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Couch: Baylor sex-scandal ruling proves Mark Emmert and the NCAA have long outlived their usefulness

Op-ed
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Back around 1980, a popular TV show called "WKRP in Cincinnati" had an iconic episode. The show was about a radio station with a bumbling boss named Mr. Carlson, "Big Guy." He wanted to feel useful, so he created a Thanksgiving promotion that turned into a disaster. Along the way, he comically tried to figure out what his own role was at the station. He called his program director to his office to ask.

"You're the station manager," he was told.

"Aha," he said. "That's what I am. But what do I DO?"

"Well," he was told. "You're the boss. And you do … boss stuff."

Mr. Carlson was popular in American culture because everyone could identify with having an amicable do-nothing boss. Today's real-life Big Guy is Mark Emmert. He's the president of the NCAA. Aha, but what does he do?

It doesn't seem so comical when you're the head of a large governing body in our education system. The NCAA's enforcement ruled Wednesday in the Baylor sexual assault scandal, something you might not remember because it happened so many years ago. The ruling was that the NCAA said it had no power to make a ruling.

Boss stuff. That's what Emmert does. That's really all the NCAA is about. Emmert should be fired. When? How about before lunch? This Baylor decision, added to the Supreme Court's recent ruling that all-but shot down amateurism – the defining tenet of the NCAA – shows that the NCAA has no purpose any more, nothing to do other than to host a nice basketball tournament in March.

That, and boss stuff.

The truth is the system has outgrown the old NCAA system of punishment. The world has moved past Emmert and the NCAA.

Baylor already admitted to pretty much everything and fired everyone. Its own self-investigation ruled that former coach Art Briles looked the other way any time an allegation was brought to him.

The athletic director was ousted, the school president forced out in shame. Briles was fired.

Briles' defenders think he was railroaded as a PR move by the university and that Baylor acted too quickly, as social media requires a swifter form of justice – lynchings. With everyone fired, what more was there for the NCAA to do?

I'm not trying to re-litigate here, but only to say that a governing body cannot just throw up its hands and say that it has no power or course of action.

On Wednesday, the NCAA Committee on Infractions described Baylor's action as a crime, saying "young people were hurt" and that there should be actions to penalize.

If you're still looking for justice for the women who allegedly were harmed, well, this is all you got:

"Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules," the committee said in its release. "Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees."

Goodbye, Mark Emmert. Goodbye, NCAA. You have no purpose any more.

The Baylor scandal was so widespread and so shocking back in 2016 that the school's own university regents said, according to the New York Times, that at least 19 players had been accused of sexual misconduct and that it had been covered up.

Briles built Baylor from an afterthought to a national power, with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. With the success, Baylor was able to open an expensive new stadium. And with all the success and attention Baylor was getting, the NCAA committee said, Briles had "failed to meet even the most basic expectations of how a person should react …"

Contrast that to 2012 and the Jerry Sandusky rape scandal at Penn State. Sandusky, longtime assistant football coach to Joe Paterno, eventually was convicted of his pattern of sexual assaults. He's in prison now.

At the time, Emmert got tough and announced major fines and penalties – including $60 million and a four-year ban on the football team going to the postseason – saying football would "never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people."

Never again.

I'm not arguing innocence or guilt in these Baylor assault allegations. But if the NCAA thinks crimes were committed and Baylor does, too, and everyone was fired, then why can't the NCAA do anything? And if the rules aren't written to give it any power, then surely Emmert should have been able to correct that since his strong power play nine years ago.

If the NCAA, which is leaving Baylor's case entirely to the legal system, is that powerless, then why are people wearing suits and sitting in offices? What do they do?

In the end, after legal fights, many of Emmert's penalties against Penn State were reduced. The NCAA said it was because of good behavior. The other major case recently was the North Carolina academic scandal. The NCAA did nothing on that one, either, saying that the sham classes athletes were taking were also offered to non-athletes, so there was no extra benefit for athletes.

The NCAA can't even legislate to protect amateurism any more. Yet somehow, Big Guy Emmert was given a contract extension this spring to keep him sitting in an office through 2025, doing boss stuff.

You can check out the full WKRP turkey episode on YouTube. Spoiler alert: The promotion Mr. Carlson came up with was to give away free turkeys at a mall. He did it by flying overhead in a helicopter and dropping the birds.

"As God is my witness," Big Guy said at the end of the show, "I thought turkeys could fly."

It's not so funny in real life, when women were allegedly hurt.
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