COMMENTARY: Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?


by - Correspondent -
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Reprinted with permission from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger


CLEMSON -- Does the punishment fit the crime?


It's a question asked of our judicial system every day.


Now, with information I've been able to obtain through a source (see story
this page), Clemson University football fans will be asking the same
question in the weeks and months to come.


The usually routine matter of reporting secondary violations by the
university's NCAA compliance office has Clemson coming under fire today. If
my information is correct - and I have every reason to believe it is - the
argument could be made that compliance is taking its job, not to mention its
self-importance, a little too seriously.


Now, understand that I believe Becky Bowman, director of compliance services
at Clemson, has a difficult, often thankless job to do. And history tells us
that past sins committed by previous coaches and administrations has Clemson
ultra-nervous where the NCAA is concerned.


Having said that, you still have to wonder if what's going on at Clemson is
being done in spite of the athletic programs, rather than for their own
protection.


Case in point:


When a coach accidentally wanders into a restaurant to have lunch with his
daughter, only to stumble across potential recruits, is that a violation
serious enough to have him removed from the road for the rest of the year,
freeze his salary and force him to attend an NCAA rules clinic at his own
expense?


Apparently so, because my source tells me that was the exact scenario and
exact punishment Bowman dropped on the aforementioned coach. This, I'm told,
despite an internal memo head coach Tommy Bowden apparently wrote to his
coaches warning them of potential problems in such situations, even if the
meeting was purely coincidental.


That's just one instance.


There's also the coach whose salary was frozen because he would not allow a
compliance assistant to sit in on a meeting with Bowden and a recruit. This
coach, too, was forced to pay his own way to an NCAA rules clinic.


Then there's the administrative assistant whose salary was frozen because of
a snafu with - get this - dessert. It happened during the weekend of the
huge recruiting visits back in January.


And it appears that compliance has shortened the amount of time the coaches
can recruit in both the spring and winter period by a full week each.
But the real blow to Bowden and Co. comes with the next bit of information.
My source tells me that compliance is taking away two scholarships and five
official visits, a move which could have a crippling effect on the 2002
recruiting class.


How angered was Bowden by all this?


Despite a flat denial by University of Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee, I'm
told Bowden was so put off by Bowman's actions that he placed a few phone
calls inquiring about the Hurricanes' job after Butch Davis bolted for
Cleveland. My source said Miami was too far along in the search process for
Bowden to be considered a candidate.


There are those who will argue that Bowman is just doing her job, that she
is paid to keep Clemson out of trouble. And they are correct.


However, given the minor nature of these apparent violations, isn't it
possible that the administration is over-reacting to all this?


The whole issue raises several pertinent questions.


Some, like the validating of my source's information, will be answered by
the Freedom of Information Act request made by the Daily Journal/Messenger
to Bowman's office.


Others will require more time and investigation.


Questions like:


- How difficult will it be for Clemson assistants to move on to better jobs
with letters of reprimand over these issues in their personal files?


- Have the coaches been told they'll be fired if they speak publicly about
these issues?


- Why does Bowman answer to Clemson President James Barker, and not to AD
Bobby Robinson, like nearly every other compliance director in the country?


- Why is Robinson still working without a contract?


- Is compliance being completely truthful in its reports to the NCAA, as
well as its own Board of Trustees?


- Do a certain Board of Trustees member and a certain liaison between the
BOT and the university have too much influence over what transpires inside
the athletic department?


And finally, how long is Tommy Bowden going to stay at Clemson if he's being
forced to recruit against not only the other members of the ACC, but his own
administration, as well?


Stay tuned.
Dan Scott is the host of SportsTalk (10AM-Noon) on 104.9 FM in Upstate SC and
Managing Editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger

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