New sanctions do not target innocent players

A year after allegations of academic misconduct within the men’s basketball program first occurred, the University’s administration and men’s athletics department are finally responding to the situation properly. Unfortunately, the University’s initial responses were to reprimand uninvolved players and reward a corrupt coach by quickly buying out his contract before incriminating evidence appeared. The latest sanctions announced earlier this week, however, will more precisely reprimand the men’s basketball program, not the current players who deserve no punishment. Although these new sanctions will be imposed upon coach Dan Monson and his current staff members, who were not involved with the original allegations, the program deserves the consequences because it caused the impropriety, not the players.
Thankfully, University officials intended the latest sanctions to avoid affecting the current players — all of whom were uninvolved in the scandal — and will instead affect the administration of the men’s program. Of the seven sanctions imposed, six will limit the program’s recruiting capabilities, while the seventh will force the program to repay $350,000 of revenue earned from tournament appearances in which ineligible athletes participated. For the next three years, the program’s official recruiting visits will be reduced from 12 to eight, the summer evaluation coaches reduced from three to two, the number of in-person recruiting interviews reduced from five to four per year, the number of yearly player evaluation days reduced from 40 to 30 — and those in July reduced from 23 to 18.
Unfortunately for players, however, six scholarships will also be eliminated over the next three years. Although six of the sanctions will certainly affect the success of the team, this is the only sanction that would affect the performance of individual athletes. Reducing the number of scholarships will increase the number of players who must uphold the same standards as other teammates, with less assistance. And although student-athletes receive many benefits other students do not, scholarship compensation for the demands of their time and the pressure the University imparts on them should not be undeservedly reduced.
Despite the imposition of this sanction, the University fortunately avoids punishing players as much as the sanctions imposed last fall. The University administration inappropriately reprimanded players — and fans — with a ban on post-season play, when neither were involved. With these latest sanctions, interim Men’s Athletics Director Tom Moe, coach Dan Monson and Vice President for Administration Tonya Moten Brown wisely tried to avoid reprimanding uninvolved parties.
Hopefully, these latest sanctions will prevent the NCAA from imposing any of its own on the University, although they are still slightly too severe. The self-imposed sanctions were intended to mollify the NCAA, but even Brown said that they are “as strict of sanctions as the NCAA has handed down” — a result the University presumably wanted to avoid. While the sanctions fortunately avoid punishing the innocent, the results will unfortunately affect the program for the next several years. The University should have instead imposed stricter academic and eligibility standards on the team, since the scandal was about academic misconduct, and not recruiting improprieties.