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NCAA Gets Tough On Cheaters, Fiesta Bowl Let Off The Hook

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Last week, we talked about the hypocrisy of the NCAA charging Boise State with "lack of institutional control" while letting Ohio State off the hook for its fairly egregious transgressions. Apparently, the folks at the NCAA offices thought it would be fun to one-up  their hypocrisy this week.

On Tuesday, NCAA president Mark Emmert talked about getting tough on rule breakers in the NCAA and imposing stiffer penalties for those who decide to cross the line.

"We need to make sure our penalty structure and enforcement process imposes a thoughtful level of concern, and that the cost of violating the rules costs more than not violating them," Emmert said.

...

"We've made the commitment to provide enforcement with more staff," Emmert said as Lach nodded her head. "Some staff has been added. It isn't really more investigators in the field, but it's freeing up more people to get them out in the field."

On Wednesday, however, we found out the Fiesta Bowl would be getting a slap on the wrist.

The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl will be allowed to remain part of the Bowl Championship Series, though it must pay a $1 million fine for apparent illegal campaign contributions and inappropriate spending.

The BCS presidential oversight committee, which made the decision Wednesday, also attached several other conditions as it let the Fiesta Bowl remain part of the system for deciding college football's national champion. They included steps to strengthen the Fiesta Bowl's board along with greater supervision of executives to make sure the problems are not repeated, according to materials obtained by The Associated Press.

So, to review. Illegal campaign contributions and inappropriate spending means a $1 million fine and a stern "We're watching you." A few kids selling some clothes and their coach trying to cover it up means a $250,000 fine for the coach, suspensions for the players and possible major sanctions for the Ohio State football program while allowing an ineligible women's tennis player to compete at Boise State invites similar penalties for that football program. All that accompanied by how tough the NCAA is going to get on all cheaters.

We've had our fun with Ohio State over the last week or so, but this is kind of a joke. The NCAA can't possibly say with a straight face that it's truly serious about taking down those who break the rules while allowing the Fiesta Bowl to get by with what, for them, is a meaningless fine and some staff changes.

It should be acknowledged that the BCS governed what happened to the Fiesta Bowl, but the fact remains that Emmert and the NCAA could have leaned on the BCS if they had wanted to. Instead of messing with  the structure of its postseason apparatus, however, the NCAA turned a blind eye.

Forget everything the NCAA has ever screwed up. Its reaction to these three incidents alone shows that while it has the power to really screw things up, it's seems either incapable or unwilling to use its power to make college football a better place for fans and players. Is a playoff really a good idea if these folks are involved?