The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville put out a good-news press release last week saying the Razorbacks had been conditionally recertified by the NCAA.
To its credit, the university included on that press release a link to official NCAA documents that told the whole story.
With about a half-dozen properly executed mouse clicks, you could find that the NCAA had recertified 13 schools that had been under sanction for rules violations, but recertified only with conditions three others that were stragglers on reform.
Those stragglers were Delaware State, the University of New Orleans and our very own Hogs.
Regarding those, the NCAA said: “This classification means that the institution is considered to be operating its athletics program in substantial conformity with operating principles adopted by the NCAA’s Division I membership. However, problems identified during the course of the institution’s self-study and the peer-review team’s evaluation were considered serious enough by the Committee on Athletics Certification to cause it to withhold full certification until those problems have been corrected.”
Two deficiencies were cited at the UA, one in such a sensitive area that you’d have expected the university to fix that one before it fixed anything else.
The first problem, mostly procedural, was that 16 people outside the athletic department with duties connected to NCAA rules compliance have not been informed in writing of the importance of rules compliance or subjected to performance evaluations taking rules compliance into account.
More troubling, the NCAA found that the UA athletic department hasn’t developed a mandated plan to verify its compliance with NCAA rules about hiring and promoting minority personnel.
That one surely hurt, considering the Nolan Richardson fiasco and declining African-American enrollment at the Fayetteville campus despite the public priority placed on minority enrollment gains by Dr. John White, the chancellor.
The Hogs have until next March to get right.
Most interesting of all were two overlapping concerns raised by an interim investigating group from the NCAA, but on which the university was eventually cleared.
Those questions were whether the UA Board of Trustees meddled in athletics — which it does, of course —and whether White actually operated with real administrative power over the athletic department — which he doesn’t, of course.
The NCAA found that the board meddled in sports, but no more than it sometimes meddled in academic affairs, and that White didn’t have solid executive authority over athletics, but that he didn’t always have solid executive authority over other departments, either.
In other words, the NCAA would find fault only if the board meddled in athletics exclusively and the chancellor was toothless on athletics exclusively. It found that the board’s meddling and the chancellor’s toothlessness were not sports-specific.
All of this took me back to a university official’s telling me a couple of years ago that the UA’s big problem was that some people in the NCAA main office saw Frank Broyles as a dinosaur, the last of a breed best rendered extinct, meaning athletic directors who got their jobs because they were legendary former football coaches.
Broyles is in fact the very last of those.
He shows no signs of quitting, and no one at the UA shows the inclination, nerve or clout to get him to think about quitting. White dared a couple of years ago to begin a search for a successor, and Broyles mobilized Jim Lindsey of the Board of Trustees to get that nixed.
Come to think of it, that may have been one of the things the NCAA people were talking about when they suggested a meddling board and a toothless chancellor.