NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach said Wednesday the "majority of ... support" she encounters within the organization is for sanctions like bowl bans and scholarship reductions that stop short of the death penalty--even in the event of mammoth scandals like the one unfolding at Miami. But apparently, she didn't talk to the NCAA's own president.
Mark Emmert, having already taken the unusual step of commenting on an ongoing NCAA investigation with his initial statement on the Hurricane allegations, told the USA Today Thursday that the death penalty ought to be one "tool" at the Committee on Infractions' disposal:
"We need to make sure that we've got, for the committee on infractions, all the tools they need to create those kinds of deterrents. If that includes the death penalty, I'm fine with that."Emmert said those deterrents should "provide serious second thoughts for anybody who thinks they can engage in this kind of behavior with impunity." He also commented on the Miami case directly again, saying that "if these allegations are true," they are "very troubling, and ... point out the real need for us to make changes and to make them thoughtfully and aggressively."
All of that certainly sounds noble enough. But Emmert's tough talk of change and nuclear-option sanctions won't mean much in the public eye if his organization doesn't back it up with legitimate reform, and penalties with teeth in cases of wanton rule-breaking (like, say, Jim Tressel's cover-up at Ohio State).
Discussing the death penalty is one thing, and it's fine as far as it goes. (Though the seemingly contradictory statements from Emmert and Roe Lach don't exactly portray the NCAA as an entity whose left hand knows what its right is doing.) But all the talk in the world won't do as much for Emmert's crusdade as one sensibly firm decision in a case like Miami's--and that decision doesn't have to be death penalty-caliber to prove the NCAA is serious.