This week the NCAA informed Michigan State in a letter that it had concluded its investigation into how the athletic department handled Larry Nassar’s abuse of student-athletes, and how the school handled allegations of assault against members of the basketball and football teams. Their decision: Cleared on all counts. No rules were broken, nothing to see here, move it along.
If you were expecting action from the NCAA in these matters, then you don’t know the NCAA. Over the last few years, the NCAA has failed to adequately sanction institutions that have engaged in academic fraud—UNC-Chapel Hill creating fake classes for athletes so that they would maintain their eligibility—or child sex abuse. Though it initially sanctioned Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky, those punishments were eventually reduced.
Bill Beekman, the new MSU athletic director who replaced Mark Hollis, said this in a statement:
“NCAA member organizations have a specific set of rules to which we hold each other accountable. And while we agree with the NCAA that we did not commit a violation, that does not diminish our commitment to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our student athletes. That pledge permeates everything we do as part of a larger university commitment to making MSU a safer campus.”
There are seemingly a thousand bylaws about athletes selling shoes and mechanisms for enforcement, but when it comes to more serious matters, the NCAA, by design, is rather toothless. Absent anything specific in the bylaws to address these kinds of situations, the NCAA go-to is usually “lack of institutional control.”
This decision speaks less to whether or not MSU did anything wrong and more to the NCAA’s continued inability to do anything useful.