I'm sure Dennis Thomas is a nice guy. I'm sure he's a smart guy.
According to his bio, the MEAC commissioner has brought financial stability to the conference and negotiated a new media deal in the past few years. He's done plenty of other good things in his years as a college administrator. Thomas is also the chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions (COI) and tasked with leading the group that delivers findings and punishments for member schools.
And he also needs to go.
NCAA bylaws and infractions are not material designed for everyone, that's for sure. For reporters however, it has become almost a requirement to jump on an NCAA teleconference every couple of months and listen to the COI chair talk about the latest school to run afoul of the rules.
In the past six days, Thomas has been on a call with the media twice to discuss Georgia Tech's and LSU's NCAA infractions cases. Each time he has been vague, avoids direct questions and generally sounds like your grandpa does when he can't hear you talk about the ballgame because reception on your iPhone isn't that good.
For those who write about or explain things on-air about these often complicated cases, Thomas's style in answering questions has been extremely frustrating.
What takes the cake however is the almost comical exchange between him and FoxSports.com reporter Lisa Horne, who was interested in what might happen to LSU if the school was found to have committed violations in the ever-expanding Willie Lyles probe - a violation that would have happened prior to Tuesday's ruling but obviously a case the NCAA would be charging the university with afterwards. For nearly three minutes (and after Horne repeated the question three times) Thomas still couldn't give a clear and concise answer. You can listen to the call for yourself here.
On page 18 of LSU's public infractions report, it reads:
As required by NCAA legislation for any institution involved in a major infractions case, Louisiana State University shall be subject to the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, concerning repeat violators, for a five-year period beginning on the effective date of the penalties in this case, July 19, 2011
To be even clearer than reading the report - which apparently Thomas could not have done - if LSU is found to have committed a major violation relating to the Willie Lyles fiasco, the school will not be punished as a repeat violator because the violations themselves took place before July 19th.
Simple, concise and directly from the report.
This is all on top of many reporters getting frustrated with Thomas' ability to not answer a question during Georgia Tech's conference call. Now it's not like previous COI chairs were any better on these calls but one would think that for one of - if not the - most powerful committees in the NCAA, the chairman would be well spoken enough to handle the media and be able to recall questions about bylaws relatively quickly.
Unfortunately, based on his time as chairman, Mr. Thomas is not.
So if the NCAA (and the member schools who could very well appear in front of the committee in the coming years) really wants to stop taking a hit from media members who bash the process, I'd suggest they start with a new COI chair. An NCAA task force that examined the infractions process suggested earlier this year finding a spokesperson for the committee to deliver reports, "someone who is media savvy."
To the fine folks at the NCAA and member schools: Either make this happen or get rid of the current chairman. You need someone who knows what they're talking about and can, well, talk.
And if you think it's just a few reporters that are upset about this, don't even begin to ask about the coaches.