NCAA keeping track of track

Published 7:06 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The NCAA is good at picking low-hanging fruit. It’s good at padding its stats against easy marks who are unlikely or don’t have the resources to fight back.

Derrick Rose, who was long gone with the Chicago Bulls before the NCAA found out about this anyway, got into Memphis for his one year of minor-league, I mean, collegiate basketball, after failing the ACT three times in Chicago, where he lived, and then getting a qualifying score on the SAT on his first crack, while taking it in Detroit.

The NCAA didn’t throw up a red flag there for three years.

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When it came to Nansemond River’s James Taylor getting into Norfolk State and being on the Spartan track and field team, though, making quick, honest and verifiable amends wasn’t good enough.

Norfolk State’s track team is run for way less than a penny on the dollar compared to Memphis basketball.

Memphis basketball is run for a few cents on the dollar compared to Kentucky basketball, where John Calipari, who brought Rose onto his Memphis team, went to the national title game, then parlayed his “coaching expertise” to the perennial power Wildcats as Memphis got hit with punishments for Rose’s issues.

Taylor took the SAT three times as a senior. He admits he didn’t understand the stakes and hence didn’t take his first attempt at the exam seriously.

He qualified for the NCAA scale on his second and third tests. He improved too much. His second and third scores were held up for investigation, at a bureaucratic pace, because the first assumption was he might have cheated in order to get those results.

By the time Taylor was cleared, he was academically fine but athletically ineligible for his freshman year at NSU.

To Taylor’s very admirable credit, he turned a negative into a positive, actually many positives, academically, socially, personally and athletically.

When it comes to something way more trivial than a student-athlete’s ability to be the best possible student and athlete — say, for instance, nicknames and mascots — the NCAA’s all over that, at Miami of Ohio, William and Mary, McMurry, Quinnipiac, Arkansas State, Rio Grande or Adams State, but not yet at Florida State, Utah, San Diego St. or Illinois.

It was easier to punt the Cam Newton questions down the field to a time when Auburn’s not in the middle of an undefeated season with every single game on primetime CBS or ESPN.

It was better for business to suspend Terrell Prior and the other Ohio State players for games against Toledo, Youngstown St., Akron and Indiana than have them miss, and have Arkansas beating OSU 31-3 by halftime of, the FedEx Tostitos Citi Bank Bowl.

The NCAA is clearly combating the scourge of shady track and field recruiting though.