundred of those calls were undocumented by the coaches or staff members who made them. That won’t strike many as a big deal, though it does show, in the words of the report, “systematic failure”.

More troubling are the 79 recruiting calls considered “true” violations. This is rule-breaking that the NCAA believes is a recruiting advantage. Not surprisingly, football and men’s basketball racked up the majority of red flags.

Paul Rhoads had the most of the current or past head coaches with 11. Gene Chizik, a guy many Cyclone fans would love to see take the fall for this, had two. Fred Hoiberg had three, Greg McDermott four. Other high-profile coaches include Kevin Jackson with four, Bill Fennelly with two, and Christy Johnson-Lynch making volleyball fans proud with a total of zero “true” violations.

Calling or texting a recruit, either intentionally or inadvertently, is not nothing.  But it’s not an envelope of cash, new car, or changed grade either. Having only minor (secondary) or major violations seems a bit like movies being rated either G or R.

I don’t see the findings of this report earth-shaking, or worthy of dismissal. Iowa State either didn’t do a good enough job making sure its coaches understood the rules, or the coaches, at times, ignored them. Neither is acceptable.

The guy who comes out looking the best, and whose legend will grow, is Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg is the person responsible for the investigation. Hoiberg saw student-assistant Lefty Moore breaking rules, and Hoiberg immediately reported the mistakes to his boss, Jamie Pollard. Pollard and/or Hoiberg then dismissed Moore. Pollard, to his credit, began a full internal investigation that found violations in every Iowa State sport.

Hoiberg also demonstrates how it’s possible someone could make recruiting mistakes without intentionally cheating. Since Hoiberg’s actions show a guy doing the right thing, even if it brings his program consequences, no reasonable person will see Hoiberg as a rogue coach knowingly breaking rules. Yet, as noted, Hoiberg is dinged for three “true” violations.

Also puzzling is Iowa State’s apparent lack of complete transparency. Iowa State has only willingly released limited findings to the public and media. The 590 page report came through the Freedom of Information Act. Iowa State has said it can’t comment, but then did comment at length after it felt forced by a local media report questioning the timeliness of ISU’s disclosure to its own athletics council and the Board of Regents.

Perhaps there’s a logical, even legal explanation. Maybe ISU knew all the findings would come in the Freedom of Information Act release.  That way Iowa State didn’t have to go against the NCAA’s wishes, or put names out there until forced. As long as Iowa State can, and does eventually explain, benefit of the doubt should continue. But so should questions.

Not surprisingly, most of the reaction on social media, message boards, and talk shows breaks right along rivalry lines. Many Cyclone fans see this as no big deal, just a media-generated story during a slow week. Meantime, some Hawkeye fans see Iowa State being busted for cheating, and deserving of serious punishment.

As always, truth falls somewhere in the middle. The NCAA will like that Fred Hoiberg immediately did the right thing. It will like that Jamie Pollard launched an investigation, meted out punishment, changed systems, and self-reported wrongdoing. The NCAA won’t like the wrongdoing.

Iowa State asked the NCAA for two years probation.  A lost scholarship or two is the potential add-on no one in Cyclone country wants. The NCAA, at times, can’t manage itself. It also fails to recognize its own hypocrisies. Hard to be sure what the NCAA will do, but whatever it is, I don’t see it being much of a setback for ISU athletics. Bruised pride fades. Lessons learned linger.


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