News leaked yesterday that Howard University was suspending all athletic programs while it self-investigated possible NCAA violations, and that the problems stemmed from improper student-athlete use of their textbook allowances. A new day brings more details—and a semi-clarification from the university, finally.
Howard's first official statement on the matter, from school spokesperson Kerry-Ann Hamilton:
Howard University is conducting an internal investigation of possible NCAA rules-violations. As a result of this process, the University temporarily withheld a number of student-athletes from competition as self-imposed action. Most teams will compete as scheduled. We are working diligently to fully resolve this matter as quickly as possible. In order to protect the integrity of this review, we are unable to share additional details at this time.
Translation: it's not that we're shutting down all sports, it's that we're shutting down sports with potentially ineligible players. And judging from how widespread the textbook allowance problem seems to be, that's just about every sport, and it might be a good long while before the school can track down the offending athletes.
The NCAA permits schools to cover the cost of textbooks for its athletes. At most schools, the athletic department will directly handle the purchases. At Howard, according to the Washington Post, the students are given their textbooks—and any textbook allowance (as determined by their scholarships) not used is given to them later, to do with what they will.
This probably should have been a warning sign for Howard. NCAA bylaws are confusing, but physically handing checks to athletes sends up all kinds of red flags. So Howard has to figure out which of its hundreds of athletes were given money, and which ones used their leftover textbook cash to actually buy textbooks. Those athletes are ineligible until they pay back their benefits, and any games those athletes compete in are subject to forfeit. Howard is in scramble mode.
This is the dumbest scandal, and not just because there's not a program in the country where kids haven't figured out that they can spend their vouchers on all kinds of neat non-textbook things at the student bookstore. The NCAA thinks it's perfectly all right to inconvenience its student-athletes in every way possible—they can't even buy books without a chaperone!—and perfectly acceptable to threaten an entire athletic department when those student-athletes receive literally tens of dollars for their troubles. The NCAA is a bureaucracy without a potent enforcement arm, so they spend their time policing—and instilling fear of—stupid shit like this, while waiting for Yahoo to find any real scandals.
Photo via meabbott's Flickr