In December 1988, the NCAA placed OU football on probation and declared no television for the Sooners in 1989 and no bowl game in 1989 or 1990. A month later, the NCAA got even tougher on Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were hit with one of the toughest penalties ever: two seasons of no television and three years of no bowl. And soon after, the NCAA went soft. Since the winter of 1988-89, the NCAA has handed down 46 major-infraction cases in Division I-A football. Only 13 included a bowl ban, and only four of those have come since 1995. In the 31 cases the past dozen years, only Mississippi State in 2004 and California, Kentucky and Alabama, all in 2002, were told no bowl for you. Only five of those 46 cases resulted in a television ban, none since 1994, and one of those five was Washington in '94, which wasn't much of a penalty — the Huskies were limited to a maximum four games on TV. In the 11 major-infraction cases just before OU and OSU almost two decades ago, five resulted in bowl or TV sanctions. The evidence is clear. The NCAA doesn't penalize the innocent as much as it once did. The NCAA is much more into scholarship reductions and scarlet letters tattooed on the foreheads of coaches and administrators, like the failure-to-monitor tag that hit the Sooners this week. And that's a good thing. Bowl bans punish players. TV bans punish fans. Almost all players and almost all fans never broke an NCAA rule. ••• Please, no more talk of how the Sooner players were harmed by the NCAA sanctions. Exactly how has anyone in shoulder pads been penalized, other than playing without Rhett Bomar at quarterback? The scholarship reductions don't affect the 2005 players. The "failure to monitor” might as well be Chinese to players. The stricken 2005 season has no effect on players. They don't have to give back the iPods and Sony PSPs they received as Holiday Bowl gifts. Clint Ingram will not have a lobotomy to wipe out his game-saving interception. All this talk of vacating has no effect on ballplayers. It's the rest of us who keep track of history who are saddled with that speed hump. ••• Here are some fresh-off-the-press rankings for you. 1. Arizona State and SMU (tie). 3. Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wichita State and Auburn (tie). That's the list of the NCAA leaders in major-infraction cases since 1953, when the NCAA's enforcement system was instituted. Arizona State and SMU, eight each. OU and the others, seven each. OU was popped in 1956, 1960, 1973, 1980, 1988, 2006 and 2007. That's a list where you want to be low, not high. That's a shameful list. It's time we heard less "we did all we could” from OU and more "this is embarrassing and we're not going to stand for this.” ••• OU's basketball probation, which came down in 2006, did Sooner football no favors. A school with a similar case to the Sooners was Arkansas, which in 2003 was found guilty of a failure to monitor arising out of impermissible employment of "numerous” football and men's basketball players. But the Razorbacks also were found guilty of violations pertaining to extra benefits, recruiting, financial aid, employment and supplemental provision. That's a loaded docket compared to the handouts to Bomar, J.D. Quinn and a walk-on. Yet Arkansas' penalty was similar to OU's. The Razorbacks got a public reprimand and censure; probation; loss of two football scholarships for the 2005 season; and limited to 50 the number of paid visits for recruits. So Arkansas got one fewer year of scholarship reductions but was limited for a year in paid visits. About even, I'd say. Why did the Sooners get what the Razorbacks got, for fewer crimes? Basketball. Arkansas hadn't been in front of the infractions committee since 1997. OU had seen the same folks the previous spring. One last parting gift from Kelvin Sampson.
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