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NCAA Continues Ohio State Investigation - "Not So Fast, My Buckeye Friends"

Hot on the heels of our now eerily prescient conversation with Colorado State University's Assistant Director of Compliance, John Infante, ESPN reports that the NCAA has informed Ohio State that the investigation into Buckeye athletic program misconduct isn't over.

In a letter sent several weeks ago, the NCAA told Ohio State that their investigators had not found any new violations and that the university would not be cited for failure to monitor.  Now, just a few days from Ohio State's appearance in front of the dreaded Committee on Infractions for the Tattoo Scandal that led to Jim Tressel's resignation, college athletics' governing body has made it clear that, much like the investigation into Cam Newton and Auburn University, the investigation is far from over.

Ohio State has understandably gone into spin mode over the issue, with a spokesman being sure to tell the media that last week's NCAA letter said "absolutely nothing about additional allegations."  But make no mistake - another Notice of Allegations and another meeting in front of the Committee on Infractions is still on the table for NCAA investigators, who evidently do not believe that their work in Columbus is complete.

What is the enforcement staff looking for?  Are they intrigued by the sham of a compliance department that self-reports more minor violations than any other university in order to enhance its credibility, then try to retain plausible deniability by feigning confusion?  Or maybe the NCAA is interested in how the Buckeyes have tried to place the blame directly on to Jim Tressel's shoulders while waiving his $250,000 fine, allowing him to retire, and paying him an extra $52,000?  This should be an interesting next few months.

Interestingly, all of this news comes in the midst of a two-day retreat organized by NCAA President Mark Emmert, where 50 university presidents and select conference commissioners, athletic directors and other leaders met to discuss serious reforms to the Division I Manual.  With the public relations disaster that this off-season has been for major college football, there appears to be "strong consensus to move forward quickly" on some of the most pressing issues.  Among the topics discussed:

1.  Raising baseline academic standards and banning teams who cannot make those standards from postseason play.

2.  Stricter enforcement of major infractions with an increased enforcement and investigation staff.

3.  Revising the Division I Manual by streamlining rules on communications and refocusing on major violations like paying players. 

The last issue is the most important of the reforms discussed.  As Commissioner Tom Yeager of the Colonial Athletic Association notes,

The general thinking is that we spend too much time worrying about the $1.95 stuff when there's bigger issues. [Cheaters] robbed the bank, and [the NCAA] is talking about them running three stoplights on the way home.

To no one's surprise, there is one school that has been very visible during this retreat.   The same school that has been at the forefront of these issues for the past 60 years.  The only public university in the country that can stand for change without being the least bit hypocritical.

"What stands out, above everything else, is the unanimity of thinking among university presidents who were assembled," said Penn State President Graham Spanier.

 "There is an unwavering determination to change a number of things about intercollegiate athletics today. Presidents are fed up with the rule breaking that is out there, we are determined to elevate the academic standards. We are concerned about the rapidly escalating costs of running intercollegiate athletics programs."

* * *

"Things have reached a boiling point," said Penn State president Graham Spanier. "Some of these things our coaches and our boosters might not like. But we need to do what I think you're going to see happen in the next year."

* * *

"Coaches and athletes and boosters should be afraid if they're going to go out and break any rules, because people have had enough of that," Spanier said. "The folks that are trying to disrupt the integrity of intercollegiate athletics in this country are going to have to be held more accountable."

Success with Honor.  Good luck, Ohio State.  You're going to need it.

Penn State Athletics: Success With Honor (via map408)