Friday, February 22, 2008

To Vacate Victories Is To Call Us Stupid

The NCAA Gods have many methods of punishing programs for rules violations. Some of the more sensible methods would include allowing fewer scholarships, postseason bans, probation, television bans, and in extreme cases, the death penalty. The death penalty would be a complete restriction of football activities for the required number of years, as given to Southern Methodist University from ’86 to 88, but I doubt we’d ever see this handed down to NCAA cash crop programs like USC, Alabama, Notre Dame, and some others.

In most cases, those punishments are understandable and can go without debate. But what I view as complete idiocy is the NCAA’s “vacating” of victories, as a form of punishment. This method of punishment isn’t exclusive to the NCAA, because I’ve seen in implemented at the high school level, for something as petty as a player living “outside” the district and being ineligible to participate. The penalty erases past victories, and will either reflect as losses or games never played. This means the opponents will either receive victories for games they lost or have a game completely scratched from the books, as if it were never occurred.

In recent developments, the University of Oklahoma will have 8 victories reinstated for the 2005 season. The NCAA actually got it right, but not on purpose. Their reasoning is an overturning of a ruling on infractions, but my reasoning is that you can’t suddenly tell me that OU didn’t play or lost those 8 games in 2005. You can scratch them from the books, but I’ll go to my grave knowing who they played and defeated.

It’s similar to a courtroom, where a witness may blurt something out that is factual, but because of improper judicial procedure, the judge orders the jury to “disregard the statement”. How do you disregard what was just heard, as if it was never said? When it comes down to deliberation, though the statement may not technically be used to form a conclusion of guilt or innocence, we’re all human, and it will be.

With the ongoing investigation into illegal benefits possibly received by Reggie Bush, and any knowledge of the action by USC, there is already talk of vacating Southern Cal victories and possibly the 2004 championship. The NCAA would not only be willing to wipe out an entire season of games on a schedule, but they would give the conference championship to Cal (who was beaten by USC), and Oklahoma would receive a National Championship after being soundly beaten by a score of 55-19.

Maybe it would make sense, 20 to 30 years from now, when people either open the books and don’t know or can’t remember. But anything before that is laughable, because people aren’t as stupid as the NCAA rules committee implies. It’s easy to strip a Heisman trophy, but suddenly there was no great game against Notre Dame, and no Bush push? It never happened, so don’t even talk about it, right? There was no near victory over Fresno State. There was no leap into the endzone over a UCLA Bruin. It never happened, so stop posting the photographs and rolling the tape. Or maybe the intention is for it to stick in memory, justifying the punishment with "USC didn't play those games, because Reggie Bush played in those games." Huh?

Now I’ve heard outraged fans calling for the New England Patriots’ victories to be vacated, for known spygate infractions and what we may come to know about past years. The professional levels are least likely to vacate anything, but instead add an asterisk in their books. Maybe the Pros view their fanbases as intelligent, where the amateurs see us as idiots. The NFL is likely to scratch victories from the Pats, as much as MLB is willing to reduce the homeruns and win counts from Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Can you imagine the Yankees vacating victories and championships for years Roger Clemens appeared on the roster? All hell would break loose!

Take the scholarships, postseason, monetary fines and what not. But don’t insult my intelligence by attempting remove something already completed, because barring mental illness, head trauma or marijuana smoke, my memory does not vacate.

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