Sooners case hints NCAA going soft

Legend has it was Jerry Tarkanian who uttered the classic 1980s line, “The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it put Cleveland State on probation.”

Two decades later, the NCAA must be downright furious at Oklahoma.

This week, its comical Committee on Infractions deemed the Norman football factory negligent in its duties concerning starting quarterback Rhett Bomar and offensive lineman J.D. Quinn, who were paid for work never performed at an auto dealership.

The punishment: Oklahoma must vacate its eight 2005 victories and surrender two scholarships each of the next two seasons.



Two scholarships?

Will the Sooners ever be able to field a team?

Someone send OU a band-aid for such a slap on the wrist to its beloved football program.

Not one to normally subscribe to NCAA conspiracy theories, the OU case does make you ask if the judges, in fact, do turn bleeding heart when dealing with its cash cows, er, perennial powers.

Compare OU’s punishment to the sentence Kentucky football received in 2002: three years’ probation, major scholarship reductions, a one-year bowl ban.

Not that Oklahoma’s infractions matched UK’s crimes. Kentucky was cited for improper benefits, academic irregularities, monetary mishandling, etc. OU’s case dealt with a single Sooner booster and the university’s failure to monitor that booster.

Still, the Sooners aren’t exactly first-time offenders. This is the sixth time Oklahoma football has been placed on probation. Only SMU and Arizona State have been penalized more often.

Plus, just a year ago, the NCAA placed OU basketball in the penalty box for then-coach Kelvin Sampson exceeding the number of permissible calls to recruits.

It is true that back in ’02, the year it penalized UK, the NCAA also threw a hardball at Alabama. By tradition, Bama is a college football supertanker, UK a tugboat.

But these days, given the OU powder-puff penalty and the fact that the NCAA is all but ignoring the stories of possible improprieties during Reggie Bush’s stay at Southern Cal, you wonder if the big boys aren’t more reluctant to bite the hand that feeds.

According to the Daily Oklahoman, in 31 major infractions cases over the past 12 years, the NCAA has used the bowl ban penalty just four times and once since 2002.

TV appearance bans? Things of the past. Only once since 1994 has the NCAA removed a program’s television privileges.

Now, it “vacates” victories, a do-nothing approach that attempts to change something that can never be changed — the past.

Ask Baylor, Kansas State and Texas A&M what “vacate” does them. All went 5-6 in 2005. All lost to Oklahoma that year. All would have been bowl-eligible with a victory over the Sooners.

Yet mighty Oklahoma keeps the payout from its Holiday Bowl appearance that year.

Seems fair, right?

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226, 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or Read his blog at