SALT LAKE CITY — In Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Alice finds herself in the court of the Queen of Hearts. When the queen arrives, the loyal subjects fall to the ground in reverence and fear.
The queen inquires who is lying on the ground, to which Alice says she doesn’t know.
“Off with her head!” the queen cries.
At the slightest provocation, the queen repeats that command and, one after another, her subjects are removed for execution. Alice observes “the great wonder is, that there’s anyone left alive.”
She got that right.
This spring, BYU began investigating its own potential NCAA violations, believed to involve improper benefits. This is a guess: It probably didn’t involve buying cars for players. It might have been as small as handing out unauthorized socks.
Meanwhile, a public records search by The Salt Lake Tribune revealed in June that the University of Utah had self-reported 99 NCAA violations between 2010 and 2013, with offenses including a student-athlete mentioning a family business in an interview, someone placing impermissible stickers on recruiting letters, coaches answering texts, and a player tweeting about a recruit.
Off with their heads!
So it appears both BYU and Utah have been spending considerable time dealing with the NCAA, an organization that is often no less nutty than the Queen of Hearts. It has a rulebook that is hundreds of pages long, but is constantly changing. Don’t order extra cheese on that burger. It might be a violation, though the food restrictions actually were relaxed this summer. Heaven knows if the teams will dare take advantage. Oklahoma made news early this year when it self-reported a couple of linemen eating too much pasta in one sitting.
Imagine the angst if they had ordered three scoops on the fudge sundaes.
Mark Twain said, “Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Sounds like a bunch of NCAA violations to me.
The governing body probably should just put everyone on probation all the time. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe told the media on Wednesday that he expects to hear from the NCAA in the next few days. He said he doubts it will be a big deal. But BYU has never been censured, so what does he know?
There have been some truly awful violations through the years, such as a staffer at Minnesota doing papers for players and SMU arranging for recruits to be paid cash. Notre Dame is currently investigating academic fraud, though nothing yet has been determined. Those things are serious business. In honesty, if not for the NCAA rules, college athletics would be overrun by rogues.
But as with most bureaucracies, the rules take on their own life.
Utah and BYU have been proactive in their monitoring, hoping to avoid the NCAA’s wrath. Smart move. If scholarship penalties are ever handed down, especially in the major revenue sports of football and basketball, that’s terrible news for anyone’s program. Utah is just recovering from a run of awful men’s basketball. Its football team is trying to find its place in an unforgiving new conference. BYU is attempting to fill its schedule as an independent and/or get in a power conference. Neither needs the distraction of the NCAA’s heavy hand.
Holmoe said on Wednesday, “I don’t see this as a major case.”
He can only hope.
But a case of some type?
There’s always a case.
It’s doubtful other schools would look down on either BYU or Utah for minor, self-reported violations. Everyone has been in their shoes. It’s just amazing BYU has never before had this happen. Running afoul of the NCAA is as inevitable as puberty. Utah and BYU’s best hope for the present and future is that, just like the queen, the governing body doesn’t follow through on all its executions.