The National Collegiate Athletic Association has just felt obliged to convict three eminent American institutions of higher learning of the weariest crime in the college rule book—illegal recruiting.
Auburn, No. 1 football team in the country last year, was found guilty of offering a prospective football player "illicit financial aid for the benefit of himself and his family"—and suspended from NCAA championships and postseason games for three years. The Seattle University basketball team was banned from postseason play for two years—its coach was found guilty of offering two prospective players excessive "financial aid and like inducements." Southern Methodist was put on a year's probation for rigging up a "tailor-made" job with an oil company for a prospective football player.
As always in such cases, since the NCAA merely delivers its verdict and a brief outline of the charges, the public may never know all the evidence that led to its decisions. This is not a perfect arrangement, but since the NCAA is not in business to smear collegiate athletics, most Americans will accept its findings on trust.
Loud complaints rose from Auburn, which has been in the final stages of an earlier three-year probation. "We are deeply hurt," said its president, Dr. Ralph Draughon. Athletic Director Jeff Beard complained that the charges were false—or at least unsubstantiated. One version of the aid promised Donald Fuell, a prospective quarterback, by an alumnus was a $1,700 motorboat, an outboard motor, an air conditioner, and his choice of an automobile or $2,000 cash. Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, contented himself with saying that the penalty had been severe because although an alumnus had made the offer, school authorities were fully aware of it.
At SMU, the student for whom the tailor-made job had been arranged was identified as Glynn Gregory, a freshman halfback. "The most absurd thing I ever heard of," said Athletic Director Matty Bell. "There are lots of kids paid more than he was in the oil fields."
The only publicly contrite individual was Coach Johnny Castellani of Seattle University. He handed in his resignation, and it was accepted. "I am completely at fault," he said. "The rule is there. I've violated it."
Coach Castellani is right. The rules are in the rule book, they are clear and they are simple—and grown men know how to read.