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HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY DEFEND THE NCAA'S DECISION TO NOT REINSTATE USC RECEIVER MIKE WILLIAMS?


On the surface, it looks like a no-brainer decision. Southern California's Mike Williams declared himself for the NFL draft when the Maurice Clarett case opened the door for all underclassmen.

Later when that door closed, Williams applied for reinstatement at USC and attempted to take all the necessary steps to play college football again, including enrolling in summer classes. Yet the NCAA ruled Thursday that Williams remains ineligible. Adding insult to injury, the ruling came just as Williams and the Trojans were about to board a plane to travel to meet Virginia Tech in the BCA Classic in Washington.

So, is there some method to what seems like madness on the part of the NCAA? We asked the members of the WB to defend the decision:

The house is crumbling | From Rachel Nichols
The NCAA is in trouble when it comes to so-called amateurism, and it knows it. The walls are rotting, the termites have set up camp and the roof is coming down -- and every basketball player who bolts after his freshman year, every football player who threatens a lawsuit is taking a sledgehammer to the front porch.

One day, and perhaps soon, the whole structure will be leveled, and we'll start again by officially paying players. Or maybe we'll see the the NBA and NFL pay their own way and actually set up viable, team-affiliated minor leagues. Almost anything would be an improvement.

Still, until then, the NCAA must live in the house it has built, and it can't let Mike Williams sneak out with one of the support beams, only to try to slip it back later when he's figured out he has nowhere else to go. Williams took more than $100,000 from an agent, from Nike and from a trading card company. I believe the whole system stinks, but I do know the rules of the system -- and they say you can't take enough money to buy one of Nelly's earrings and still be a college football player.

Williams knew that by hiring an agent and making endorsement deals, he was taking a risk. He knew the NFL was going to appeal the Maurice Clarett decision, and there was a chance it wouldn't go his way. He rolled the dice. He lost. The NCAA says he has to live with the consequences. And while it seems unfair to a kid who has tried everything to make right on a bad decision, the real concern for the NCAA is that if its lets Williams back in, they will be encouraging other college athletes to play the same kind of craps game, and then come running back if things don't work out.

And the NCAA's house just can't stand that kind of wear and tear. It's already falling apart as it is.

Here's your reward | From Bill Curry
Imagine if you're a football coach who's trying to do everything right -- as most football coaches do. And let's say you're a young man trying to do everything right -- and from all I can see, Mike Williams is one of those.

So here's a guy who has played by the rules. He's done everything that a player should do. He noticed that another player in his category, Maurice Clarett, had tested the law and was found to be eligible for the NFL, and so he decided to follow suit. Everything he did there was correct; and then when the courts reversed their decision, he did everything the right way to be reinstated. And where in this decision is the reward for that behavior?

This type of decision seems to reward people who circumvent the rules. I'm not saying the committee didn't do what it had to do. They might say their hands are tied and they can't change the rules simply because this is a nice young man. But as coaches, we say to the guys that if you do everything right, it'll work out for you. And when we can't reward someone for doing everything the right way within our rules, then something is wrong.

Spin Control | From Dan Shanoff
For the record, I think the NCAA blew it. But -- for arguments' sake -- let's say that I was contracted by the NCAA to create their spin control "talking points" on this.

The "Not Our Fault; Don't Blame Us" tactic (a.k.a "Caveat emptor"):
Williams declared himself for the NFL, knowing at least two things: (1) the court ruling was provisional only; and (2) that he ends his college eligibility by signing with an agent.

The "Henny Penny" tactic (a.k.a. "Slippery slope"):
First Williams wants back in, then any player who doesn't like his draft position will want back in. It doesn't work that way.

The "Ad Hominem Smear" tactic (a.k.a. "Swift College Veterans for Truth"):
Williams is nothing more than a mercenary: If he really cared about college, he would never have left in the first place. At his first opportunity (say, January, after the national title game), he'll be the first in line to declare for the NFL, and -- this time -- we will never see him again.

The "Appeal to Rivals" tactic (a.k.a. "It's only fair"):
Tell the fans at LSU, Oklahoma, Miami, Florida State, Texas, Florida, Michigan and every other national-title contender that their players' hard work and effort -- done without any of Williams' eligibility controversy -- means nothing after Williams leads USC to another title, shutting out a team that did it the "right way."

Remember, this ain't me: It's the NCAA. But if they want to send me a check for the effort, it's "Care of ESPN.com, Bristol, Conn." I ain't no amateur they can jerk around ...

Death, taxes and the NCAA | From Ivan Maisel
So much for the student-athlete-friendly NCAA. Beyond the merits of the call on Mike Williams' eligibility, this whole episode illustrates why the NCAA is as well regarded in the public eye as the Internal Revenue Service. It takes them all day on Thursday to put out a short explanation of the ruling that explains nothing except to say that Williams failed both the amateurism and the academic standards.

Let's face it, the NCAA model is cumbersome because the organization deals with the school and not the athlete. So the NCAA has been its own worst enemy in these cases because you have to drag information from them one syllable at a time. They still have not told us why they turned Mike Williams down. The NCAA directed specific inquiries back to USC, and the people at USC seem to be as confused as everyone else. What the NCAA needs here is transparency; and once again, they have given us none of it.

Defending the NCAA | From Jeff Merron
As the appointed public defender of the NCAA's decision, this is our statement:

"Our client has created a system that is so convoluted and out of step with current reality that it is, for all practical purposes, almost impossible to understand. Unless you have an advanced degree. In which case, you probably no longer have eligibility. We think. Except in some cases.

"Many argue that Williams can't play football this season -- the NFL said no, and now our client has said no. The fact is, Williams falls into a category that has been well defined, but is largely ignored by sports fans: he is a semi-pro. We have a great tradition of semi-pro football in our country. Semi-pro is where the great Johnny Unitas honed his skills.

"But there is more. Our client has no recollection of having done anything during the time in question. Our client has never knowingly failed any drug tests that have been made public. Our client doesn't respond to other people and events and teams and players with normal, recognizable human emotion. Our client is unable to understand the difference between right and ..."

"So, we ask you, sports fans, to ask not what the NCAA has done wrong, but, instead, to ask: could it have done right? We believe that you'll agree with us that, perhaps, in some cases, the answer is no. And that this may be such a case. Unless it isn't. And under those circumstances, we believe, that when you look at the enormous body of evidence we've presented, that you, too, will go around the bend. As has our client.

"And then you will understand. We hope. Because then you can explain it to us."

$$$ | From Patrick Hruby
Simple. Hire a bunch of high-priced lawyers. File a barrage of motions. Fritter away a couple hundred grand -- money that's supposed to go toward educating kids, but in reality covers gas and shrimp cocktails for the corporate jet -- in an effort to bleed the other side drier than a Death Valley riverbed.

In essence, a classic legal war of attrition. You know, just the sort of thing the NCAA is good at.

Alternately, it could just say nothing, find someone else to catch footballs and keep counting the television revenue. It's worked so far.

&$#!#*!@*&! | From Eric Neel
How can I possibly defend the NCAA's decision? How the BLEEP do you think I can possibly defend it? I think it's BLEEPING BLEEP. Put that in, I don't BLEEP a BLEEP. Defend the decision!!? BLEEP, they shut him down as he was boarding a plane!

What the BLEEP do you mean, "How can I possibly defend their decision?" How could you ask me a question like that, "How can I possibly defend the NCAA's decision?" BLEEP, the kid took summer school classes! BLEEP, he gave the BLEEPIN' money back! BLEEP.

I'm BLEEPING pissed off to see them do this BLEEPING thing. And you ask me how I can possibly defend their decision! BLEEP. That's a tough question to ask me, isn't it? How can I possibly defend the NCAA's decision?! BLEEP.



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NCAA VS. MIKE WILLIAMS