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NCAA Punishes Cal Poly Basketball For Giving Student-Athletes Too Much Money For Textbooks

Photo: Gregory Shamus ( (Getty Images)

The NCAA sees itself as the moral authority on all things college sports, a belief that has been proven to be faulty many times over. In reality, it is just another corporate entity preoccupied with image and its own arcane laws that, often, if not exclusively, run at the expense of so-called student-athletes. And so, this week, the NCAA is handing down draconian punishments on the Cal Poly Mustangs basketball program for the heinous crime of mildly overestimating how much money it could give players for textbooks and other course supplies.

The full NCAA report outlines the ridiculous nature of the rule violations (emphasis mine):

For a period of three-and-one half years, Cal Poly violated book-related financial aid legislation. Specifically, from the 2012-13 academic year through the 2015 fall quarter, Cal Poly provided 265 student-athletes impermissible financial aid in the form of $800 cash stipends for books and course-related supplies that was not equal to the actual cost of those items, as required by NCAA legislation. The institution mistakenly believed it could provide the book stipends in the same manner it provided room and board stipends. Some student-athletes used portions of these funds to pay for items that were not required course-related books and supplies and, in doing so, received impermissible benefits.

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The “violation” isn’t even as drastic as the summary seems to suggest. Only 72 of the 265 students received more money than needed for school supplies. The total amount of extra funds diverted to the 72 students totaled a measly $16,180 over an almost three-year period. (For their part, Cal Poly is standing firm on their position that only 30 athletes received overages, averaging $174.57 each, for a total of $5,237.10.) The report, filed by the Division I Committee on Infractions panel, found that the athletes used the surplus funds for things like food, rent, utilities, and car repairs.

Cal Poly self-reported the slight overages in funding, and the NCAA’s panel found that it was clearly not intentional. Not that that matters, of course. The panel also said there “is no ambiguity in the wording of the legislation and thus no room for misinterpretation. Cal Poly simply failed to abide by this rule,” and so the NCAA is still set to throw the book at the school for giving kids too much money to buy books.

Cal Poly’s punishment could include two years of probation (which would not take away postseason eligibility for the duration), a $5,000 fine, as well as the vacating of games, possibly including the only March Madness appearance in school history. The Mustangs made the play-in games of the 2014 tournament, beating Texas Southern before getting whomped by number one seed Wichita State in the first round. The NCAA is like Batman if he spent all his time beating the shit out of jaywalkers.

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