If You Give An Athlete A Car Wash

The story of a West Coast Conference women’s golfer who committed an NCAA violation by using university water to wash her car looks like a classic case of NCAA overreach. There is a tiny monetary benefit (if any) to the athlete, based on a principle to which the NCAA already has many exceptions (athletes should not get anything not available to other students).

But consider the alternative. If we take “university water for car washes” to its logical conclusion, we get “personal valet services for athletes.” I think it is safe to say there is widespread (but not unanimous) agreement amongst the NCAA membership and even the public that interns washing and waxing athletes’ cars during practice or class should not be allowed. Nor should those interns do the athletes’ laundry, pick up their dry cleaning, or run other errands for athletes.

So if use of university water should be allowed and a personal assistant provided by the university should not, where is the line drawn? If water is ok, can athletes use university soap? If car wash soap is allowed, what about laundry soap? Is the use of laundry machines then permitted? Can the university build a car wash next to the athletic facilities for athletes to use free of charge?

These questions might sound ridiculous but they are exactly the ones that would be asked if the NCAA deregulated in this area. Some would be asked when a proposal was being developed. Some would be asked after the proposal was published. And the rest would be asked by coaches who will use any nook and cranny of NCAA rules to get an edge.

We are at the same place with the infamous bagel rule. Bagel spreads were not allowed until this past winter. But by deleting the “dry bagels only” interpretation, the NCAA has opened up uncertainty. Obviously serving surf and turf dinners which happen to be on top of a bagel is not in the sprit of the rule. But what about a bagel sandwich? Is lox a competitive equity issue?

Unless the NCAA deregulates an area completely (see for example unlimited phone calls and deregulated mailings), there will still be some amount of arbitrary line drawing. There will still be a monitoring burden. And there will still be stories about the athlete who got in trouble with the NCAA because she used university carnauba wax instead of just car wash detergent.

Posted on by John Infante
This entry was posted in Bylaw Blog, Headlines, NCAA Violations. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to If You Give An Athlete A Car Wash

  1. Anonymous says:

    The old slippery slope argument. A classic argument used to justify ridiculous behavior. Basically, the argument is, if we let people do X, then a whole watershed will be open.

    Nonsense. The issue isn’t that the student should be able to use school facilities to wash her car. That was a violation. A secondary violation that should have been dropped at that – basically, the school should be told not to allow this any longer. However, the NCAA took the additional step of requiring the student to pay back $20. Now, OU reports multiple secondary violations that should be major violations (see your blog for a day or two ago) and the NCAA lets it slide without much more. It’s this clear inconsistency in the application of archaic rules that pisses fans off. Cam Newton is secretly reinstated in a day, and another institution is hammered. The NCAA needs to follow precedent and adopt a consistent approach. If OU’s multiple major recruiting violations are secondary violations requiring nothing more from the coach or the school, then using water to wash one’s car when the student was obviously not aware this was a violation should not require anything more.

    Common sense is what protects us from the old slippery slope concerns. The NCAA didn’t use common sense in this case.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It might be ridiculous, but it’s still a violation. The fact that the WCC comes back with “no violation, nothing to see here,” is even more ridiculous. Just because it gets some bad press doesn’t mean a rule was not broken. Student-athlete received a benefit not available to general public or general student-body.

    • Anonymous says:

      No one disagrees that it was a violation, so not sure the point of this comment. I think the gripe of the first comment is that there are numerous reported violations by other schools (OU for example) that the NCAA does nothing about. And then a school reports that an athlete used school water to wash her car, and the NCAA takes the extra step of making her pay it back. It’s this inconsistency in punishing violators of NCAA rules is the issue.

      And the biggest mockery of this all is that the NCAA is the purported body to “protect” the student athlete, so you would think the NCAA would be more quick to punish the coaches who are violators than the students. But as we know, we have an OU assistant football coach guilty of numerous recruiting violations who the NCAA does not punish in any way, but then the NCAA goes out of its way to hit this student athlete for almost certainly unknowingly violating a minor NCAA rule. It certainly would be hard to argue that the use of the water gave the school a competitive advantage. Not so sure you can’t say the same about an assistant coach cheating numerous times during recruiting.

      As Forest Gump says, stupid is as stupid does…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Am I the only one on the planet that has seen the response from an NCAA spokeswoman indicating (A) The NCAA has not taken any action on this self-reported secondary violation and (B) the NCAAs does not consider this to be a violation???

    It appears that in our rush to condemn the NCAA we have completely overlooked that fact that this is 100% the result of the University. I always like to critique the NCAA when I can, but it appears that in this case the NCAA is not the one to blame.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The ultimate question, of course, is this: are non-athlete students allowed to do the same thing? If Joe Schmoe can hook up the res hall hose and wash his car, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a student-athlete doing the exact same thing.

    We have to remember that there are certain benefits which accrue to all students, whether athlete or not. The rules don’t prevent an athlete from receiving ANY benefit, just those benefits not available to all students.

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