AP
FILe - In this Feb. 25, 2017, file photo, BYU guard Nick Emery walks on the court during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. The men’s basketball program at Brigham Young University must vacate wins over two seasons and received two years of probation from the NCAA after one of its players received extra benefits. The NCAA said Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, that Nick Emery received more than $12,000 in benefits from four boosters, which included travel to concerts and an amusement park along with the use of a new car. (AP Photo/Young Kwak, File)

The NCAA penalties thrown at BYU Friday are an embarrassment to the school and the program. It paints the university as a rule-breaker by association and at least one athlete as a grubby gift-chaser.

That image, in and of itself, is a giant penalty for a school that prides itself on its goody-goody image across the world. It is a slap that cuts to the very core of the school and what it stands for.

A BYU athlete accepting $12,000 in prohibited benefits? That’s terrible. The NCAA committee on infractions says the university should vacate at least 47 of its wins because of it.

This is when things don’t add up.

The NCAA move seems excessive for a school that discovered a problem, self-reported, filled in all the blanks, conducted its own investigation and provided reams of paper to the NCAA to help understand what went awry with the rules.

BYU says it had no knowledge of any of Emery’s extra benefits. It will appeal.

To make 47 basketball wins disappear penalizes not only the school but head coach Dave Rose and all his players who are not named Emery. BYU swears it knew nothing. Its NCAA track record says it must be believed, the school has established a precedent in these matters and has been accountable.

This all comes in a collegiate athletic environment that has allegations of longtime academic fraud against North Carolina without any serious NCAA sanction. It comes when many giants of college basketball had athletes named in FBI reports as receiving tens of thousands of dollars from shoe companies to sign with schools they sponsored.

In short, it doesn’t calculate.

ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas tweeted out Friday, it was a miss-fire by the NCAA. “This NCAA COI (committee on infractions) ruling against BYU is absurd. The message is clear: don’t co-operate, you might as well fight any charge tooth and nail. Just ridiculous to vacate games over this.”

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe has not issued a statement, but the university did, stating it disagreed with penalties of vacating games and it will appeal.

Perhaps in a move of public protest over the ruling before it was released, BYU announced it had extended Rose’s contract for two years on Monday. It was like saying, “This is pretty dumb, we’re going to show support for our guy by re-upping him. Take that!”

Former BYU athletic director Rondo Fehlberg agrees with Bilas.

“I’m in shock. The second I read about the sanctions, in my mind, this is without precedent. The piling on at the university level is without precedent,” said Fehlberg. “In my experience, when you have the NCAA making a finding like this, when head coach Dave Rose has fostered a culture of compliance and there is no evidence of lack of institutional control, this has no precedent to vacate games. I hope it is overturned. It should be on appeal.”

The athletic director who followed Fehlberg before BYU elevated Holmoe to that position expressed similar sentiments.

Said Val Hale, “I must admit this penalty seems very harsh. BYU has typically been free from serious NCAA violations, so it is not as if the NCAA needs to clean up a program run amuck. Further, BYU self-reported these violations, which often results in a less-severe penalty. Hopefully, the appeal will be successful.”

Bottom line: BYU took a big hit Friday. The headlines are exactly what the school abhors.

But rules were broken and somebody has to pay the price. Emery has been suspended for BYU’s first nine games. If there are other reimbursements or fines he is personally responsible for, it is unknown at this time.

As hard as BYU works to be in compliance, as do other schools including Utah and USU, there are infractions. They are part of the culture. Some schools are serial offenders and such disregard for the rules are rampant in the SEC.

In my opinion, a scholarship restriction, a takeaway of recruiting days or the restriction of sending out a recruiter is certainly in order.

But as it stands, before any appeal is heard, the decision by the COI is a far reach for a school that protects its reputation with as much fervor and energy as ancient Crusaders did the Holy Grail.

In the appeal, the NCAA should do the right thing. Skip the vacating of games penalty as an alleged competitive advantage. BYU rarely has a competitive advantage in a basketball because athletically the Cougars must overachieve to keep even with most opponents and is disadvantaged in recruiting because of what it requires academically and with the honor code — standards far beyond what the NCAA requires of a student-athlete.

57 comments on this story

Competitive advantage? That’s worth a good laugh. The NCAA Selection Committee has a long record of penalizing BYU come March simply for refusing to play on Sunday. You see it all the time when BYU’s seeding is not relatable to its RPI and other metrics. That, folks, is a good case for discrimination, not because the Cougars achieved a competitive advantage over a bevy of free stuff.

Some in the national media are making fun of the decision.

Nobody should condone what Emery did. That is on him. But punishing a program by taking away 47 wins from a coach and program that can’t even win a WCC title is a head-scratcher.

Competitive advantage? No, it is misapplying a penalty and interpretation of actual impact of the infraction.